I picked my daughter up from school the other day and it was immediately apparent she was in a “mood”.
You know what I’m talking about. That dreaded combination of silent and sullen, mixed with a side of sassy. All the teenage signs that scream “I’m having a no good very bad day and please leave me alone, because no matter what you do I’m going to be annoyed with you.”
I dared to ask her if she was okay.
She simply replied, “I’m tired.”
I almost might have preferred if she’d bitten my head off, but her lack of snipe set off my my mama worry bells.
I knew my daughter was overwhelmed. She missed school the last week due to a terrible stomach virus that took her down. There was tons of make up work for those missed days and she had very little time to get it all done. She was still recovering from a weekend swimming competition and was anxiously anticipating the biggest swim meet of the season this coming weekend. The pressure to swim her best time was already weighing on her.
She was tired and stressed out, and so it wasn’t surprising she had fallen into a funk.
My heart hurt for my girl.
I hated that she had to feel this way and was struggling with so much on her plate. I wanted to help, to make her heavy load a little lighter, to encourage her in some way.
I asked her more questions trying to get a better idea of what was going on in that head of hers, but it was clear there would be no “good talks” that particular day. We just sat silently in the car for the rest of the drive home.
It seemed there was nothing I could say to make things any better. But I broke the silence every now and then, still trying to encourage her and tell her what a great job she was doing with everything. She just nodded in response to my attempts, almost annoyed with my urgency to help.
I knew how she was feeling. Haven’t we all been there? That awful place where there’s simply nothing anyone can say or do to clear away those dark clouds hanging over us?
It’s a funk.
I recognized the signs all too well and my sweet-natured usually positive girl was down deep.
So, as we pulled into the driveway, it hit me. I could ask her how I could help, what could I do for her during this really difficult time.
She shrugged her shoulders, “I don’t know, mom.”
I quickly thought through everything going on in her life searching for something tangible I could do to alleviate her stress, and then I suddenly knew!
I pictured her disastrous room. There were piles and piles of clean laundry stacked on her floor that I’d been expecting her to put away, but she just hadn’t been able to get to it. I thought about all the papers, hair accessories, and random things strewn haphazardly about the room. I knew in the last few weeks she barely had time to catch up on her schoolwork and make it to practice, let alone dive into the mess that had taken over her room. The space that is usually her comfort zone, her healing haven, her private place of respite and recuperation looked like a war zone. I was sure it was only adding to this funk that had settled over her.
So, I offered a lifeline.
“Would you like me to put your laundry away and clean up your room?”
And in that instant, her head lifted and her face shifted and her eyes opened wider as she looked at me for the first time during that dreadful drive. Her sunken demeanor changed drastically. It was as if the burden she had been carrying somehow eased up, if only a little bit. I could see both relief and gratitude in her gaze and I knew I had found one small thing I could do to make my girl’s life a little bit easier.
“Oh, yeah mom, that would be great,” she replied with such heartfelt emotion.
After I got her to practice, I came home and got to work. I cleaned up everything, everywhere, and her sanctuary was restored.
It didn’t fix everything, but at least she had one place with some order when every other part of her life felt out of control. It was one area where I could step in and be her mom, to show her someone cared and she wasn’t in it alone.
Yes, keeping her room clean should be her responsibility, but there are times when all of us find ourselves drowning in all our responsibilities. And she’s a teenager in a world that is asking more and more of our young people. They get so much flak for being lazy and entitled, but I know she juggles so much more than I ever did at her age.
She’s still my child and I’m always working to move her towards independence.
But sometimes she just needs me to be her mom.
She needs me to see when she is struggling and be there for her in whatever way I can.
When we know our kids are sinking further and further into a funk, it’s not fun. And they can be pretty awful. It can be so easy to react negatively to what may seem like our kids being rude or dismissive or disrespectful. And no – their funk shouldn’t justify bad behavior, but it might be masking something deeper. And these are the moments when we have the chance to either build up our relationships with our teens or break them down.
So, before you respond with the urge to judge, discipline, or tell them they better change their attitude STAT, you might want to consider what’s going on in their lives, their minds, their hearts- because oftentimes, something’s up and they just don’t have the ability or desire to talk about it.
They may be frustrated that they can’t figure it all out on their own and probably have no idea what could help them feel better.
But if we simply ask “What can I do for you?”
If we look for ways to show them our support, offer grace and provide them with that unconditional love that comes with being their mom, that just might be exactly what they need to start climbing out of that funk.
Our kids have so much pressure to perform in their teenage worlds and when they come home from having a no good very bad day, or week they need to *finally* allow themselves to unravel.
These teen years are rough and our kids need us to be in their corner even when, no, especiallywhen, they fall in the infamous teen funk.
So, next time you notice your teen in a funk…
Try asking them that simple question or offer to do something for them that you know they would appreciate.
Because sometimes this might be the best way we can love them when they’re in that funky place.
This post was contributed by Christine Carter who writes at TheMomCafe.com, where she hopes to encourage mothers everywhere through her humor, inspiration, and faith. Her work is published on several various online publications as well. She is the author of “Help and Hope While You’re Healing: A woman’s guide toward wellness while recovering from injury, surgery, or illness.”