April 8, 2011

OK, Sherlock. What’s Really Going On When Your Teen Loses It?

A Little “Sleuthing” Can Pay Off Tremendously With Your Yoga, Too.

When my babies were actually babies, it was pretty straightforward to figure out what was upsetting them. My husband and I jokingly referred to our “checklist” as a meltdown ramped up. Hungry? Wet? Tired? Poopy? Honestly, 95% of the time, one of these four problems was at the root of the tears. As our babies turned into toddlers, we had to expand our checklist a bit. Now we had to consider a bumped head or scraped knee. Lost balls could drive any of our kids to tears. And, we’ll never forget the oh-so-frequent, highly frustrating “Why can’t you understand what I just said to you?” fits when all we heard was gibberish.

As our toddlers became school-children, the meltdown checklist shifted and even shrunk a bit. No longer did our kids’ personal hygiene result in tears or fits. And, for the most part, we could understand them when they told us what they wanted. (Though sometimes we do still need a translator for some of the “epic” slang that they use when they’re talking about their “biffles” at school.) Still, our abbreviated checklist was helpful to get to the root of whatever was upsetting them. Hunger could still cause a meltdown. Exhaustion could still absolutely drive them to tears. And a lost I-pod? Forget about it. Thankfully, if we patiently listened through the gulping sobs, at least we knew what we were searching for in the playroom!

But, now that our school-children are turning into teenagers our meltdown checklist is expanding almost as dramatically as the quantities of food consumed around here each week. If you’ve never cohabitated with teens, you might expect the opposite to be true. After all, all three can certainly communicate their needs clearly enough. All three can forage for themselves when hungry. And lost objects rarely cause fits. (Unless the lost object is a cell phone, which seems to be akin to losing the precious “binky” from babyhood.)

However, we’re learning that things are often less straightforward than you might expect. While our daughter may be unexpectedly seething over the sweater her sister “stole” from her, we’ve learned that often something is else is going on. It could be that there was a lunch table brew-ha-ha that left her feeling left-out or hurt. It could be that she got a bad grade on the math test she thought she aced. It could be that a wave of hormones just blind-sided her, leaving her reeling in powerful emotions.

Rather than being able to work through a straightforward checklist to ascertain the root of our children’s problems, we now have a much longer (and ever-growing list) of possible combinations of issues to consider. In other words, the nature of our sleuthing as evolved from following the bright blue, clear-as-day paw prints in Blue’s Clues to untangling impossible combinations of who-done-what-with-what-and-where in the murder-mystery board game, Clue.  

Thankfully, I get to practice sleuthing on my yoga mat.

When you’re in a simple asana like Cobbler’s Pose (baddha konasana) you have a choice in how you approach it. You can allow the sensation in your inner thighs and groin to consume your awareness. Yes, this posture is designed to open the muscles that first capture your attention. But to assume that this is all that the asana has to offer is to take a “Blue’s Clues” approach to the posture. While you’re not at all wrong about what’s going on as you stretch your inner thighs, you’re missing a great deal. You could be, in fact, missing a nuance that could shift the whole posture for you.

Instead of sinking into the sensations in your inner thighs, you could choose to move beyond that intense feeling. You could choose to exhale from that place of tension and expand your awareness to include your whole body. You could focus for a breath or two on the vertical line of your spine. What helps you to sit up straight? Do your groin muscles release a little when you lift your sternum up and away from your pelvis? Are you squeezing your shoulders up to your ears in your effort to sit up straight? What happens when you deliberately expand your rib cage and drop your shoulders? What if you open your feet like a book? Do your knees drop a little closer to the floor? Can you feel the muscles around the hips and buttocks releasing into the stretch?

Like a game of Clue, the combinations of muscular contractions and releases can seem endless once we start exploring them. Even better, these subtler sensations that we may have missed if we weren’t sleuthing feel quite good. Best yet, we may figure out that a soft squeeze of the muscles in the back of the hips and a lift of our root lock (mula bandha) can be exactly what our body needed to really open into the posture. We may suddenly find our knees resting easily on the mat, just where we thought they’d never land! A little, nuanced sleuthing on our mats pays off tremendously in our understanding of the practice.

And the same is true with my teens. Sure, my daughter is probably irritated when her sister borrows her sweater without asking. But, as her mother, I’d miss a real opportunity if I focused solely on that relatively trivial altercation between daughters. It’s when I follow my stomping girl up to her room to wrap her in a hug and ask her what’s really wrong that the actual parenting happens. This is when my understanding of my daughter and her life deepens dramatically. I have to confess that, these days, what I learn during these hugs is very rarely something I have on my meltdown checklist. Which, perhaps, explains why it’s growing so exponentially!

Keep sleuthing!
Become a fan of “Yoga Thoughts” on Facebook!

Read 6 Comments and Reply

Read 6 comments and reply

Top Contributors Latest

Amy Nobles Dolan  |  Contribution: 9,100