We all dread those three little words that when strung together make our hearts hurt, especially when it’s from those we love most.
Hearing ‘I hate you’ from your teen is hard. Sadness and anger can bubble up quickly, as Hannah Storm, ESPN SportsCentre host, knows firsthand. Storm has three daughters and admits to new mom Coco Austin on PEOPLE’s Mom Talk series that hearing those words is “kind of heartbreaking,” but you get “really pissed off at the same time.”
So how do you handle hearing those hateful words from your teen?
First, know that they probably didn’t mean it. Being a teenager is difficult—raging hormones, social pressure, piles of homework, deciding major plans for the future and what you want to do with your life, all while discovering who you are as an individual amid the chaos.
It doesn’t mean what they’ve said to you is okay, but it does frame the situation in a more understanding context. They’ve got a lot going on and don’t necessarily know how to handle it all or communicate in the best way. Sympathy for where your teenager is in life will help it hurt less, knowing it isn’t really about you.
But remember to let yourself feel what you’re feeling. You’re still a human being and it’s okay to have your feelings hurt. No one wants to be told someone hates them, particularly to their face. Take a personal timeout to feel the emotions that come up and give those feelings space to breathe. You’ll probably be more clearheaded after and ready to talk about it with your kid.
Take some time to check in with your teenager, ask about what’s going on in their life, what they’re going through, and how they’re feeling. An open conversation will often be more fruitful than angry words thrown back. You may even learn something about them you didn’t realize and the two of you can create space for honest communication. Given the chance to cool down, they’ll probably acknowledge that what they said wasn’t fair to you.
So be gentle with yourself and with them—we’re all just trying to make our way in this world as best we can. The more understanding we have for other’s journeys, the less harshly we’ll take their criticism, and the more love we’ll be able to share. And hopefully that understanding and kindness will affect the way your teenager moves forward in life when they’re faced with something similar.