How to help your middle- or high-schooler manage overexcitement

By Amanda Morin

Expert reviewed by Mark J. Griffin, PhD

At a glance

  • If your child is a tween or teen, you won’t always be there to help them when they get overexcited.

  • It’s important for teens and tweens to start learning to monitor and manage overexcitement on their own.

  • You can help your tween or teen by troubleshooting situations that may make them overexcited in advance.

Kids with some learning and thinking differences like may tend to get overexcited. That tendency doesn’t automatically disappear with age. And at this age, overexcitement can lead to dangerous behavior and trouble with friends and the adults in their lives.

If your tween or teen is prone to overexcitement, you’ve probably both been well aware of it over the years. But as your child grows more independent, it’s less likely that you’ll be around to intervene. Your child will have to start taking the lead in managing those extreme reactions.

One way to encourage your tween or teen to do this is to make it clear what the payoff is for them. Understanding the benefits could make your child more likely to examine and work on their behavior. Here are three common situations that can lead to overexcitement — and how to troubleshoot them with your teen or tween.

Multiple teachers, multiple expectations

In middle school and high school, dealing with different teachers and teaching styles can be difficult. It can also be tough to manage the organization and focus needed for all those classes.

What can happen: Kids may feel overwhelmed and blame their teachers for it. They may have unexpected and overemotional outbursts.

What you can do: Encourage your child to monitor themself routinely for signs that they’re feeling overwhelmed or reacting inappropriately. Explain that if they see these signs, you can work with them to improve the situation. And brainstorm ideas for who your child can turn to for emotional support at school.

Sports teams

The sheer excitement of being part of a team and getting caught up in the game can prompt extreme behavior that coaches and teammates won’t appreciate.

What can happen: Your child’s excitement may get in the way of remembering the rules or plays the team has practiced. Your tween or teen may be a “ball hog” or boast about their skills. Your child may also get too physical and slam into other kids.

What you can do: Let your child know that there’s a benefit to paying close and consistent attention to the coach and their teammates. Doing so will make your child a valued member of the team. Talk about ways to recognize how they feel physically when they’re overexcited. You can also teach your child to self-talk: “Yeah, Zach should have passed me the ball, but we scored anyway, so no big deal.”

Video gaming and social media

For many tweens and teens, gaming and social media are big parts of social life. Your kid may be great at gaming or really love tweeting and posting, but your child may not be as good at understanding the social rules of social media.

What can happen (video games): Other kids may enjoy gaming, but not as intensely. Your child may overreact to a joke about how lame their character is. Or your child might argue with other kids playing and have trouble dealing with losing.

What can happen (social media): Other kids may not have the same all-consuming passion for Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter that yours does. And kids may not understand that a roll of the eyes and a “Yeah, sure I’ll retweet that” is a sarcastic reaction to their going on and on about it. Your child may try to “friend” kids in a more sophisticated crowd. Or your child may end up making awkward or problematic comments virtually or in person.

What you can do: These situations are harder to prepare for, since tweens and teens may not be as open as younger kids are to role-playing social situations. Maybe your child has a friend who can serve as a social “tour guide.” Encourage your child to have that friend game with them to practice what makes sense socially and what doesn’t when playing.

You can also offer to “dissect” social interactions with your child in a nonjudgmental way. You can talk about and try to make sense of the cues they may have missed.

Talking about potential triggers can help your child navigate some of the challenges of middle school and high school.

Key takeaways

  • If your tween or teen often gets overexcited, it could alienate their classmates and friends.

  • If the benefits of controlling overexcitement are clear to your teen or tween, they’re more likely to work at doing it.

  • In some cases, it may help if another tween or teen can show your child the social rules and practice them with your child.

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