Remember high school and all the drama? Those feelings were intensely real to you then. Just like your teen’s feelings are real to him/her now…
As parents, we mean well and want to help our kids. When we see our teens hurting, we want to try to make it better.
Here’s one of the most usually-well-meaning, but often the most-potentially-damaging thing we can say to our kids: ‘Get over it!’
What happens when you dismiss their feelings as being unimportant?
While it’s not a good idea to wallow in bad or negative feelings for an extended period of time, it is healthy and necessary to feel your feelings. Saying, ‘Get over it!’ to your kids encourages them to block out and numb their feelings, which can result in unhealthy coping mechanisms like alcohol or drug use.
When you dismiss their feelings as being unimportant, you reduce the likelihood that they will ever come to you to talk about anything important.
Instead, your teen needs validation and empathy
What your kids need instead is validation. And empathy. Remember being in high school, and all the drama? Remember how hard it was to feel like you fit in and how important your friends were to you? Remember that first crush… and how devastated you were when he/she didn’t return your level of affection? Those feelings were intensely real to you then. Just like your teen’s feelings are real to him/her now.
Many teens feel very intense emotions. They are experiencing things they have never experienced and they often don’t know how to handle it. They don’t know what is ‘normal’, and often they feel abnormal. And scared. When you share how you felt when you experienced those things, it can be such a relief for them to realise that someone else has felt the same way they do. It will help them feel closer to you when they realise you have these things in common.
It’s all about connecting with them
When your teen is in pain, what he/she needs the most is for you to just be there wherever he/she is in that moment – right in the middle of the emotions. Picture it as a roller coaster ride: teens in pain just need you to sit right there next to them, holding their hands on the ride.
Tell your teen what she/he is feeling is normal. Hard, uncomfortable and painful, but normal. Tell her you admire her for her courage and strength in dealing with things. Tell him what you did when you were his age in that situation and what worked and what didn’t.
Once your teen feels connected to you and safe to talk about anything, then he/she will be much more open to your help and advice.
For more parenting help, go to www.joycelinder.net. Or order Joyce’s book,“Parental Guidance: a School Counselor’s Guide to Understanding and Raising Today’s Tweens and Teens”.