How to Help Your Teen
This is for all of the helpers out there – the ones who see someone struggling and feel the pull to help. There are many ways we feel pulled to help, the most obvious of which is as a parent. How hard is it to see your kid struggle? It is certainly one of the hardest things I experience which is why I wanted to bring you today’s podcast and post. Learning how to support my child when they’re struggling has been some of the hardest yet most rewarding work that I’ve done.
As the mother of five and an empowerment coach for middle school girls, I have a lot of experience in this area. I have helped teens who are stressed, anxious, depressed, and overwhelmed. In addition, I have a masters of education and am perfectly primed to teach you how to help your teen.
Three Ways to Help Your Teen
How to Help Your Teen Thing One
Above all, the first thing we can do may be one of the hardest and it is this: we need to let them be stressed. Let them be anxious. Allow them to be depressed. Or pissed. Sad. Furthermore, we need to let them feel what they’re feeling without getting stressed, anxious, depressed, pissed or sad ourselves.
When they are anxious, let them be anxious. If they are pissed, let them be pissed. When they are sad, let them be sad. What this looks like is when they say “I’m so upset I didn’t make the team” and you feel acutely uncomfortable that they’re upset, you don’t spread that on them. You don’t layer your discomfort with them being upset on top of their discomfort of being upset.
Rather, you could say something like “whoa that sounds tough for you, tell me more”. Listen in to this week’s podcast for more examples of what you can say or to this past episode on toxic positivity.
How To Help YOur Teens Thing Two
The second thing we can do is closely tied to the first: we can stop talking them out of their emotions. In other words, when they say “I’m anxious about that presentation in school tomorrow”, we don’t say “you shouldn’t feel anxious, you’ve practiced so many times.” No. Us telling them there’s no need for them to feel what they’re feeling when they’re feeling it is really unhelpful. They’re feeling it. The better they get at accepting their emotions instead of discounting them or judging them, the better they get at processing them.
Rather, we let them feel what they’re feeling so they gain emotional intelligence. We manage our own feeling states and support them in managing theirs. If they’re feeling anxious, let them feel anxious. When they’re feeling sad, let them feel sad. If they’re feeling disappointed, let them feel disappointed.
Without a doubt, there are specific ways you can help your teen in processing their big feelings. I cover those ways in a clear, easy to follow manner in my Parenting Teens class. The takeaway for today is the importance of you managing your own emotional reaction to their emotional state.
Help Your Teen Thing Three
The third thing we can do is let them problem solve by themselves. What this means is we don’t use our vast life experience to give them advice or to fix their problem for them. Don’t get me wrong – I know how tempting this is! We’ve already learned our lessons from our life experiences so can’t we just cut the learning curve and tell them what to do? Geez – I wish. Trust me though, that sort of helicopter or lawn mower parenting is not in our kid’s best interest.
While it may feel good to us in the moment, it’s not the best way to support our struggling child. When we think we know what they should do or how the problem should be fixed, we are operating with some big assumptions: we think our way is the right way. And sure, your way may have been the right way for you and what you encountered but who are you to say your way is right for them right now?
The alternative is to let them come up with their own solutions. Again, in my parenting teens class I give specific language that parents have said is really helpful to support them as they are developing these problem solving skills. For now, thing three is a gentle reminder to not fix their problems. They’re not your problems. You’re not God. Your job as a parent is to pour love on them. To empathize. To let them have the experiences they’re having without these three things: (1) getting anxious about their anxiety, (2) talking them out of their emotions and the way they’re feeling or (3) jumping in to fix or solve their problems.
Parenting Takes Education
Parenting and supporting others is one of the most challenging jobs here on earth. I know it dear warrior! Not only do I have my own five sons, I interact with plenty of clients and humans that are having their human experiences. I can’t tell you the number of times during a week, heck during a day, that I say things to myself like” “This is not my problem to solve. They are on their journey.” It is a practice and I’m here with you on the journey.
What I can report from the other side of having 5 kids over 18 and from the feedback from the parents who have taken my parenting class is that this stuff works. When practiced, the tools I teach in the parenting teens class coupled with the lessons in the Love Your Life show podcast help our stressed, anxious, or depressed teens. I’m cheering you on!