Is My Teen Okay?

Yes, and no.  That’s a complicated question, and one that most parents of teens wonder.  Parents often suddenly feel disconnected from their teen. They have no idea what is going on in their mind or their lives and it’s often hard to tell from the surface if the teen is ok.  Honestly, your teen isn’t even sure if they are ok.

Your teen is going through a lot of physical and emotional changes that can make it seem like they are completely out of control and irrational.  Their bodies and brains are growing at an incredible rate.  School demands are increasing each year with a strong and pressuring emphasis on getting into THE BEST college.  Friends are coming and going. And, I often find that teens are constantly working through competing needs that they don’t know how to share because they can’t always put words to them, and aren’t willing to be vulnerable enough to share them.  They are simultaneously trying to meet the needs for independence and nurturing. They want to feel, and be seen as, independent.  They are coming into adulthood and are very aware of that.  At the same time, they want to be nurtured, taken care of.  But they will never be caught dead telling you that they need you.  In their minds they are grown and need to show that.

Here’s where you, trusted adult, come in. ( I say trusted adult, because this really applies to all of the adults in a teens life, not just parents)  The best ways you can support your teen is to first keep these needs in mind.  Remind yourself that they are figuring a lot out, and just because they say they don’t say it, they need you.  So ask how they’re doing, set aside time for them, nurture them in those ways you always have.   I know what you are thinking – they don’t let me.  Don’t stop trying.  Don’t let it be an option.  Ignore the negative response (easier said than done), including the eye roll, complaint, and attitude.  Deep down they really need you, they just don’t know how to say that.

And give them space to fail.  I’m not talking anything monumental, like failing high school, or getting injured.  Let them miss that assignment deadline.  Let them be sleep through their alarm and miss first period.  Let them say the wrong thing, wear the wrong thing, do the wrong thing.  Because they need to learn how to fix their mistakes.  They need to learn to feel what it’s like to make a mistake.  They need to learn what it means to be grown, but in small ways.  I like to think of parents and the school system as a safety net.  Allow teens to make the mistakes they need to make in order to learn, with you and their support system as a safety net.  Then when they are actually grown, they have some tools in their belt to be able to handle what life brings them.

I want to clarify that there are some things to look for that are outside of reasonable mistakes.  If your child is demonstrating any unsafe behaviors or thoughts, intervene immediately.

Parenting teens is hard work.  I’d love to join you on that journey of supporting your teen through critical years, while maintaining your sanity, because it is possible.

-Stephanie Samudio, LCSW

“Say This…Not That,” How To Support a Loved One Going Through Emotional Distress

 

It is beyond difficult to go through mental and emotional distress. It can feel impossible to formulate what you are going through, let alone express to a loved one how they can help. So many people experience feelings of depression, anxiety, anger, grief, and loss due to struggling with a mental illness or enduring a period of pain. However, everyone goes through different experiences and struggles so it can feel helpless to explain your pain and it can feel helpless to be a loved one trying to help heal that pain. I understand how loved ones then can feel at a loss as to how to give their support. It is normal to not know what to say, how to say it, what to do, or know if you are being helpful in any way.

Being a family therapist at The Centered Life, I believe it is an essential piece to therapy to aid my clients to learn how to conceptualize and express what they are experiencing in order to work through it. But I think it is equally as important in therapy to bring in clients’ support systems so they can learn how to be helpful in a healthy way. It is hard to be vulnerable and ask for help. And if that help is received in a negative way, it will only set up a dynamic of little communication about emotional needs and can negatively affect the relationship as well. Which then creates more distress on both ends. Here is a list of  some ways that may help people express what kind of help they need and help support systems navigate how to be helpful.

Say This: “I may not understand exactly how you feel, but I care about you and want to help”

Not That: “We all go through times like this”

Say This: “You may not believe it now, but the way you are feeling will change”

Not That: “Just snap out of it, look on the bright side”

Say This: “You are not alone in this. I’m here for you. We will get through this together”

Not That: “You’ll be fine. Stop worrying. Shouldn’t you be better right now?”

Say This: “Talk to me, I’m listening.”

Not That: “Here is my advice.”

Say This: “I know you are feeling anxious and overwhelmed right now, what can I do to help?”

Not That: “You are freaking out, you just need to calm down.”

Say This: “You are not alone in this”

Not That: “There is always someone worse off than you.”

Say This: “You are important to me and I want to help.”

Not That: “No one said life is fair.”

Say This: “Do you need a hug?”

Not That: “Stop feeling sorry for yourself.”

Say This: “I can not completely understand what you are struggling with, but I can offer my love and compassion.”

Not That: “Believe me, I know how you feel. I was depressed/anxious for a few days”

Say This: “I’m not going to leave you or abandon you.”

Not This: “Your moods are bringing everyone around you down.”

Say This: “When these feelings subside, I will still be here and so will you.”

Not That: “Stop being so sensitive, cheer up.”

It can feel helpless for both the person enduring the emotional distress and the people who are trying to help, but it does NOT have to be. The above statements are some helpful outlines to enhance healthy and empowering support. If we can open up a dialogue about these topics and help each other understand from both sides, then there is so much more of a chance of coping better. It is important to offer support with an open mind, open heart, and with an open-ended approach because it only leaves room for open healthy communication and learning amongst support systems. All of us at The Centered Life are here to help people that are going through a hard time. Please call us if you are needing any kind of guidance and extra support!

All my best,

    Samantha