In all likelihood one or all of our kids will go through a tough time at some point during the adolescent years. They may have a hard adjustment to a new school, new teacher, a best friend may move on, a first love may break up or he or she may just feel unsettled. Hormones kick in and kids develop at very different rates, so puberty can be a time of much confusion and uncertainty. Parenting a child who is having a hard time can be a particularly lonely time even though we are in very good company. Privacy can feel paramount at this time due to your child’s preferences or your own feelings of embarrassment or insecurity. Below are things I have done personally to help myself and my child deal with a difficult time.
Find a cheerleader
Is there someone who thinks your kids are great no matter what? My mom serves this role for me. She reminds me of how awesome my kids are and having lived through it all before, she knows how short this window of time is in the scheme of things. A little perspective and unconditional love can go a long way.
What makes your child happy?
Now is the time to give your child a little extra TLC. Make sure you child has an opportunity to just be a kid. Does your child have a favorite restaurant, meal for dinner, can you watch a favorite movie as a family, bake together, play a family board game, go to skyzone and jump around? Get your kid away from social media and foster connection with people who accept them for who they are.
Get out of town
Sometimes you have to give your kid some real distance from the stress. Go visit his favorite cousin who lives in a different town, plan a quick getaway with the immediate family, or hang out with old friends who no longer live in town. Give your child an opportunity to disconnect from the challenges of every day life and refill his or her bucket. This builds resilience and coping skills.
Seek out grounded and sensitive friends
This is not the time to talk to the exaggerators, over reactors or the completely clueless. You need someone who will respond gently as you reveal this vulnerability. Find someone who won’t exacerbate the issue or ignore it. It is a really delicate balance, which is why it can be such a lonely time. This is an excellent time to rely on an already established relationship with a therapist or to start going to one.
Caring for an unhappy child can be emotionally draining. Be sure to fill your own bucket by taking some time to restore. What energizes you? Do you need time to sit and read, exercise, talk to a best friend, go for a walk, get a massage? Do what you need so you can be extra sensitive and patient for your child. And know in your heart that this too shall pass.
Follow to the Experts
I recommend any of the books below:
Julie Lythcott-Haims: How to Raise an Adult
Lisa Damour Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls Through the Seven Transitions Into Adulthood
Get your child help
We all need to know our limitations. Sometimes our kids need to speak with someone besides us. There are many wonderful people who can help your child. Obviously a therapist is ideal as they have the experience and background to provide effective tools. Other options are other adults like aunts, uncles, other family members, older cousins or family friends. Really anyone who is mature and cares about your child can help. A school guidance counselor can sometimes be a helpful ally as well.
Home is where the heart is
Family can be a source of strength and support even while our kids seemingly want to move away from us. Creating a home that is supportive, welcoming and loving can go a long way to help. Taking life a little less seriously can remind our kids that everything is temporary and things will get better. A happy home can give the whole family strength, including you as you tackle this challenging time.
Adolescence is tough–we know because we have been there. It is challenging as kids grow emotionally and physically. And as the saying goes “we are only as happy as our most unhappy child”, it can be a very difficult time for you. The more we can do to help our children laugh and experience joy the better able they will be able to survive this time and the better you will be as well.