Being a teen is no joke… especially these days.
Teens are standing on the brink of adulthood, trying to figure out who they are and who they want to be. It’s a lot of pressure… lots of decisions that could have lifelong consequences… at a time when emotions run high and motivation runs low.
There are the burdens of school… along with the mounting pressure to make good grades and accumulate extracurricular activities for college applications.
On top of that, with social media in their pockets, peer pressure is never far away.
All this takes place as they do their best to navigate an ever-changing social landscape. Someone who was a friend one minute might not be one the next. And don’t even get me started on high school dating!
And there are so many potential pitfalls!
Drugs. Sex. Bad grades. Bad influences.
And then there’s the depressing reality that teens today have high rates of depression and anxiety, so we have to think about things like self-harm on top of everything else.
While you may have worked hard to create a safe, supportive environment for your teen, they’re inundated with opportunities and even encouragement to compare themselves to others.
This can leave your teen feeling like they’re never quite measuring up – and leave you feeling frustrated and exhausted by your failed efforts to make sure your teen knows that they’re good enough just the way they are.
If you add any kind of social stress or pressure to that, teens today end up feeling isolated.
Everything is magnified at this age. Going through a break-up, or the right person saying the wrong thing can lead a teen down a spiral of self-doubt and low self-esteem.
If they could bounce back easily, this might not have to be such a problem; but when we feel like there’s something wrong with us, our already foundering motivation is further damaged. Which means we’re not doing homework as consistently.
And then grades suffer. And then your teen feels even more like a failure, which just perpetuates this cycle.
And you’re left on the side lines wondering how you can possibly impact this spiral; trying to balance being supportive and still holding your teen accountable.
Self-harm can come from many different places, but a lot of the time it comes from a place of feeling like an utter failure who deserves punishment, or simply not having the coping skills to deal with intense feelings without diverting their attention to the risk taking or physical pain.
Intervening now so that your teen can develop healthier self-esteem and more resiliency can make a huge difference.
Your relationship used to be solid.
You’ve worked so hard to keep the lines of communication open. And now, suddenly, you’re watching your teen shut you out. You never knew headphones could be such a complete barrier to communication!
You try to ask them how their day was, but it’s hard to keep it up when they just snapped at you.
You practice asking questions about their friends – withholding any judgments or unsolicited advice – but it seems like every time you do something right you end up doing something else wrong and getting admonished for being unhelpful or unsupportive.
There’s more irritability… more angry outbursts. But even worse than that is the “radio silence.”
You know you have only small windows of time to have positive interactions.
Right when they get home before they shut themselves in their room.
When they come out to get food.
You used to push for family dinners, but honestly gave up when dinner time became another platform for you to bend over backwards to try and connect just to be given one-word answers and no eye contact.
You’re honestly just not sure what to do anymore.
You used to be the person they could come to…
… the one who could help them sort through things when they got tough. But you’re not sure you’re the right person for that right now.
While they used to seem reassured at the end of a conversation with you, now it seems they’re just more agitated. When you try to talk to them about your experiences or your opinions, they’re immediately defensive and frustrated. It seems like no matter what you say, it’s the wrong thing.
When your kids were small, they relied on you to protect them and help them do the right thing. To stay safe.
But the goal of a teenager is different.
This is practice for the rest of their lives, while they’re still close enough to you that mistakes don’t have to be catastrophic.
In order to become and feel like a fully functional adult human, your teen needs to feel like they’re making their own decisions. So, relying heavily on your support doesn’t feel safe anymore, it feels like they’re incapable of doing it on their own.
That’s actually part of why they get so irritable. Often when you’re trying to help, they experience it as telling them you think they can’t do it.
Somehow, it’s just a different experience having sometimes really similar conversations with another person. Yes, they could use the guidance and support, but they also need to feel capable and confident moving forward.
All you want is for your teen to be healthy, happy, and successful.
Maybe they’ve asked for therapy. Maybe you’re the one making the decision.
I am passionate about working with teens. I really understand what a critical juncture this is.
I’m an objective person – someone with whom your teen can talk openly and honestly about what’s going on. I make it clear from the beginning of the relationship that although I will have and express my opinions and concerns, I am not going to be mad at them if they choose something different.
I also make it clear that if I believe they’re in real danger, that will absolutely get communicated to you. But I’ll do my best to involve them in that communication so that they get to practice and experience having hard conversations.
I can help your teen sort through all the messy feelings…
… practice boundary setting when it counts and build coping skills to use with those super intense emotions.
The teen years are a veritable emotional roller coaster. Their brain development predisposes them to do more risk taking, to feel things more deeply, and to push away from their parents. That can be a recipe for trouble.
In sessions, I support teens in processing their feelings and identifying which feelings they want to act on and which they get to feel and process differently. Then we talk about ways that they can do that.
We practice the communicating. We discuss possible repercussions of communicating poorly. We discuss what to do when our feelings are too big and too much.
Don’t think for a minute that you’re not still important!
I know it’s scary watching them struggle with challenges that can have lifelong consequences and feel powerless to help.
Their relationship with you is changing, but that doesn’t mean you’re not important (quite the contrary!). It just means that they need to stretch their wings a bit and feel as though they’re doing it without so much of your help.
But they don’t have to be totally alone. I work hard and take very seriously the responsibility and privilege of being able to build relationships with and gently guide teens through some of these perennial challenges.
Let’s help your teen be that healthy, confident adult…
Being a teen is a really exciting time. Their futures are completely open to possibilities. Their potential is limitless, and day by day they are learning more about the relationships they want to have and the adult that they want to be.
As painful as it is… the intense emotional storm in teenage years… the social challenges and fluctuations… it’s all practice and it’s incredibly important.
Let me help your teen move through this time. Call or text me today: (703) 972-5705