Losses are hard to take. In fact, they have been shown to contribute to the rise in depression and suicidal tendencies among teens. Since it’s unlikely that today’s teens are experiencing greater or more frequent losses than those of yesteryear, it seems clear that the problem does not lie with the losses but with the inability to cope properly with those losses. Grief counselors or therapists can provide supplemental assistance, but parents are really the ones who have the most potential to impact teens’ abilities to process and productively deal with losses of all kinds.
What Not To Say or Do
Even if your teen’s loss seems trivial compared to your adult-sized woes, don’t treat it as unimportant. The fact is, that to a young person, the kinds of losses that can seem insignificant to others can make them feel like the world is crashing down on them. Sure, they need to learn to see past temporary setbacks, but they know that not making the team will change the landscape of their entire school year, and that’s about as far as they can see right now. The tendency of teens to live in the moment can make life exciting, but it can also be dangerous to their emotional well-being.
Even parents who don’t trivialize their kids’ heart-breaking hardships tend to judge their reactions. Saying, “It’s over. There’s no use in talking about it,” or chiding them for “selfish tears” is not fostering the relationship of trust and family connectivity that teens crave. If you’re not providing a safe community at home, your teen may look for it elsewhere or may reach the conclusion that they don’t have any place where they can feel safe.
How To Help Teens Cope
Even teens with the most bravado and swagger need guidance in negotiating new experiences and feelings. Don’t wait for them to ask you for help; teens are proud enough that that day may never come. Instead, voluntarily share your own experiences with loss and how you’ve sometimes dealt with it both badly and productively. If that kind of discussion is difficult to broach, perhaps you could watch a movie like “Courageous” or “Amish Grace,” movies that naturally lead to discussing how people react differently to losses and how some reactions are more productive than others.
If your teen has experienced a loss to death (or even a tough goodbye or breakup), navigating their unfamiliar feelings can be daunting. Again, don’t expect them to ask for help. Do ask if they want you to accompany them in tough situations (like funerals or hospital visits), let them know what to expect, and support them in every way you know how.
When You’re Grieving, Too
If you’re experiencing a mutual loss, you may not feel like you’re coping well enough to help someone else along. But being honest and open about your own struggles can to draw you and your teen closer, rather than distancing you further. In such cases, you might also want to consider enlisting the help of another mature, trusted adult that can give your teen the support you simply cannot muster.
The takeaway in all these situations is this: It’s important that your teen knows that life will go on and that you’ll be there for them every step of the way.
For more information on how to muddle through the trials of the teenage years, consult a Christian boarding school. Their expert staff specializes in working with troubled teens, adopted teens, and the teenage sons and daughters of pastors and other members of the ministry. Their time-tested approach to teaching not only helps teens get back on track in terms of academics, but also helps them learn to address problems related to their beliefs and social life. With the help of a Christian boarding school, your teen can get on the right path towards becoming an emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually healthy adult.