As a parent of four I felt like at any given point in time one of my kids was struggling. School work, peers, an emotional breakup, a teacher that didn’t seem to like them, or even just being in a sour mood where nothing was the way they thought it should be wreaked havoc in our home. Then there was the “I want” when my husband and I didn’t feel the request was in the budget or a good idea; and the “you never” or “you always” spoken in a fit of anger that made me feel like a terrible parent.
Even if we’ve been a really good parent and the lines of communication are typically open, the frustration our kids are experiencing will spill out onto us.
And what do we want to do? Fix it, of course.
And a lot of us, especially moms, pick up the stress. After all, we don’t want our kids to hurt. We don’t want them to have to experience life’s hardships. We want them to sail through life with success.
But do we?
Think about it. If our kids are struggling while they are living under our roof and they are dumping their emotional buckets on us, then we have been chosen (by them) to be a safe place. They know we love them and will be there for them. Some kids just need to vent.
The good news is that we are in a position to help them learn to deal with stress. We can impart our coping skills (if we’ve learned them ourselves) and coach them through ways to reduce the stress and look at their life circumstance from a different perspective. We can be there to give them a hug, a life story where we learned something similar, and show them that they will survive.
The question is, as a parent, will we survive? After all, they’ve just spewed all over us. They’re crying. Or screaming. Or saying things that are not on the list of vocabulary words that are allowed in our house.
And we have to make a choice.
How are we going to handle the load they just dumped on us? How do we handle the emotion that wells up in us? How do we shut down the fears that rear their ugly head as we look at this situation in light of our kid’s future?
Several years ago I had a friend who was really struggling with her daughter as was I with mine. We’d usually walk and pound out our frustrations on the pavement as we poured out our disbelief at where our daughters were in the choices they were making. Tears would stream down both our faces and then one of us would say something to ease the tension that would make us both laugh. It was healing for both of us.
Thinking back to that friendship and the process we both went through as we carried the struggles of our teens, I discovered that as parents we need some coping mechanisms ourselves and a plan to help our kids move forward. It is through these times of stress for our kids that we can actually make the relationship with our kids stronger if we think about the situation with a perspective of opportunity rather than something to fix.
So what can you do?
- Don’t react in the moment. This is easier said than done. When our kids are worked up and dump whatever it is on us, our tendency will be to respond in a similar manner. Better communication will take place when emotions are calm.
- Just breathe. The best way to reduce our stress is to do some deep breathing. Slowly inhale in, hold it, and slowly let it out. Take note of your surroundings and just be in the moment of breathing.
- Take inventory. Observe what you are feeling and why.
- Normalize the feelings. “Of course I feel stressed. My teen’s anger and stress was just dumped on me. It is understandable that I am hurting with them.”
- Own what is yours to own. This is really difficult for some of us. Recognizing that this is our teen’s struggle without making it our own can be an emotional tightrope. “This is their struggle. I am here to help walk through it with them, not to make it my problem. My role is not to carry their hurt but to help them work through the situation and their emotion.”
- Pray. This is where we ask God to help us take away our own overwhelming emotion and not give way to our fears. We should also ask Him what your child needs in this circumstance.
- Interact with your child after their emotions have calmed. Assure them that their emotions are normal, share a story of when you’ve encountered a similar circumstance and how you handled it. Let them know if it went well or poorly. Then brainstorm options letting them make suggestions on how they might handle the thing with which they are struggling. And be sure to ask permission to share any suggestions you might have to offer.
- Give them a hug. All of our kids have a particular way in which they receive love. This is an opportunity to fill their emotional tank since stress will deplete it. Do they need affection? Encouragement? Acceptance in knowing you were a safe place to dump their emotional bucket? An appropriate funny story? Or maybe just time to do something fun together? Whatever your teen needs in the moment will help solidify your relationship.
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”
“Let go…and Let God”,