Tag Archive for: my teen is hurting

My Kid is Struggling and I Don’t Know What to do

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?

  1. 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. 
  2. 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.
  3. Take inventory.  Observe what you are feeling and why.  
  4. 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.”
  5. 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.”
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.

John 16:33

“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.”

Joshua 1:9

  “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”,




Everything is Great With The Kids…

My family is drowning in grief this week. Three funerals to attend within the span of eight days.

One was a blessing. We celebrated the life of my dear Aunt Lois who passed at the age of 79. Having been in the hospital 32 times over the past three years, it was easy to let her go. She had lived her life to the fullest and had touched all of our lives. She needs to be at peace and my uncle, her caregiver who was by her side through everything, deserves time to rest. It has been a long journey.

And then there are the other two deaths–two high school students from the same school. Each committed suicide.

And I wonder how many times these parents have said ‘everything is great with the kids’.

From outward appearance, everything did seem to be on a positive trajectory. Both kids were good students, top athletes, had lots of friends, and a host of other good things that would make a parent say ‘everything is great’.

But it wasn’t.

Don’t get me wrong. Kids make terrible choices at times and the chemistry of the brain that results in someone making such a choice will most likely never be fully understood. Add the pressure to succeed and the possibility of fickle relationships especially during the teen years and it is more easy to accept that these terrible things do happen.

I have no idea what dragon either of these kids might have been facing. All I see is the tragedy of life ended so early. Friends and classmates who will forever remember the aftermath of their death. And the families who will try to put together the pieces for years to come.

And the parents will probably be asking themselves, “What could I have done differently?”

Everything with the kids obviously wasn’t great.

So what can we learn from these two deaths? What could I possibly write that would make a difference? 

For these two families, I could only say this: “I’m so very sorry for your loss.  Don’t blame yourself for the choice your child made. Grieve. And take your pain to a Heavenly Father who loves you and your child. Forgive your son. Forgiveness brings healing to you. Then use your pain to help others who are going through a similar loss. You know what it feels like and you might be the only person who truly understands. Even though you may never find closure this side of eternity, God sees your broken heart and He can use it for His glory if you let Him.”

To the rest of us parents, I’d say:

  1. Don’t assume that everything is great with the kids.  Appearance and reality can be totally different things.  Many of us hide our emotions when we get overwhelmed.
  2. Check in often to see how your kids are doing.  Ask meaningful questions–not superficial ones that can be answered with ‘yes’, ‘no’, or a grunt.
  3. Resolve conflict.  Unresolved conflict whether it ends in anger or is avoided all together leaves residual feelings of doubt, fear, and uncertainty.  Conflict resolved well creates connection.
  4. Listen without judgment.  Empathize with you child’s situations and feelings.  Let them know that it is normal to feel what they are feeling.
  5. Make physical touch part of your relationship.  A ruffling of the hair, a hug, a pat on the back all show affection to a teen that says, “I like you and who you are becoming.  We’re on the same team.”
  6. Acknowledge the little things even if it is something they are supposed to do.  “I so appreciate you being consistent with taking out the trash.  I know I can always count on you.”  
  7. Have lots of one-on-one time to talk.  Ice cream, after school snack, long distance car time all can create an atmosphere of sharing our dreams and fears if we are willing to take the time.
  8. Talk about suicide, what is going on with friends, their struggles at school, and especially how they ‘feel’ in the difficult periods of life.
  9. Don’t be afraid to say ‘no’ if you feel something is inappropriate for your teen.  Having to deal with disappointment in the little things helps them learn to deal with the bigger struggles in life.
  10. Teach them to look at life situations with hope.  Let them know that the pain in the moment won’t last forever.  It is something to work through, grieve, and become a survivor.
  11. Walk with them through the difficulties.  When things are tough be available.  Coach them on how to look at the situation differently to find peace.
  12. Share the love of God with them teaching them how precious life is and how God loves them so much that He was willing to die so that they might live.

Death can come in many forms for our teens.  It can be the suicide of a friend, a loss of a relationship or friendship, a disbelief that someone could do something that hurt them deeply, or even the loss of something they hoped to achieve.  In each of these situations, our kids need to grieve.  We need to be there to walk beside them and help them process.  While we can’t make it better–we can be there to give them hope.

2 Corinthians 4:8-9

We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed  

Jeremiah 29:11

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Dare you to give your kids hope, connection, and a hug this week.

“Let go…and Let God”,