Parenting has often been described as the hardest job on earth. When children are little, it seems as if their needs are endless and that you will never be done with them. However, what many parents learn as their children begin to enter their adolescent and teen years is that this is when the real challenges begin.
These years are often riddled with complicated social issues, pressures and unprecedented emotional storms that many parents feel very inadequate to handle. You can read more about these issues in our article about teenage behavior here. Understanding how to reach out to your kids when they are experiencing emotional turmoil can seem challenging and nearly impossible, especially if your child or teen does not want to communicate with you. However, if your child appears to be in serious emotional distress, it is very important to figure out ways to help them through their storm.
There are certain warning signs parents can look for that could indicate that their child or teen is experiencing some type of emotional turmoil. This article on WebMD.com explains some of these signs. There are certain phrases that kids and teens use that can be a clue to their emotional state. If you often hear your son or daughter complaining that “life sucks,” you may be curious to know what exactly they mean by that. A parent may be uncomfortable hearing their child say something like that because, at first glance, this seems like a very negative assessment of what may really be a very good and normal life. There are also other warning signs for negativity, like changes in eating and sleeping habits.
Speaking out in negative ways is not always the only signal of emotional distress. Sometimes kids and teens react to distress with silence. If your child or teen is normally a very talkative person and suddenly becomes very silent, that can also be a warning sign. When kids and teens quit talking, parents can often turn to the child or teen’s social media sites in order to learn what is on their mind. In many cases, kids and teens will share quite a bit of information concerning their personal lives and inner most feelings on their social media accounts. Posts that say things like ‘Life sucks then you die’ or ‘Why does my life suck?’ or ‘I suck at life’ can be strong indicators of what’s going on in your child’s mind. These types of social media posts can also be a way to start a conversation concerning the feelings your child or teen is dealing with. Mention that you saw the post. Or even message your child or teen about the post; this may be an easier way to get them talking than simply asking. Checking out your child’s or your teen’s search history on their computers and tablets can also offer useful clues as to whether your child is thinking along negative lines that could lead to greater feelings of unhappiness or even depression. This article on MayoClinic.org may help you figure out what to look for in your teenage child.
The Wrong Thing to Say
When you finally do get your child or teen talking about their feelings, it is very important to understand that saying the wrong thing to your child can send them back into their silence very quickly. It is very important to choose your words carefully. When your child asks why life sucks, you need to avoid sarcastic comments like, “I agree! Your life sucks.” It is very easy for parents to grow weary with kids being dissatisfied with their lives when you know how hard you are working to make sure they have a good one. Going down through a list of all the ways their life is actually great will probably only irritate your child. The important thing to do at this point is to help your child or teen figure out why they feel that they suck at life.
When young people are feeling sad or depressed, they do not want to hear how wrong they are to be sad. It is not wrong to be sad, regardless of how great of a life one has. The fact of the matter is that all people go through times of depression and sadness and it usually has very little to do with their everyday circumstances. There are millions of people suffering from depression everyday who have perfectly fine lives, plenty of money, a great family and, for all practical purposes, everything they need to be happy. However, sadness and depression can take over despite all of this. Feelings of inadequacy or hopelessness can build up on some very unlikely foundations. If you put your child on the defense, you may never learn what it is that is really bothering them and causing their sadness.
What Will Help
Talking to your child or teen often helps. When anyone is experiencing sadness or depression or feelings of inadequacy, they want to know that they are not alone in their struggles. If you yourself have experienced these types of feelings in the past, it may prove helpful to share that with your child or teen. Children often have the impression that their parents are superheroes that have never experienced the types of feelings that they are experiencing. Reassuring your child that all people including yourself, have experienced feelings of hopelessness and inadequacy is a sure way to win their trust.
In our article Teenage Depression Test, you can read more about the symptoms of this phenomena, how to deal with it and a list of questions to ask yourself as a parent that will help you determine if your child suffers from depression.
If you have tried communicating and reassuring your child during their time of emotional distress and you feel that it is not helping the situation, you may want to consider professional counseling. When kids or teens are clinically depressed, simply talking with a parent or friend may not be sufficient to help them process their feelings. Our article Depression in Teenagers: The Causes sheds some light on this issue. Professional counseling can help provide you and your family with a greater assortment of tools to help cope with their more serious form of sadness; depression.
If your child or teen is hesitant to try counseling, it may help to reassure them that millions of people, young and old, seek out professional counseling every year to help with their emotional issues. Many famous celebrities use counseling to help deal with the pressures of fame and job stress as well. Do a little research to find out if any of your child’s favorite actors or athletes have ever used counseling. This may prove encouraging to your child.