What Your Struggling Teen Needs to Hear Right Now

If you’re struggling with your teen, you are not alone. This time in your child’s life challenges the emotional resources of even the most well-functioning families. You may have been able to handle things with your teen until this point, but now you may wonder, does my teen need adolescent addiction treatment?

Understanding a teenager’s mind is the predicament of many parents’ minds—especially parents of teens who are struggling with addiction and many other pressures of life. A wonderful place to start when you are at a loss for how to help your struggling teen is first to consider the pressures that are currently affecting them.

The Task of Adolescence

Adolescence itself is a period of dramatic change in a teen’s physical, cognitive, emotional and social competencies and concerns; and typically occurs during a time parents are dealing with an entire set of psychological worries of their own.

Your teen is working through the arduous process of becoming a person. On a macro level, this includes discovering how to enjoy life and making sense of the world, and in their day-to-day life, they face the difficulty of finding and keeping friends, finding love and beginning to consider what sort of work they would like to do. 

COVID-19 Impacts on Your Teen

The beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 left many teens and adults thinking they were receiving days off from the actual pressures of life. However, the pandemic itself has become a genuinely, strenuous pressure in the life of many teens. The presence of COVID-19 has meant that an integral part of socializing in person with peers is denied, or at least severely limited.

The freedom of having time with their friends that teens once took for granted has long-been postponed, and that postponement has been indefinite. Teens thrive on interacting with their peers and prominent adults who mentor them in life. 

With the transition away from everyday social interactions and extracurriculars, teens are experiencing increased anxiety and depression, and they are searching for ways, including substances, to cope with them. As you are trying to understand the pressures in your struggling teen’s life, take time to acknowledge the stress of the ongoing pandemic.

What Your Teen Needs to Hear

So you’ve come to understand some of the pressures in your teen’s life. Now the question is, what do they truly need to hear from you to help in their journey of healing? Finding the right words to say can be difficult, and you may wonder still if they might be better off in adolescent addiction treatment. 

However, there are some meaningful starting points that you can reflect on to help your struggling teen, and regardless of where they are at in their treatment journey, the message they need to hear from you stays the same. 

“My Love is Not Conditional”

Your teen needs to hear and understand definitively that your love for him or her is not contingent upon their actions or behavior. Actively take time to notice how often you are telling your teen that you love them. And then take even more time to reflect on if your love or the way you express your love is connected to what your teen is doing or how they are performing or achieving.

If your love is more often connected to their achievement, your teen will interpret the underlying message as “love is conditional.” Or “I am only lovable or worthy when…” When you withhold love because your teen makes a bad decision or several bad decisions or doesn’t perform as well in academics, they will either seek that love from other places or attempt to detach from it.

You have a beautiful opportunity to communicate affection, love and appreciation for your struggling teen. Be mentally and emotionally prepared that they might not accept your affection or unconditional love at first, especially if you’re trying something new. However, their reaction to your unconditional love does not mean that they don’t need it. 

Programs like The Right Step-Adolescent Addiction Treatment can give you an excellent starting point for changing how you communicate your unconditional love for your struggling teen.  

“You Have Purpose”

Along with love, your teen needs to understand and hear from you that they have a purpose that is not contingent on your hopes for them. While you may have well-meaning expectations for how your teen “should” grow into a contributing member of society, their innate personality characteristics or personal beliefs may lead them in a different direction. Remember: different doesn’t mean less-than. Develop ways to show empathy for your teen’s purpose even if it doesn’t reflect what you wanted them to be.  

With purpose comes hope, and the motivation to do something with your life. 

“Your Emotions Have Purpose”

Just as your teen has a purpose as an individual, your teen’s emotions do too. Remind your teen that their feelings are valid and contain important messages about what’s going on within us. Just as they are learning to be a good friend to others, they can take time to hear out their emotions and be a good friend to themselves.

There are so many ways as humans to cope with the overwhelming pressure of our emotional reality. If your teen has turned to substance use, it’s fundamental to recognize the deeper emotional story that is taking place. It often serves as a way to self-medicate, to use substances to cope with their emotions. You can help your teen lay a foundation of healing from substance use by modeling healthy emotional processing.

“You are Responsible for Your Choices”

Empower your teen to understand the impact of his or her choices. Choices may seem overwhelming because of the black and white nature of deciding right and wrong. However, choices can also be an outlet for expression and growth. Your teen needs to hear that he or she is responsible for his or her choices.

You can teach this lesson in another, equally powerful way by being someone consistent in upholding consequences and deciding not to give in to your teen’s attempts to bargain or further evade repercussions. 

Perhaps you find yourself struggling to follow through with the consequences of your teen’s choices that do not meet your expectations. Or, it’s hard for you to see them suffer, and you want to relieve them of pain. 

However, in this sense, rescuing is enabling, and enabling is not likely to lead to changed behavior in the future. On the other hand, responsibility and choice are empowering. Empower your teen to take responsibility for his or her choices.

Treatment professionals like those at The Right Step Adolescent Addiction Treatment Program can teach you ways to communicate the importance of your teen’s choices while empowering you to follow through with the natural consequences for them.

“Asking for Help is a Strength”

Your teen needs to hear your encouragement and praise when asking for help and receive some recognition for the bravery it takes to ask for it. Because our society often favors self-sufficiency at the expense of pride, to combat this, your teen needs to learn from you that asking for help is not a weakness. You can be an example by letting your teen hear you ask for help from those you trust and for professionals who are ready to join your family in the healing process.

“Failure is an Opportunity to Try Again”

Mind how you talk about failure around your teen; they might pick up that their failures reflect their worth or identity as an individual.   You must reframe how you communicate about failure. Negativity toward the topic can lead to problems with self-esteem, perfectionism, anxiety, depression and a whole host of other concerns. 

Remind them: failure is not a reflection of our worth or identity as human beings. Failure is a natural outcome of choice and nothing more than an opportunity to try again. 

A positive relationship with failure creates an optimistic outlook. . Your teen needs to hear that they are not less-than when they fail. Your teen needs to hear that their failures are opportunities for growth and chances to make more beneficial choices in the future. More than anything, your teen needs to hear that their mistakes are opportunities for you to grow closer rather than apart. 

You can help your teen create a positive relationship with failure by having conversations with them when things do not seem to go the way they were hoping. Help your teen better appreciate success by learning from their mistakes rather than developing an unhealthy relationship with shame and guilt. Take advantage of your teen’s time under your wings to show them how to stand back up when they fall.

Adolescent Addiction Treatment at The Right Step DFW

Consider your journey from adolescence to adulthood. Perhaps you did not always get from your parents what you needed from them, and you know intimately how painful that can be. Now consider the role that you play in your teen’s life. Recognize the opportunities you have, right now, to tell your teen what he or she needs to hear. 

Reach out to The Right Step Adolescent Addiction Treatment Program to learn more about the support that we can offer you and your teen in helping you get back on the right track. Connect with us today to help connect better with your teen tomorrow. 

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