3 Ways to Address Your Teen’s Struggles With a Compassionate Lens
The heart is like a garden: it can grow compassion or fear, resentment or love. What seeds will you plant there?” ~ Jack Kornfield
When parents see that their child is in need, they want to help.
There can be a number of mental or emotional health issues that teens face from time to time.
Some parents may even find that their child has become dependent on drugs or alcohol.
However, trying to decide what action steps to take can make a parent feel even more stressed and anxious.
With drug use, the question usually comes up about whether you should use the tough love approach, or treat your child with kindness and support? How will you know what will work for your situation and your relationship?
A number of years ago, I was concerned about my daughter. She was struggling in high school and just didn’t seem herself. I thought disciplining her was the answer. My hope was that if I grounded her or took away privileges, she would see the light.
The opposite happened. She became better at hiding her dangerous habits.
I was not able to fully address the problem.
She went off to college, and two years later, we discovered that she had become dependent on drugs and was failing her courses.
Some say that that parents should detach (with love) and/or let go when our kids are using drugs. However, my mother bear instincts kicked in. I knew I needed to get involved. I felt that I should address the problem with compassion.
As with any attempt to change, there were steps forward and steps backward.
However, using the kind and gentle approach motivated my daughter to be willing to overcome her dependency. It also brought us closer together.
When our teens get off track, the first questions to ask is why. Understanding what is motivating them to use drugs or abuse alcohol is critical.
Once you know the cause, practicing compassion in all of your dealings with your kids can be the key to healing.
Here are 3 ways to be compassionate when you’re concerned about your teen.
- Have compassion for yourself. Take care of yourself first. Being compassionate doesn’t mean you have to put your needs aside. Self-compassion lays the foundation for healing. You’ll feel happier, less depressed, less angry, and be more prepared to handle the problem. Treat yourself as you would a close friend in a difficult spot. Acknowledge that you are suffering. Rather than criticize yourself, think about ways that you can give yourself comfort. Remind yourself that everything in life is temporary. Give yourself the care that you need.
- Share your story. Sharing your own story about a time that you felt stressed can help bridge the gap between you and your child. Let them know that you’ve had similar feelings when you were their age. Even though you most likely handled your stress in a healthier way, your child will get to know you as a person, not just as their parent. By sharing your story, it doesn’t mean you condone your child’s actions. You will, however be sending them the message that you are there for them when they need you most.
- Take time to understand. We all want to alleviate the suffering of our kids. Sometimes positive changes can happen right away. Sometimes we need to practice patience. In either case, take time to truly listen and understand how your teen is feeling. Recognize their suffering and educate yourself on their issue. Understand the best way to help for your child. Do what you can to encourage your teen to make better choices. Support their efforts to change. They will feel more positive and be more motivated when you treat your child with compassion.
Being compassionate will help everyone feel better.
It reduces stress and increases happiness. In short, it improves your life and the lives of those around you.
Develop the skill of being compassionate. Allow compassion to be the foundation of how you see the world. Inner peace, joy, and less negative feelings will become part of your everyday experience.
And that in and of itself solves a world of hurt.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Ten years ago, Cathy Taughinbaugh helped her daughter through a tough road out of drug addiction. As a parent, Cathy had to learn how to be there for her daughter and how to support her through the recovery process. As a result of her journey with her ownchild’s drug use, Cathy, a former educator founded CathyTaughinbaugh.com and became a certified parent coach in order to help other families struggling with substance use. The outreach that Cathy has created provides a forum for those that need support to care for themselves or their loved ones. Cathy’s personal coaching, numerous articles, resources and eBooks are available, providing inspiration to all out there who are going through same or similar challenges in their lives. In her free time, Cathy volunteers for the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids Parent Coaching program. Cathy lives with her husband in northern California.