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  • Writer's pictureErika Bugbee, M.A.

How Teenage Angst and your Relationship with your Teen are Changeable

When I started my private practice and decided to put more energy into helping teens and young adults, I assumed all my sessions would be with young clients.

But what surprised me is that I spend an equal amount of time working with parents.

And stepping back, that makes perfect sense. Here’s why.

In many cases, young people that are struggling are too overwhelmed to put energy into getting help. It takes effort and time to talk to someone like me.

I’m a stranger, and an adult, which most young people avoid talking to at all costs because I could be weird, awkward, judgy or intrusive.

For most young people, talking to any stranger guarantees them some degree of nervousness, anxiety, and self-consciousness. Maybe a HUGE amount. So there’s a risk, and the experience could end up being unpleasant, uncomfortable, and sucky at best, distressing and destabilizing at worst.

For a young person who is troubled enough for parents to have to Google someone like me, they’re just trying to keep it together as it is. They may need help, and often really want help, but can’t handle another layer of tension involved in GETTING the help.

I get it.

When I had two kids in diapers, plus working and running a household, I was exhausted. I was fortunate in that I had family and friends offering to help. But to their frustration, I rarely asked for help simply because it was too hard and complicated to make it happen. It required extra thinking. Extra figuring out. Extra energy.

So if you’re a parent that sees that your kid suffering, yet is unreceptive to professional help, what do you do? Are they help-able from the sidelines?

Yes, they are. When we struggle, the people in our immediate circle can make all the difference in the world. For better or worse.

Here’s what it looks like.

I worked with the mom that had become consumed by fear about her struggling teen, became overbearing, intrusive, and hyper-vigilant (actually the daughter’s term was “uptight.”)

The teen didn’t want help. But I did a few sessions with the mom. The results were immediate.

The mom got her bearings back, and as a result she got more open, warm, and thoughtful. She gave the daughter more space which she realized was needed.

She did little things like let her daughter listen to her music on the car stereo and asked about the show she’d been binge-watching.

Not only did the mom change, but the culture of their house changed. And that created a level of change in the daughter.

In these scenarios, which happen fairly often in my practice, the young people always change as a result of the parent changing, but may still struggle or need help down the line.

But what I’m pointing out here is that the mom in this example went from bringing more tension and upset to her daughter and her parenting, to bringing more clarity and presence of mind.

That kind of shift can turn things around and open new doors.

Ultimately, parents are in a leadership role. The best leaders in our lives have been the ones that can keep their own composure during difficult times. When parents calm down, and become a little more reflective and strategic, the kids inevitably calm down.

That’s the focus of today’s recording. This is a podcast episode.

In this recording, I’m interviewed by my friend and colleague Dr. Amy Johnson.

Click here to listen.

To learn more about the amazing work Dr. Johnson is doing, click here. I highly recommend her podcast and her programs.

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