It’s no secret that being a parent is a really difficult job; just when you think you’ve got it figured out your child enters a new stage of development and it’s like you’re starting over from the beginning. While each stage brings it’s own unique adventures and challenges, adolescence is often the one that brings the most fear and frustration for parents. For a child, adolescence marks a time for self-discovery and individuation from their family, often times this takes the form of rebellion, rule-breaking, and limit-pushing. Parents often watch their “sweet angels” turn into angry, moody, and avoidant strangers who only seem to show up when food is around, or they need spending money. Rebellion is a normal and natural part of adolescence. Up until now your child has been completely dependent on and identified with the family unit and often they will swing to the other extreme in an effort to define themselves as separate before they are able to settle in somewhere in the middle.
As a parent, it can be painful to watch your child move away from you, pick fights with you, or make decisions that you know are not in their best interest. Therapy can often be helpful for a teen because it can provide a safe environment to deepen their understanding of themselves, improve on their communication, and help with problem-solving skills, unfortunately this suggestion from parents is often met with much resistance from the teen. They may see therapy as burdensome or like a punishment. Whenever a parent contacts me about seeing their teen, the first question I always ask is, “How does the teen feel about therapy?” If the parent tells me that the teen is resistant, I will encourage them to come in anyway, as the teen may be more open to the idea than they are willing to admit to their parents.
However, there are times when the teen will adamantly refuse, then what?
This is when it is often a good idea to use the therapy for yourself. It’s easy as a parent to direct all of your efforts and resources to helping your child but it’s important and equally necessary to help yourself. Therapy can provide a parent of a teenage a space to help process the feelings of sadness and loss that may be coming up, or their frustration and anger, but most importantly it can help a parent learn to let go. You might be thinking, “But my child is in real trouble, I can’t just let him do what he wants.” Letting go isn’t about condoning or encouraging destructive behavior but about accepting your limitations. Therapy can help you find peace and a balance between loving encouragement and help and painful efforts to control and change.