Prioritize your mental wellnessIt’s easy to forget to take care of yourself and your needs when you’re juggling responsibilities at work, schedules for each of your children, and so much more. Self-care is more than lighting a few candles, pouring a glass of something cold, and unwinding with a good book. While that could be good for you, self-care should include an element of prioritizing your physical health and mental health. You don’t need to fight these battles on your own or without coping strategies. Counseling and other forms of therapy can help you build the mental tools necessary to face a troubled teen. When you’re feeling defeated and hopeless in the face of a difficult situation at home, you need to feel supported. Prioritizing your mental health will help you learn new methods of approaching difficult situations with your teen and help reassure you that you aren’t doing anything wrong. It can be all too easy to feel like you’ve let your teen down, and that’s why he’s acting out, using drugs, or abusing alcohol. Parenting guilt is something you’ve also likely been struggling with for most of your parenting journey. With your mental health in a better space, you’ll be able to move away from feeling so very hopeless. You may start to see the light at the end of this very frustrating dark tunnel. Keep in mind that this is not something you’ll be able to work through in a single day. It will take some time to figure out different therapy options to feel like you have the mental strength to tackle your troubled teen’s concerns. It can feel like you’re selfish by putting yourself first, even just for an hour of therapy a week. Remind yourself that if you aren’t finding ways to fortify yourself, you won’t be able to keep up with the stress and frustrations you’re faced with at home. Don’t neglect your physical health either. Keep up with your doctor’s appointments and be seen for any physical ailment. On top of feeling defeated and hopeless, the last thing you need is to get struck down by a preventable illness.
Things to keep in mindAs you move forward to tackle the issues at home, there are some things that you should keep in mind and remember, especially if you’re having a down day as a parent:
- Your teen’s behavior is not your fault, just as your toddler has a meltdown in the grocery store was not your fault. He’s acting out or displaying poor behavior now is not your fault.
- It is not personal, but more of a reflection of your teen’s own internal mental health struggle. You are a convenient target for his frustration or rage.
- You don’t need to do this alone. Parenting partners, siblings, friends who’ve had similar parenting challenges, coaches, and counselors from the school. Each of these people can help to provide you the support and guidance that you need.
- It’s okay to want to give up and walk away. Take a break to refresh your mind and focus on something else. A troubled teen can push you like no one else can. It’s very understandable to want to be done with it. So, take a break, regroup, and return to the situation with a level head. If you have a parenting partner or a trusted family member, you can also consider taking a weekend or a few days to gather yourself again while they care for your teen.
- Pick your battles and don’t engage in arguments. When you’ve put your foot down and established boundaries for your teen, he’s likely going to push back hard at these changes. If it’s not worth arguing about, let it go until cooler heads prevail. If it’s a serious situation, push back but don’t argue. There’s no negotiation for some things.
- It’s okay to change things up. Sometimes we tend to adopt parenting techniques that we learned from our parents. These may have worked well for you and your siblings, but your teen is his own person. He may not respond to those tried-and-true techniques. Particularly if he has something else going on that he’s struggling to deal with.
Setting the boundaries with your teenAs a teen, you likely pushed the boundaries that were set for you by your own parents. It’s normal behavior for teens to push against boundaries and test the limits you set for them. They are looking for independence and freedom. While it’s normal to an extent, teens still need those boundaries to experience freedom and independence at a pace that matches their maturity. Some teens may see this as you trying to control them. But in truth, it’s you giving them the ability to learn the self-control that they need. Here are a few tips to help you set boundaries with your teen:
- Come from a place of love. Before you dive into approaching complicated topics head-on, start with positive things. Let your teen know just how much you care about them. Tell them how proud you are of them. Remind them that boundaries are to keep them safe and ensure that they can face life confidently.
- In an ideal world, you’d establish the perfect boundaries your teen respects from an early age. That said, even if your teen is in crisis now, it’s not too late to step in with new family rules and boundaries. Don’t think of anything as being too late.
- Timing is important when it comes time to have a conversation about limits and boundaries. Don’t sit down for a talk when you and your teen are in a heightened emotional state. Allow things to calm down so you can approach conversations with level heads.
- Explain to your teen the difference between rights and privileges. They have the right to food, shelter, clothing, comfort. But they are not entitled to a cell phone, internet services, video tables, a tablet, car, and other non-essentials. Privileges can be withheld if you decide to do so.
- Work with your teen, to a degree, to establish what you both believe to be fair boundaries. Ensure that he understands what the consequences are for violating the household rules and boundaries.
- Follow through with the established consequences. If you don’t, your teen will have no reason to do his part to respect the boundaries you’ve established.