Signs that your teen could be struggling:
- Retreats to their room more often than not
- Has aches and pains regularly, especially stomach issues
- Mood swings
- Change in normal activities
- Change in friends
- Change in music tastes, TV, friends
Being a teenager wasn’t easy for me. School came easy, having “friends” wasn’t so hard, however finding true friends I could count on was brutal. We moved a lot thru my middle school years so I was “always” (in my teen brain) having to make new friends. In my personal assessment, that time of my life was horrendous. To add to that my parents always said, “These are the best years of your life!”, to which I would reply (in my head, of course), “Oh shit! I’m screwed!”.
It’s not easy being a teen, however I know it doesn’t have to be hard either. During high school I suffered with horrible depression that was shrugged off as “just a phase” and she’ll grow out of it. I was sick to my stomach every day before school and if given the chance, would sleep for days! Those were NOT normal effects of being a teen, it was depression. It was easy though for others to miss these signs because I got good grades, put a smile on my face, and played the role I thought everyone needed the most, “the perfect daughter”. The solitude of my room was my one escape. In there I listened to sad music, wrote poems about my sadness, prayed and begged for relief, screamed into my pillow, and plotted my escape from my personal hell. For me, relief from that hell didn’t come till college when I realized alcohol would quiet those voices, temporarily of course. It wasn’t until my very late 20’s that I hit a breaking point and realized I needed help. Mind you, I’ve always been very blessed and had a great life. I already had 3 children at this point and volunteered in every activity they had, stayed home with them during the day and worked nights. I was that mom who did everything with a smile, rarely (if ever) said no, and was always with my kids. NOONE knew the torment I hid so very, very well!
I had learned early on that putting a smile on was way easier than dealing with what was going on inside, until the breaking point. That was when my whole world changed, I took a deep inventory of my demons, faced them, and created an inner smile to match my outer one. My kids were growing up, I was starting to say “no” more often, putting myself first, and teaching my children how important self acceptance was and applauding their uniqueness. Then, all of a sudden, the rug was pulled out from under me and although I had been preaching and living self love, meditation, and the power of energy to my children, I realized my oldest daughter was suffering in a hell of her own.
She had watched me during those early years and learned what I didn’t want to be teaching, that putting a mask on was easy and playing the role of a “perfect” daughter was easier than dealing with what was going on inside. Thankfully she confided in a friend, who told her mother, who told me, however I was totally blindsided. I knew she was going thru some emotional stuff because we talked openly daily. I took it seriously but also had the thought in the back of my mind that it was normal teen angst and would blow over. I had no idea though the true extent of her pain. This was when I realized that even if you have a great relationship with your daughter, your daughter’s friends, and she is doing well in school, she can still be suffering inside and not be able to tell you.
At this point she started seeing a friend of mine who does the same work I do and her life started to change. She was very resistant at first, however I told her, “I make you go to school and learn reading, writing, and math, and you’re seeing my friend so you can learn about your emotions, how they affect you, and how to handle them in a healthy way.” After a few weeks I started to see the light back in her eyes and she was feeling much stronger with herself. Her horrible mood swings were barely there, she interacted with us, and there were way less fights in the house. Of course, there are still the ups and downs of life and learning, that is expected, however she has a much better foundation on which to grow.
I learned so much thru this process and realized our girls these days are facing so much more than we ever did. Cyber bullying is rampant, self harm, eating disorders, drug abuse, and abusive relationships are all on the rise. Our children are suffering and it’s not being addressed. There is so much more pressure on our children that there ever was on us. Multiple sports, AP and Honors classes, college, jobs, statuses… we’re pushing them to do adult tasks without giving them the foundation from which to build on. We aren’t allowing their growth by letting them make mistakes, we’re so frightful of hurting them and scarring them for life. That does NOT have to be the case! You can allow them to be themselves, while creating appropriate boundaries, support them in their strengths, while allowing them to rise and fall. Our children need to know the labels of society do not dictate who they are inside, that they ARE strong enough to say “NO”, and they do matter, but most importantly, they need to be able to feel worthy of it all. If they are strong within themselves, love themselves, congratulate themselves, are proud of themselves, they’ll have no problems standing on their own and being who they were meant to be!
Give them the tools to deal with these teenage years in a healthy way, allow them to vent their frustrations, give them permission to find out what suits them best, and create clear, consistent boundaries for them so they know just how far they can push the envelope.
With love, light, and laughter,