A client asked me the other day if the flowers on the side table in my office were real. I assured him that they were to which he responded, “Why do you waste money on buying real flowers when they will just die?” I told him I buy them because each week they bring me hope. They offer the optimism that each day, I can trim the stems and add a little more water and in turn they will offer me a new bloom or a beautiful smell. They give me hope that as they blossom there is more beauty to come. Of course they will fade and the petals will fall off, but they force me to enjoy them while they bloom and to focus on their changes each morning when I look at them.
Parenting tweens and teens can sometimes feel like you are surrounded by shriveling flower petals and dead leaves. Dreams and plans you had for your son or daughter can be vastly different from the reality you are facing. Watching your growing children sink into depression or school avoidance can leave parents feeling alone and afraid. Suddenly watching friends and neighbors sharing milestones on social media about their kids successes can be a reminder of the failure you feel as a parent. Guilt about missing signs or signals that led your child off track can leave you trapped and isolated.
I see you. You are not alone. You are not a failure and things are not hopeless. Have you tried to hide what your teen is facing by hoping it’s a phase or just a few bad friends? Have you avoided asking him or her questions because you’re afraid of the answers? Hiding isn’t the answer and it doesn’t help your
child to learn to ask for help either. In order to build resiliency, you must model how to reach out to others when you don’t have the answers. Just as you taught them to brush their teeth and wash their hair, you must teach them how to ask for help to maintain or achieve healthy mental health habits.
One of the current primary competencies that students are learning about in all levels of junior high and high school, is the view of a fixed or a growth mindset. The goal is to increase students resiliency by teaching them the importance of a growth mindset which emphasizes continuing to try regardless of the outcome.
In her book, “Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience and Finding Joy,” author Sheryl Sandberg asserts that building resiliency in kids includes widening their circle of caregivers. When describing a student who was struggling with anxiety and depression she stated, “A turning point came when one of his former teachers started spending time with him every week. She offered him tips and reinforced his progress and she gave him a sense of control which made it clear that she was looking out for him.”
By coming out of the darkness and seeking help when things are difficult, our children learn that others care about them. Modeling the act of stretching out your hand dispels the myth that self-sufficiency is always the solution. Whether you need help for yourself or help for your teen, don’t sit in isolation.
There is always hope for for a fresh perspective. Widening the circle of influences in your child’s life may include a coach, a teacher or a therapist who can pour into them and offer insight that may propel them forward.