As parents, there is nothing more important to us in our lives that our children. We are very, deeply empathically connected to them. We share in both the highs and lows of their lives.
When they are happy and succeeding, we feel that happiness and success. When they are struggling with emotional challenges, we also share in and feel those emotional challenges ourselves.
Being a parent of a struggling teen can impact us on a very deep level. Logically we know we are doing everything we can to help our teenager. Emotionally we feel that there is more and that we are missing something. It's a push and pull tug of war between what we know and what we feel.
Having a teenager who struggles with anxiety, social anxiety, depression, panic attacks, ADHD, trauma, PTSD or other challenges means that we have this on our mind throughout the day. We wake up with these thoughts and feelings on our minds. We go to work with them. They are present during social events. When we go home and when we go to bed.
We just want them to be happy, confident, and feel good about themselves. To see in themselves what we as parents see in them.
As we are doing everything we can think of to help them and as they are doing what they can to work through this challenging time in their lives, it can leave parents feeling a little helpless, worried, stressed, and at times feelings powerless.
First, a Little Perspective
And (and it's a BIG and) emotional challenges are incredibly complex. A person's genes, temperament, personality, resiliency, maturity, IQ and EQ all play a factor in what can help a teenager through their particular challenges.
Now, let's get into the complexity of the brain. It is estimated that there are 100 billion neurons in our brain. This is approximately the number of stars in the Milky Way Galaxy.
When we look at the number of connections these neurons have with each other, it is estimated that there are 40,000 connections. This means that our brains have more connections than there are stars in the universe!
All emotional challenges we struggle with come directly from our brain. As we know, the brain is incredibly complex. As if that wasn't enough, each of our teenagers have different:
IQ & EQ, and
Parents, please practice giving yourself some grace in this area. Most parents have not been trained in affective neuroscience. Most parents have not been trained in psychology or are experts in teen therapy.
But what I have found to be the recipe for success in helping teenagers overcome emotional challenges are the following:
As parents, be willing to look at what you individually may be able to do differently,
As parents, be willing to look at what you can do differently together as a parenting, unit, and
Participate in family therapy when appropriate and be consistent in attending.
That's it. When as parents we prioritize the above, teenagers tend to succeed and families get where they want to be in relation to their teenager's emotional challenges.
Parents Prioritizing Self-Care
I used to hate it as a teenager when I heard adults tell me that I simply won't know what it's like to love so deeply until I have children of my own. But how true that statement is.
This love that we have as parents for our teenagers drive us to perform amazing feats. We will willingly put ourselves in life threatening danger in order to protect our teenagers from the same. No greater love than to be willing to make that kind of sacrifice.
This love comes with a price. When our teenagers hurt, we as parents tend to hurt at a deep level. Our stress levels increase, our focus and concentration decrease, and our teen's struggles touch many areas of our lives.
While they are doing their work, it's important that you do your work and self-care is part of that work. When you practice self-care, you will be more present and available for your teenager, your spouse or partner, and other important people in your life.
Below are some things that I have gleaned from my own self-care as well as from some of the parents I have worked with in family therapy.
1. Date Night for Married Parents
This is one of the more common self-care practices many of the parents I work with in family therapy do. One important element of this practice is sticking with it and making it a priority.
There are times where the date night will come and because of other life factors, it can be easy to skip and pick it up the next week. Sometimes when this happens, it becomes easier to skip and parents find that they are no longer doing date nights.
Date nights afford you the opportunity to be away for a few hours. It also helps to get your mind off of the stressors of life and focus on your spouse or partner for a night.
Your brain needs a break from the stress and worry. Date night is a great way to get your mind off the worry and focused elsewhere.
2. Date Night for Single Parents
If you are a single parent, you can go on a date night for yourself. Commit to one day/night a week where you will do something just for you. Something that you enjoy and that will get your mind off the stressors of raising a struggling teen.
Go get a weekly massage or try out acupuncture. Try a different restaurant each week. Do something that you will enjoy and that can take your mind away from the day to day.
And you never know, if you are looking to date, you may find someone there who you may even click with!
3. Pick Up a Hobby
Starting a new hobby is a great way to give your brain and nervous system a break. Learning a new skill takes focus. As you focus on learning the skills a new hobby requires, your mind is focused on learning.
If you would like to learn how to do pottery, take a class on pottery. The cost is minimal and for that hour a week, your mind and nervous system can take a break. And if you have a struggling teen, you need this time to rest, recuperate, and rejuvenate.
I know that exercise is brought up often when talking about self-care. And there is a reason for this.
Exercise is one of the best forms of self-care. It not only helps relieve stress but exercise releases endorphins. This is one of the "happy hormones" and exercise can help increase your happiness despite the storms of life.
Exercise has also been found to be just as effective as antidepressant medication. And when you consistently exercise and over the course of 6-9 months, it has been found to be more effective than an antidepressant medication.
If you find yourself anxious, depressed, or stressed, think of exercise as your new prescription. It's not a pill you take but an activity you do that will have the same and sometimes more effective benefit for depression, anxiety, and stress.
Journaling can be a great way to help alleviate stress and heart ache. When you journal, do so in journal that you have to hand write your journaling. This allows time for you to think as you write versus typing it out on a computer.
In a journal, you can write anything you want without fear of judgment. It's a safe and confidential way to write out your thoughts, feelings, and struggles you may face yourself in parenting a struggling teenager.
Many times, as parents practice journaling, they will come to insights that they haven't been able to come to before. There is something about getting out in writing what has been bouncing around in our minds that helps the pieces fall into place.
Practicing Self-Care Allows You to Better Care for Your Teenager
Think back to a time (and you may be there now) when you were so stressed out and burned out:
How effective were you in your day-to-day obligations?
How emotionally available and present were you?
Would just the littlest things put you over your ability to cope?
When we have a teenager who is struggling, as parents, we are their foundation as they are working through these challenges. As parents, we need to be our best versions of ourselves in order to be the best parent for our struggling teenager.
My self-care I practice is walking 3 miles every morning and getting a massage once a week. This is my prescription for myself that I know I need in order to help me with the stressors of my life.
It has simply become a part of my life and when I am consistent, I can sure tell a difference than when I'm not. And that difference gets me back to being consistent.
Parents, self-care is not a luxury. Start seeing it as a necessity. When you prioritize self-care in your life, you will be better able to manage the stressors of parenting a struggling teen.
You are also role modeling for your teenager the importance of doing things for yourself that you know will benefit yourself. What a powerful message that is.
If You Have a Struggling Teen, Prioritize Teen Therapy with a Specialist in Teen Counseling
I made a choice while getting my education to become a therapist that I would work exclusively with teenagers, young adults, and families. I did so as I was a struggling teen myself. And in the 1980's and 90's, you simply didn't see a therapist.
How much different my life would have been if I could have learned to overcome anxiety and depression as a teenager. And Teen counseling and family therapy could have probably spared some of the grey hair my parents gained due to my behavior.
Parents now is the time to help your teenager learn to overcome their emotional challenges. A time where the responsibilities and consequences of life are minimal.
If your teen can learn the vital skills in how to overcome or manage emotional struggles now, they will take these skills into their adult years. This is an investment now that will pay huge life dividends in the future.
At Katy Teen & Family Counseling, our counselors specialize in teen therapy, young adult counseling, and family therapy. We have 70+ years of combined experience in helping teens and families overcome:
We also provide a variety of therapy approaches that are supported by research and shown to be effective. We use talk therapy approaches such as:
We also know that there are teenagers who struggle with identifying their inner experience and/or who struggle in how to communicate this. We also utilize non-talk therapy approaches like:
There is an answer and a pathway forward for your teenager and family. We can provide the support for you as parents in helping your teenager overcome the emotional challenges they face today so they can have a much brighter and more successful tomorrow.
Katy Teen & Family Counseling: 70+ Years of Combined Experience Specializing in Teen Counseling & Family Therapy
To better take care of others, it is often helpful to ensure we are taking care of ourselves first. It's important for parents of a struggling teen to make self-care a high priority in their lives.
If your teen is struggling with an emotional challenge and it is interfering in their and your family's life, we stand ready to help. With 70+ years of combined experience in teen therapy and family counseling, our therapists are here for you.
Other Therapy and Counseling Services Offered at Katy Teen & Family Counseling
At Katy Teen & Family Counseling, we provide a variety of therapy approaches that are supported by research and shown to be effective. Some of the teen therapy and young adult counseling we offer are:
Board Certified Neurofeedback Therapy
Peak performance (optimal academic brain performance)
Peak performance (optimal athletic brain performance)
Accelerated Resolution Therapy (ART)
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR Therapy)
Group Therapy for Teens
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
Couples Therapy & Marriage Counseling
To succeed in any relationship takes work. This is a common understanding that many of us have.
However, sometimes life will throw challenges at us that create situations that put strain on our marriage or relationship. It may be due to:
Choices and actions that have been made by one partner.
Financial downturn in the economy creating financial strain.
Feeling like you're growing apart.
Feeling like you don't have as much in common as you used to.
About the Author
Jason Drake is a Licensed Clinical Worker - Supervisor (LCSW-S), Board Certified in Neurofeedback, EMDR trained, and a Certified Brain Health Professional through the Amen Clinics. He has provided therapy to teens, young adults, and families since 2003 and is the Owner & Lead Clinician at Katy Teen & Family Counseling and Katy Counseling for Men.
He specializes in leading teams of high performing therapists who also specialize in teen therapy, counseling young adults, and family counseling.
Jason is also a leader in the field of teen, young adult, and family counseling providing expert coaching and technical assistance to teen Residential Treatment Centers across the country.
Jason is also a regular contributor to various magazines and publications lending his expertise to various mental health related topics. You can check these articles out on our "Featured Articles" service page on our website.
If you are ready to start teen counseling or young adult therapy call, text, or email us today!
Phone Number: 281-519-6364