On this Mother’s Day I am beyond numb from missing my mom for over 16 years. A lifetime. The unfairness of cancer knows no bounds. The torture of watching the most important person you’ll ever know seeps into a memory so painful it’s impossible to clear from trauma and loss. In the history of life nothing is sadder than watching a mother die.
Here I am. Managing two teen girls without a guidebook or a roadmap.
As a therapist to teens here’s some wisdom for what it’s worth.
1. Meet them where they are. Or in social work, go where the patient is. As a therapist it’s a great skill to reflect the process. I see you’re upset right now. Let’s stay with that. What is it like for you to be right here, right now, feeling this way. Before any judgment is holding the space.
2. Show extra empathy and validation. After a very strained family session yesterday I asked the parents, who were frustrated and unable to hear their teen, to step out. I said to her, are you simply trying to say you hate your school with a passion. At last she said, YES. Then started sobbing. No one understands. I understand Missy I said. I do. But it’s almost over. Can you take that in. Finally she nodded. We could move on.
3. Dont forget we live in unusual times. I just read about a student at Hamilton College who committed suicide. The school apparently knew of his distress but they chose not to intervene for reasons unclear to just about anyone. Where is the line when or when not to intervene for parents? In today’s world of fear and anxiety there are just so many wrong turns to take. Try as ever to sort them out before it’s too late.
4. The teen brain is not normal by definition. As we know from the books on neurobiology of the teen brain, the 0 to 60 phenomenon is nothing new. You can be chatting calmly and then boom they amp it up and up til you dont know what hit you. Please try not to escalate at all costs. Nothing comprehensible gets in once the brain is flooded. Wait til calm returns for any meaningful discussions.
5. Most of it will pass. Time does heal a lot of wounds. Take time to settle down. Meditate, jog,sleep,eat,swim,laugh and by all means be creative and hang with friends. Nourish your soul so you can live with equanimity.
6. Get help early and often. As bad as things are out there in this swamp of vape and guns and common core and inaccessible healthcare, competition, we all need a little help some times. A trusted professional can assist. Try it you’ll like it.
If you follow these rules you may survive to see your babies fly away. Some reward. But the only one. Then rest. Go to the beach and see some friends. Have some really fine food and tell yourself good job. Cause no one else will!