When I first became a Marriage and Family Therapist I was intimidated by working with teens. I was not even a decade out of my own teen years and I had been an overwhelming force in my household as a teen. I was opinionated and vocal and I didn’t agree with my parents’ outdated way of looking at the world. I never talked to anyone other than my well-intended but equally confused peers about my deepest feelings and conflicts. I look back with so much compassion for the crises that we navigated. We faced so many stresses that would be challenging as an adult…never mind as a teen. My friends and I faced suicide, sexuality, drugs, abuse, eating disorders, and many other issues with no adult guidance. Since I was a straight-A student, all of this was completely invisible to my parents. They saw me doing well in school and they assumed that everything was okay in every aspect of my life. I know they tried, but they were my parents. When I wanted to do the things they didn’t approve of, I hid and lied. I knew that they had grown up in a very different time and that their opinions were outdated, so I went at it alone. I look back and I wonder what it would have been like if I had chosen to talk to my parents or if I had another trusted adult who I could talk to in order to help me navigate those treacherous waters.
And today the teenagers are facing even greater stresses than I was then. They are facing social media demands, school shootings, drug use, gender confusion, and all of the other stresses that affect kids today. Because of the work that I do, I know a lot about what teenagers are facing. Because I have worked with teens as a therapist over the years, I have experience in not reacting in fear or judgment when a teenager tells me something intense. Teens need someone to talk to about the conflicts and decisions they face every day in their lives. Everyone needs a safe place to explore their inner world and to receive guidance.
Teens are facing unprecedented stresses right now. And they are also rising up with their powerful voices to demand action from the adults around them. My hope in my work with teens is to help them navigate their stresses so they can find their voice and their truest path forward in this life. The teen years are an incredible time of growth and change. Teenagers sometimes seem crazy because they change their minds so much or because they take risks that seem unwise. They are becoming adults but they don’t yet have the wisdom of adulthood to assist them in their journey. Sometimes extra support is all that is needed for a teenager to find their right path. And when the teen and the parents receive education on the developmental milestones of adolescence, mutual understanding can be achieved. We all want to be loved and understood. Understanding our teen and having our teen feel understood is a huge challenge at times when our interests can seem so at odds.
If you have a teenager in your life that could use some guidance, please ask yourself how you can best support them navigate the maze of the teenage years. If you don’t know how to handle a situation, consider coming in for a session to discuss your options. And if your teen would prefer to receive guidance that comes from outside of their social circle, consider asking them if they would like to talk to a therapist. Confidentiality is sacred in my work. I would be honored to help guide them through the roughest waters.