The messages we speak to our children will become the messages they speak to themselves as they grow into adults. So for those of us who have high schoolers at home, now is the time to make sure we have deliberately programmed a few important conversations into their hearts.
For starters, let’s teach our children to be self-compassionate by showing them compassion. Mistakes happen and we can teach our kids that mistakes represent opportunities to learn and grow. With each misstep or wrong choice or failure, we can help our kids discover strategies for making the right choice and succeeding next time. By teaching our children to take responsibility for their mistakes, right their wrongs and plan for future success -- without invoking shame -- we can help them program a healthy inner dialogue that will guide them throughout their adulthood.
High schoolers can sometimes have a narrow perspective. Events and emotions can become magnified in their minds. Present circumstances can seem to have infinite consequences. And although we don’t want to trivialize what they are feeling, we can help our high schoolers find a different vantage point.
When the world seems to be crashing in on your high schooler because she has experienced some kind of loss (loss of a friendship, boyfriend, opportunity, etc.), we can give her space to grieve and feel the fullness of the loss as it comes in waves.
With each painful surge of emotion, we can offer support. Maybe invite her to snuggle up on the couch with a box of tissues. Perhaps offer a cup of hot tea and a nourishing but delicious snack. Offer to listen without any hint of criticism or lecture and be willing to stay by her side for as long as she needs.
What will help her feel relief? A good movie? A bike ride with you? A game of tennis? Being supportive means letting her move through the grieving process but also helping her find ways to seek joy when she’s ready.
As the sun begins to shine again, help her find hope in the loss. Remind her that she deserves love and acceptance and authentic connection and, if a friend or boyfriend didn’t value her, it is better in the long run that she be free from a potentially unhealthy relationship and free to find new people who will value her. If an opportunity was lost or missed, help her look for new opportunities that she can strive toward.
In this process, a few messages are being programmed into her adult psyche. First, she has permission to honor her feelings and give herself space to experience them. Second, there are things she can do to find comfort even during the painful seasons and, next, she can find hope even in loss.
As our kids experience hard times, be it through their own wrong choices or through experiences and circumstances beyond their control, we can give them hope that things will get better because they are in a continual process of becoming better.
Jenni Stahlmann and Jody Hagaman are mothers with nine children between them, from an attorney to a pre-schooler, and one on the autism spectrum. Together they host a nationally syndicated radio show, “POP Parenting.” They are also freelance writers and international speakers. Get more information on their website, jenniandjody.com.