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My Teen is Hurting and I Don’t Know How to Help

“You better not do that or your mother is going to be very upset!”

“If your dad comes home and finds out what you did, he’s going to give you a spanking!”

“If you were more repsectful, your grandparents wouldn’t have had to send you back home.”

If these sound familiar, you were likely raised in an environment where you were constantly told you were responsible for other people’s feelings. This is an unhealthy dynamic, called codependency, and all it does is instill feelings of guilt and shame in a child.

There’s a “positive” flavour as well—if your family was pleased and proud of you, you might’ve been told it was because you were being a good kid. If you performed and were 100% compliant, denying and suppressing your true self, you could make others happy, right?

I want you to know: you are not responsible for someone else’s feelings.

It was your mother’s anger, not your behaviour.

 It was your father’s disappointment and stress, not your behaviour.

It was your grandparent’s expectations, not your behaviour.

You’re not responsible for your teen’s emotions

When you’re parenting from a belief your behaviour controls your teen’s emotional state, it’s also a recipe for disaster.

You’re constantly dancing around like a squirrel on an energy drink, attempting to “fix” your teen because their unhappiness is triggering your fight or flight response, and your childhood programming says it’s all your fault so you better do something, and fast.

You’re waiting for your parents to come around the corner and say, “If you would just be better, they wouldn’t be so upset.” It’s a lie! I hate to break it to you—you’re simply not that powerful. You do not control how other people feel.

Own your discomfort

Many Gen X-ers or even Gen Ys are codependent—some statistics say over 80% of us. You were raised to be a people-pleaser, constantly striving to fix or change people’s emotional state in order to feel safe and secure and earn their love and approval.

When your teen starts getting into a mood, your emotional brain is triggered. It will start saying, “This is unsafe. Someone is feeling uncomfortable. I need to do something about it.”

As hard as it seems, learning how to challenge this feeling by owning your discomfort is key. When you project your discomfort it drives you to solving your teen’s problem for them.

Impact is different than ownership

Teenagers are angsty—they’re frustrated, they’re angry, they’re pissy. That’s just who they are as a function of their brain development. They’re going to feel bad sometimes and ride an emotional roller coaster, even if you’re doing everything right.

Believe it or not, this is good news! It means you can take things less personally, and learn to give your teen space so they can process their messy emotions without worrying about it upsetting you.

You’ll always be impacted by each other, yet impact is different than ownership.

You can deeply care about your teen’s discomfort without taking ownership of it. It’s about understanding where they end and you begin—it’s not your job to fix them or change them.

That drives disconnection, sending a strong message to your teen they’re not permitted to have the full range of emotional experience, and you don’t trust them to manage their own challenges. You’re saying they’re only allowed the “positive” emotions, and any challenging or uncomfortable ones need to be suppressed to feel loved by you while skipping the guilt of having upset you.

Breaking the cycle of parental codependency

Challenging your parental codependency starts with noticing when your emotional brain is triggered. Create an awareness of it by noticing physical sensations or specific thoughts and urges. Take a deep breath. Take another one. Tell yourself it’s going to be okay.

You being okay while your teen is not doesn’t make you a selfish person—it makes you a healthy and whole person.

It’s time to cut the emotional bungee cord, so when your teen’s mood takes a dive you don’t go down with them. You create safe space for them to feel and process, knowing you’re safe to just listen (and that’s actually the greatest support you can give!).

Speaking of a safe place to listen, click the button below to try my private parenting community for 30 days, totally FREE! You’ll get on-demand, personalized answers, and support from me and 2 LIVE Q&A sessions each month. Parenting is hard enough and doing it alone is unnecessarily Rambo level!