I acknowledge the level of heartbreak, despair, fear, and frustration you may be feeling. All your feelings are normal and ok, although challenging and uncomfortable.
There’s no quick fix for this HARD situation. However, I can offer a few tools and strategies to help you start moving forward.
First things first: Take care of yourself
Your relationship with your teen is already on a shaky foundation and bringing your pain and struggle into it may crumble the foundation, especially if your teen is also feeling reactive. Focus only on immediate needs only while giving yourself time and space so you feel stronger and calmer to re-engage when you’re ready.
I encourage you to find professional support like a therapist, counsellor, or coach to safely express and process your emotions and feel seen and validated. Or sit in your car for a good screaming cry or write them out on a page, whatever feels best for you.
Here’s the hard truth: without making space for your emotions, you can’t release or heal from them either, so you suppress or internalize your feelings where they create more damage.
Blaming won’t help
Blaming your teen feels justified and safe – labelling them as ‘ungrateful’, ‘out of control’, ‘entitled’, or ‘selfish’. That means it’s up to them to fix this situation and protects you from looking at your beliefs and behaviours.
Or maybe you’re blaming yourself into a puddle of hopelessness and regret, begging your teen for forgiveness. That won’t help either. It is possible to get curious about why they left without it becoming an indictment of your own value? You have inherent worth as a person and parent no matter what choices your teen makes.
Projecting your pain creates often escalates the situation and delays any resolution or feeling calm and connected again. This includes putting your blame and anger on the person or place your teen is now living because they weren’t likely the source of this situation.
No one else is responsible for parenting your child and you can’t control what goes on in anyone else’s home. Unless you feel things are outside the law, you can only control you.
Working through anger, blame and rage, plus being curious about your role in the relationship, helps create a healthier perspective and inform your next step(s).
Do you want to be right, or do you want a relationship?
No teenager is “so far gone” they don’t deserve respect, love, and safety. No matter what they’ve done, standing on a moral high ground blinds you to seeing steps to relationship repair.
Your teen choosing to leave was a vote for themselves—not necessarily a vote against you. Although this rudimentary boundary feels harsh or extreme, it’s a boundary just the same.
Being right about the bad influence that created this situation or the place they now live with no rules just perpetuates your pain and suffering.
You’re the adult in this relationship—your teen is not. You have the developed brain, they don’t (which doesn’t give your teen an automatic WRONG). If you want things to change, you have to be willing to examine your role in the relationship. You must be brave enough to acknowledge the truth: your teenager chose to leave for a reason.
Focus your energy on rebuilding the relationship with your teen within healthy boundaries.
Being curious about the reason is key to resolution
All your teenager wants is your love and approval for who they are, even if you disagree with their choices. Just like they used to kick and scream when they had big emotions as a toddler, your teenager is the same. They act out in ways you might not like, including leaving altogether.
Perhaps they were begging for greater freedoms that you weren’t ready for, and they feel rebuffed or controlled. Or they felt unheard, judged and criticised in your differences, acting out to get their emotional needs met. Maybe they didn’t feel like they could fully be themselves.
Ask yourself: Is there room for dissent and disagreement in your household? Is your teen allowed to express themselves without feeling judged (teaching effective self-expression doesn’t mean shutting them down)? Are they allowed to hold different values and beliefs?
Were your attempts to hold boundaries more like expectations (they aren’t the same!) and controls where your teen didn’t have a voice?
Teenagers don’t decide to leave home without significant pain. Even if they feel this is the only option, are using leaving as a power move or bargaining tool, their pain is real.
Whether or not you agree with the way they’re living—if they are safe, give them the space they’re requesting and start with yourself. Chasing after them or insisting they come home may make things worse because they feel like you’re ignoring their boundary.
Dr. Harriet Lerner’s books The Dance of Anger and The Dance of Connection are great resources for navigating this situation with specific tools to begin healing and reconnecting.
Register for my FREE masterclass to learn the top 3 mistakes EVERY parent makes and WHY those drive even more defiance and painful disconnection.
Parenting is HARD! You don’t have to do this alone.