Stop! Close the windows and whisper!-River City Counseling

Think about it, we adults all have secrets.  Maybe we were abused as kids or our parents were alcoholics.  Maybe we like to dabble in illegal drugs or binge-eat.  Or maybe it’s smaller stuff like we sometimes have thoughts that seem random and crazy (even though we’re sure we’re sane!)  Regardless of how open we think we are, we all keep things to ourselves, as we’d rather hold things in than risk feeling judged or misunderstood.

And if we’re concealing these parts of ourselves, it’s not a leap to think our tweens and teens are, too.  Things can look great on the outside, but maybe his dad is drunk every night and screams at his mom when she calls him on it.  Or maybe her mom shops compulsively, and the entire house is covered with junk, leaving only small paths for walking around.  Or maybe your daughter is dabbling in cutting and binge eating.  Or maybe your son is overwhelmed in school and failing his classes, and he gets drunk on weekends to help him cope.  Or maybe it’s something simpler that your kid is just too self-conscious to share.

Of course, the easy advice for our children is: “if something is really bothering you, you should talk to us or someone else about how you feel.”  Great, but these aren’t easy conversations to have.  After all, how can they feel comfortable talking to us about what we’re doing when we’re the ones doing hurtful things?  And when they contemplate telling their friends they often don’t, for fear of the social stigma and gossip that comes with being from “the family with problems.”  Making matters worse, rather than face any embarrassing questions that could come up, many teens end-up taking distance from friends.

And what’s left when our kids don’t get out these feelings of unhappiness and shame that start eating them from the inside out?  Sadly and predictably, they turn to all the bad stuff:  drugs, cutting, unprotected sex, eating disorders, thoughts of suicide, etc.

If you sense a change with your child and are worried about what they are or might be doing (or even if you aren’t worried about anything,) my advice is the same:  your kids need your clear and direct permission and encouragement to get their feelings out in any healthy way possible.  And when they have this, the options are endless:  talking to trusted adults such as teachers, relatives, pastors, or a counselor.  Perhaps they’d feel comfortable taking a risk and talking to a trusted friend.  They can seek peer support from groups such as Alateen.  For the less verbal, writing, drawing, painting, journal writing/keeping a diary, etc. can also be helpful for releasing feelings.  Sometimes, kids can be helped through sports and music.  (You can also model expression of feelings in appropriate ways.)  Of course, some combination of the above is what’s most helpful.

I realize that your encouragement can come with a cost, because others may judge you when they learn about what’s going on in your house.  Who would want others to know that you sometimes drink too much and say mean things?  Still, if our kids are being damaged by what we’re doing, we want them to feel that they can do what they need to get extra support.  And who knows, whatever they do could be the kick in the pants you need to begin dealing with your issues.
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One Response to Stop! Close the windows and whisper!-River City Counseling
  1. elizabeth
    May 14, 2015 | 3:14 pm

    Very informative article. A good therapist for your child seems like a smart path to take.

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