What’s your child’s secret?-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, as their expression of feelings could potentially bring unwanted attention to you.  And I’m all for preventing this whenever possible, by encouraging expression in as discreet a way as possible.  Yet we want these feelings to come out, and our kids need and deserve our permission and encouragement to do so.
For those of you who are enjoying what I write and would like to read more frequent and less involved posts, I encourage you to click the Facebook and/or Twitter buttons on my website: rivercitycounseling.com.  Or you can go directly to my Facebook page and “like” me @River City Counseling Sacramento or follow me on Twitter @rivercitysteve.

3 Responses to What’s your child’s secret?-River City Counseling
  1. elizabeth
    April 18, 2013 | 3:52 pm

    Such a good article…..It’s calls out to everyone. It really speaks volumes about how helpful therapy can be with a therapist who is non judgmental.
    Just getting out your fears or angers can be so helpful. And with the right therapist you will erase the guilt you feel about having these negative thoughts.

  2. Christina
    April 22, 2013 | 2:16 pm

    Wow, what a brilliant piece! There’s just not enough out there about how important it is to share our feelings. I sometimes want to let my kids have privacy, but I think I’ll tell them to share their feelings now that I’ve read this article. Your right–it sure seems hard to do this! Thanks, Steve!

  3. hannah
    April 30, 2013 | 8:05 pm

    interesting and revealing article-will implement some of the issues mentioned at home

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