Loss can be hard to deal with at any age. Yet, the teenage years are often when people experience their first serious loss when everything is already so difficult. So, if a teen learns poor coping mechanisms at this stage in life, it can cause lasting damage.
Whether a is grieving the loss of a loved one who has passed, the loss of their first romantic relationship, or another type of traumatic loss, it is essential that you help your teen learn effective ways to cope with grief and loss.
Healthy Coping Mechanisms Are Learned
Sometimes, parents can forget that the coping mechanisms that they use as adults are practices that were learned. Without the assistance of parents, teens may develop very maladaptive coping mechanisms, such as overeating, substance abuse, violent outbursts, risky sexual behavior, and other poor habits.
Instead of having your teen stumble through coping methods, some healthy coping mechanisms you can encourage your teen to engage in are:
- Journaling – When it comes to grieving a loss, teens can hold a lot inside as they may not have the right words to express themselves. Even if your teen can’t quite talk about their feelings out loud, journaling is a great option to help get their thoughts and emotions down. Also, if your teen isn’t much of a pen and paper journaler, there are journaling apps they can use.
- Exercise – Grief can be paralyzing, especially for teens who are trying to deal with their first serious loss. Engaging in exercise can help focus your teen and allow your teen to have a physical outlet for their grief. Any form of exercise can help, from running to kickboxing to weight lifting.
- Art – Much like journaling, art is a way your teen can express their feelings. But, instead of trying to find the right words, your teen can engage their artistic side. Both freestyle art or using something like an art kit or adult coloring book can help teens use art to express themselves.
Ways You Can Help Your Teen Cope With Loss
Along with helping your teen find appropriate outlets, there are ways you can actively help your teen cope with their loss.
Give Your Teen Opportunities To Talk And Process
Teenagers are far more likely to bottle up their feelings of loss and grief than to talk. The problem with this method of not dealing with their feelings often results in maladaptive coping mechanisms that you likely don’t want for your teen.
Instead, you can actively provide your teen with opportunities to talk to you and process their feelings. Along with letting your teen know that you are there to talk, you can also make time to just be one-on-one with your teen.
Go out for drives, walks, or just to grab an ice cream cone with just your teen with you. This one-on-one time will give your teen natural opportunities to open up with you and share their feelings.
Validate Your Teen’s Feelings
As your teen shares their feelings with you, it is critical that you validate your teen’s feelings. Most parents wouldn’t dream of invalidating their teen with statements like, “Why aren’t you over it already?” or “You aren’t old enough to know how loss really feels.” However, there are other ways that parents accidentally invalidate their teens’ feelings.
Say, for example, that you are trying to comfort your teen after their first breakup. It can be tempting to help your teen reach a conclusion to their grief by saying things like, “It was for the best” or “You will find someone better.” The problem with these statements is that it communicates to your teen that you are over their grief and loss, so they should be too.
Instead, opting to validate with statements like, “Breakups are hard, even if things weren’t working out. I’m here for you” can be far more helpful and allow your teen to fully explore and work through their emotions.
Coordinate Care With Others
Depending on the severity of the loss—and how well your teen is coping—you may need to bring in more help to assist your teen. Working with your teen’s school to get your teenager time off from school as well as getting make-up work is something only you can do as your teen’s guardian. You may also want to coordinate with the guidance counselor, providing your teen with someone to talk to while at school.
If your teen is taking the loss hard, finding support groups and a private therapist can help your teen work through their feelings in a positive way.
Consider A Therapeutic Boarding School
For teens who are struggling to find support at school as they grieve, it can affect all other aspects of their lives. Also, when teens start engaging in poor coping behaviors—angry outbursts, delinquency, substance abuse—a complete change of environment by attending a therapeutic boarding school may be just what they need.
At a therapeutic boarding school, your teen can be immersed in a therapeutic environment that can help support your teen as they work through their grief. Teens who attend therapeutic boarding schools also can learn more appropriate coping skills as they are supported by their therapists, direct care staff, and fellow students.
Allow Your Teen To Be Involved
To help your teen recover from their loss, it can help to have them involved. For instance, say one of your teen’s grandparents passed away. Allowing your teen to be included in the process of setting up the funeral—whether by providing a eulogy, being a pallbearer, or another role—can help them gain a sense of closure.
Here at Help Your Teen Now, you can speak with a parent advocate for free and receive the advice you need to make a clear decision on how you can help your teen cope with their loss. If you believe your teen could benefit from the healing atmosphere of a therapeutic boarding school, please contact us to learn more.