Young people are often they are reluctant to share the source of their anxiety – or how they really feel – with parents.
And it isn’t because they don’t love or trust you.
It’s because they worry about you.
Seriously. They worry about how you’ll cope with their low feelings.
And this is especially true when parents are divorced, separated, dealing with other issues (like a death or serious illness in the family, or caring for a relative).
So, if you’re dealing with your own stuff (and don’t feel bad about it – most of us have ‘stuff’ to deal with), avoid over-praising them for how supportive or understanding they might be.
This might seem like lousy parenting advice to give, but being openly grateful for their support or understanding turns the parent child dynamic on its head.
However mature they are and however balanced and calm they seem, they need an outlet for their own upset, anger or confusion.
When you praise them in this way, you can unwittingly create an expectation in them. Suddenly, instead of experiencing simple pleasure in the receipt of parental approval, there is confusion…because now they don’t feel able to be the needy one.
Unconsciously, they believe they’ve given up that right and now they are taking on board the responsibility of the adult, thinking they are the ones needing to offer support – rather than receive it.
It doesn’t mean you revert to the 1950s and put on a stiff upper lip, hiding your own feelings…but make sure you share how important it is for ALL of you to support one another.
Dedicate time specifically for them, even if it’s only 15 minutes of uninterrupted (phone free, sibling free, friend free, partner free) time per week.
Make space for them to express how they feel and what support they might need. Remind them that you are old enough and strong enough to cope, even if you sometimes seem like you can’t. Give them confidence in your own resilience.
And if you really don’t feel able to do that, perhaps it’s YOU who should also be reaching out for support with your own mental well-being.
If you’re concerned about anxiety or lack of confidence and self esteem in a teenager or young adult in your life, discuss it with them.