Grief Management Strategies to Help Teens
Did you know that teenagers are more susceptible to depression and anxiety compared to adults? This is because adolescence is a time when a person goes through a multitude of emotional changes. It can be hard to deal with when tragedy strikes during this time.
Many teens don't yet have the emotional maturity to deal with grief. This is why grief management strategies are important, because they help teenagers work through their grieving process. But what are these strategies, and how can they help your teen go through a healthy grieving process?
Keep reading and learn more about how you can get your teen to cope with anxiety and grief.
Have an Open Dialogue With Your Teen About Grief
It's important to talk to your teen when they're grieving. They may be grieving the death of a loved one, the divorce of their parents, moving schools or cities, or the loss of a friendship. Everyone will react differently according to what they're feeling.
Some teens may isolate themselves and avoid talking to anyone. They may be very quiet and spend a lot of time alone in their rooms. Others may become angry and may lash out because of the struggle to manage their emotions.
These behaviors can drive people away from them and lead to violent or risky behavior. Others may be very emotional and may crying unexpectedly or have panic attacks. Regardless how your teen may be expressing their grief, it's important to be supportive no matter how they react to grief.
One of the best things you can do is talk to them about their feelings. It may be difficult to talk to your teen if they've closed themselves off from most people. It may be challenging to get close if your teen is furious and combative.
But, it's important not to yell at your teen for how they're feeling. Try to be accepting of their emotions and supportive. Ask open-ended questions about how they're feeling.
This support is motivating for them to talk about their grief and what's on their mind. It's important to acknowledge how your teenager is feeling. Some parents can't relate to their children and can't understand what they're feeling. This makes it difficult to connect with the child and help them get through their time of grief. But if you acknowledge what they're feeling, this can help them feel more supported and heard.
You should also offer reassurances.
Some teens may have the wrong idea about what's causing their grief, blaming themselves because they have unrealistic expectations about their role in their loss.
If their grandmother died recently. They may feel bad because they didn't visit her as much as they think they should have. It's not uncommon for them to feel this contributed to their grandmother dying, even if it isn't true.
Reassuring your child about these things can go a long way. You can also relate times that you've experienced strong feelings of grief and how you got through those emotions.
Sharing what you've gone through normalizes the grief shows your teen that their grief doesn't have to consume their thoughts forever; you came to a place of acceptance, eventually they can also feel acceptance of their loss. Throughout all these conversations, be careful not to minimize or disregard what your teen is feeling. This is easy to do if you're not careful about what you say.
It may seem like a simple way to help your teen through their feelings, but it often makes things worse. Saying things like, "It is what it is," or "These things happen," won't help your teen very much. These comments tend to build a wall between you and your teen as it's often received as "My parents don't understand what I'm going through."
If you are unsure what to say, consider listening to what your teen has to say instead.
Promote Healthy Habits and Coping Methods
Many teens don't know how to deal with strong emotions once they arise. They may gravitate toward dangerous coping strategies if they can't think of any other way to cope. Suppose your teen is very depressed due to losing a loved one.
Your teen may turn to alcohol, marijuana, or prescription drugs to numb their emotions. This can be a serious problem that grows as your teen gets older. It becomes tempting to use these coping mechanisms any time something bad happens in their life.
This can turn into habits that result in psychological and/or physical addictions, and make it difficult for your teen to lead a normal life. Some teens may also turn to illegal drugs to cope. Others may seek out risky behaviors or have suicidal thoughts.
It's important to connect with your teen before they go down any of these roads. Explain that there are healthier ways to cope with their emotions other than substances like alcohol or other dangerous behaviors.
Consider healthy habits like exercising or journaling. Exercising is a great way for a teen to express their emotions. It increases their heart rate and helps exhaust their muscles and excess energy. Many teens build up a lot of anger during times of grief.
This anger can burst out of them in violent ways, but exercising can prevent this. It acts as an outlet for a teen's emotions and excess energy. Exercising also produces endorphins in the brain that can make your teen feel more positive.
Different Coping Methods
Journaling is important as it allows your teen to explore their emotions. Writing things down on a piece of paper is a great way for your teen to understand what they're feeling. Writing things down is also a good way for them to express strong feelings of anger, sadness, and so on.
Deep breathing exercises can also be helpful for teens dealing with grief. This is a method of controlled breathing that helps people calm down. It involves breathing very deeply and slowly.
It can take some time to get the hang of this practice. Once your teen masters the technique, they can try deep breathing whenever they feel stressed, angry, or sad. Breathing this way will lower their heart rate and make them feel much clearer and calmer.
Talking with a therapist may also be a very good option. If your teen isn't reacting to other coping methods, a therapist may be able to get through. Therapists are highly trained mental health professionals who know how to talk to people about grief.
Grief is a complex emotion, especially for teens who don't yet know how to control their emotions. Therapists can talk to your teen and help them explore and understand what they're feeling. Teens may also be more open to talking to a therapist than their parents.
This may not make sense to some, but some teens may feel that their parents are the root of the problem, whether or not this is true. A therapist can give your teen a more realistic view of their grief and what they can do to progress through this emotion.
Maintain a Routine and Connect With Others
Some teens may want to close themselves in their rooms to deal with their grief. While everyone has a different way of dealing with grief, isolation isn't a good option. This is because it makes it too easy for your teen to become engrossed in dark and negative thoughts.
It's better to help your teen connect both with you and others. It's also important to maintain a routine. Many teens may give up on a routine when overrun with grief.
They may stay in bed longer than they should, they may not eat properly, they may want to sleep more or sleep a lot less. Helping your teen maintain a good routine can be a big help. A sound routine acts as a guide to keep your teen on the right track.
It also helps keep them productive and busy. When they stay busy, it's harder for them to focus on pessimistic thoughts around their grief. This can help them move on and slowly leave their grief behind.
A routine may consist of walking the family pet or going for a morning walk. It may include taking out the trash, doing homework, and so on. These simple chores will keep your teen from spiraling too deep into their grief.
Try to connect your teen more with their friends and family, too. This will give your teen more support and remind them they're not alone in their feelings. All of these methods can help keep your teen on the right track.
While grief is hard to get through, your teen will eventually get through it with the right support.
All About Grief Management for Teens
Grief management is important for teens because of how emotionally vulnerable they are. They don't yet have mature ways of coping with complex emotions like grief. This is why it is important to show them various strategies they can use.
Therapy is a very good choice. Are you ready to give your teen the treatment they need? Check out how Intermountain Counseling's services can help.