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Parenting A Traumatized Teen – Self-Care and Coping Strategies for Parents

Parenting a Traumatized Teen - Self-Care and Coping Strategies for Parents

Parenting a traumatized teen can really take a lot out of you. You’ve got to be strong in every way—mentally, physically, and emotionally—to handle the ups and downs they might throw your way. It’s easy for parents to lose their cool and patience when trying to help their teen through these rough patches. This can make things harder for the teen to get better and even strain the relationship between parent and teen. Understanding what adolescent trauma is, we share some helpful self-care and coping strategies for parents. These are aimed at helping you stay strong and supportive while your teen is working through teen PTSD treatment in Arizona.

At Nexus Teen Academy, we take great pride in being a beacon of hope for teens and families dealing with mental health issues, including experiencing trauma. We are dedicated to supporting families during such challenging times. This approach ensures that the family unit remains healthy and supported, including self-care activities for parents while they navigate caring for their teenager. Our therapists have shared some thoughts regarding the benefits of parental self-care when dealing with teen trauma, effective coping strategies, and how you can work together with your teenager during these trying moments.

What Does Trauma Look Like in Teens?

Did you know that at least 15-43% of girls and 14-43% of boys experience at least one type of teen trauma in their lives? Out of them, 15% of girls and 6% of boys develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). While trauma results from different events, its effects on teens and the family unit are similar and should be addressed promptly. 

Symptoms of teen trauma can be challenging to overcome without prompt intervention and adequate support. It follows emotionally disturbing or life-threatening events in a teen’s life. Here are a few common ways it can manifest: 

  • Intense memories or flashbacks. 
  • Nightmares can be related to the event but do not have to be directly related.
  • Constantly thinking about the traumatic event. 
  • Increased irritability and aggression.
  • Hyper-vigilance and an increased startle response to the environment. 
  • Always try to avoid things that may trigger memories of the event.

Teen trauma can also cause emotional numbing, self-esteem issues, sleep disturbance, concentration challenges, isolation, and intense feelings of shame and guilt. 

If left unaddressed, it can lead to long-term problems, including mental health disorders, increased risk of substance abuse, impaired cognitive functioning, physical ailments, and increased risk of chronic health conditions, such as obesity.

The Ripple Effect of Teen Trauma on Families

Besides the adolescent, teen trauma affects parental well-being and family dynamics in the following ways: 

  • Parents may blame themselves for their teen’s traumatic experience, leading to heightened stress, guilt, or anxiety. 
  • It may cause communication breakdown and family conflicts, ultimately leading to strained family or teen-parent relationships. 
  • Caring for a traumatized teenager is overwhelming. Parents can burn out, or experience decreased mental well-being. 
  • Parents may overly focus on the traumatized teen, making other family members feel neglected or overshadowed. 
  • Medication and therapy-related expenses can strain parents financially. 
  • Parents may feel hopeless or question their ability to care for their teenagers. 
  • The demanding nature of teen trauma and the resultant stress and anxiety may deteriorate parental mental health. This can lead to long-term mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety. 
  • Parents may prioritize managing teen trauma over regular family activities or engagements, leading to feelings of isolation within the family.

Why Self-Care is Not Being a Selfish Parent

Taking time off to care for yourself when parenting a traumatized teen is not a selfish act. Self-care helps you maintain your emotional and mental well-being and, in return, allows you to be a great source of support. Here are other reasons you should prioritize self-care as you parent your teenager: 

  • It allows you to be a stable and resilient caregiver. 
  • It shows your teenager that it’s important for them to prioritize their mental health. 
  • It helps prevent burnout, allowing you to help your teenager effectively.
  • It allows you to manage stress and stay patient when caring for a traumatized teenager. 
  • It is a show of strength and resilience that can help your teenager heal from trauma.

Do not shy away from recognizing your needs as you care for your teenager. It won’t affect your ability to be a great source of support. Remember, self-care is an act of love that benefits you and your teenager.

Self-Care Strategies for Parents

Here are a few self-care strategies that can enhance your mental, emotional, and physical health as you care for your teen: 

  • Engage in Hobbies and Enjoyable Activities: You should engage in enjoyable activities that can take your mind off the complexities of supporting your teen for a while. You can dedicate time to reading, painting, hiking, and any activity you cherish. Try to incorporate these in small amounts of time as often as possible during your week.
  •  Adopt Healthy Habits: You should prioritize and maintain healthy habits such as exercising regularly and eating a healthy diet when supporting a traumatized teenager. You are empowered to help your teenager accordingly when well-nourished. 
  • Establish Boundaries: Establishing and enforcing healthy boundaries helps prevent mental exhaustion. Know when to step back and take care of yourself, and do not shy away from taking breaks to recharge. 
  • Be Kind to Yourself: As you show kindness to your teenager, remember to be kind to yourself too. Understand that caring for a traumatized teenager is challenging and that you are doing a great job. Practicing self-compassion will help you avoid falling victim to negative self-talk. 
  • Seek Support: You don’t have to deal with the challenges of supporting a traumatized teenager alone. You should build a supportive network of family, friends, and mental health professionals who understand your situation. Additionally, you can join a support group for parents of traumatized teens for insight and solidarity. 
  • Attend Therapy/ Counselling if Necessary: Seeking professional help is also a form of self-care. You can take some time away from your teenager to talk to a mental health expert if things become overwhelming. 
  • Practice Mindfulness: Mindfulness techniques such as deep breathing and mindful eating can help you achieve present-moment awareness and manage stress. You can also try grounding techniques such as yoga.

Coping Strategies for Parents

Finding healthy ways to manage the home environment (yourself included) can be a delicate balancing act. You may feel unsure how to navigate everything in front of you. Remember that you are already doing a great job; adding a few new strategies can assist you in building an environment that will encourage healing for all family members. 

Navigating Your Emotional Response

Exploring your own emotional response can be a helpful strategy. Here is how you can manage your emotions and reactions to your teenager’s trauma: 

  • Acknowledge your feelings and reactions without judgment. 
  • Develop your self-awareness. This can be achieved by identifying what triggers or intensifies your emotional responses and understanding the underlying reasons. 
  • Discuss your emotions with your spouse, close friends, supportive family members, or mental health professionals.
  • Use strategies such as deep breathing and journaling to manage intense emotional reactions. 
  • Be gentle with yourself. Any parent in your shoes would feel the way you are feeling. 
  • Adopt healthy and open communication with your teenager. Allow them to share their feelings and concerns as you constructively share yours.

Creating a Supportive Environment at Home

A supportive home environment creates a stable and predictable atmosphere, enhances open and honest communication, and encourages emotional expression, which is crucial when supporting a traumatized teen. It also helps eliminate situations and reminders that can evoke your teenager’s trauma responses. Here is how you can create a supportive home environment: 

  • Prioritize physical and emotional safety within the home for a secure healing environment. 
  • Encourage open dialogue within the family for healthy communication. 
  • Provide structure and stability through clear and consistent boundaries. 
  • Show empathy by acknowledging your teenager’s emotions and feelings.
  • Identify triggers and develop healthy coping mechanisms together with your teen. 
  • Prioritize both parent and teen self-care for enhanced emotional and mental well-being.  
  • Be a good role model by demonstrating self-care and healthy coping strategies.

Working Together for Recovery

You should work together with your teenager for lasting recovery. This requires encouraging them in their self-care journey and seeking professional help when necessary.

Encouraging Your Teen's Self-Care Journey

Here is how you can motivate and support your teenager’s own self-care practices: 

  • Learn more about self-care activities and their impact on teen mental and emotional well-being. 
  • Offer resources such as books, applications, and journals to guide them on suitable self-care practices. 
  • Serve as a positive role model by leading by example. This requires adopting and engaging in healthy self-care practices. 
  • Be there for your teenager when discussing their self-care-related needs and challenges. 
  • Teach your teenager to stay calm with mindfulness techniques, journaling, and deep breathing. 
  • Help your teenager establish and maintain healthy boundaries in their relationships and activities. 
  • Acknowledge and celebrate your teenager’s self-care efforts and achievements.

Seeking Professional Help

You should seek mental health support if your teenager is experiencing a hard time adopting or prioritizing self-care for the following reasons: 

  • Healthcare professionals offer tailored guidance and self-care strategies suitable for your teenager’s needs and preferences. 
  • Therapists and counselors can help teens incorporate self-care into their daily routines. 
  • Healthcare professionals can identify and address barriers in your teen’s healing journey. 
  • Therapists and counselors can help address any underlying mental health conditions that may be preventing your teenager from engaging in self-care activities. 
  • Mental health professionals can help your teen develop healthy coping strategies for trauma, stress, and any related challenges. 

Additionally, regularly seeing a therapist can motivate teenagers to engage actively in their healing and recovery journey. At Nexus Teen Academy, we offer trauma-informed care, which has proven to be of immense help when dealing with teen trauma.

Conclusion

Supporting traumatized teens is hardly a walk in the park, especially for parents and caregivers. You may get physically or emotionally exhausted in the long run, owing to the complexities of teen trauma. Therefore, it is advisable to engage in self-care practices to reduce the likelihood of mental or physical burnout. 

You shouldn’t feel guilty when you take a break from your normal caregiving duties to care for yourself. Remember, you are better positioned to support your teenager if you are emotionally and mentally well. Feel free to contact us for more information or if you need support in your teen’s trauma journey.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

The first thing to do when you suspect your teenager is having an issue is to talk to them. Before the conversation, you can create a safe and supportive environment and approach them with empathy. Listen actively as they share their issues or experiences, avoiding unnecessary interruptions. 

It’s also important to allow them to share at their own pace, acknowledge their emotions, and reassure them of your support. Afterward, collaborate with them to find a good mental health professional specializing in trauma therapy.

You need to establish open lines of communication and build a relationship based on trust and confidentiality when supporting your teenager.  You can think about the following strategies:  

  • Encourage them to share their feelings and concerns while ensuring their privacy is protected. 
  • Do not pressure them to share any details they may be unwilling to disclose. 
  • Respect their boundaries. 
  • Do not spy on them. 
  • Allow them to participate in decisions regarding their mental health care.
  • “Teen trauma can be seen easily” – Trauma is not always visible. Some teenagers may struggle in silence or hide their distress. 
  • “Teen trauma only arises from extreme events such as violence.” –  Trauma can result from any distressing event, including emotional neglect and bullying. 
  • “Teenagers ‘grow out of trauma’ eventually.” – Without proper support and intervention, teen trauma can persist, causing long-lasting consequences. 
  • “Talking about trauma worsens it.” – Traumatized teenagers need open and supportive communication. Avoiding trauma-related discussions can make them feel isolated or more distressed.

Teen trauma can lead to tension and conflict within the family unit owing to the resulting withdrawal, anger, and unpredictability. Siblings and other family members may also feel overshadowed, leading to resentment.

Yes. Any unresolved traumas may trigger intense emotions or maladaptive coping mechanisms, affecting your availability and support strategies. You may also experience heightened stress levels and emotional management challenges.

At Nexus Teen Academy, we offer therapy, counseling, and skill-building activities to help parents and teens struggling with a range of mental health issues, including trauma. All our offerings are tailored to specific needs and situations.

Here are a few strategies that can balance your teen’s need for independence and your desire to help: 

  • Encourage your teen to communicate their needs and make decisions freely while assuring them of your guidance and support. 
  • Assist them without imposing solutions. Recognize and respect their preferences and boundaries. 
  • Create opportunities for them to build resilience and explore new coping strategies. However, be available to support and guide them.

Here’s how you can help your family members bounce back and stay strong after teen trauma: 

  • Encourage them to prioritize self-care by engaging in activities that reduce stress and promote well-being. 
  • Establish a safe and supportive environment where they can freely discuss trauma-related emotions and experiences. 
  • Attend family therapy sessions to address any issues the trauma may have caused. This can also help strengthen familial bonds. 
  • Promote a sense of stability and security within the family by establishing consistent routines. 
  • Organize family bonding activities to foster a sense of togetherness and support. 
  • Encourage your family members to engage in resilience-building activities, such as goal-setting, problem-solving, and positive communication.

Check out the following if you need more information on parenting traumatized teenagers: 

  • Mental health organizations, such as the American Psychological Association. You can either contact them or go through their websites. 
  • Relevant online parent support groups. 
  • Community mental health centers. 
  • Parenting/ mental health workshops and seminars.

Additionally, you can contact us for more information on how you can support your traumatized teen.

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