The key element in helping teens deal with setbacks in life is to help rather than jump in and do. Because parents love their children there is often a great temptation to “fix” everything so pain is kept to a minimum. It may work for the moment but the overall effect is one of putting a bandage over wounds that do not heal. Some dirt is kept out but it does not necessarily allow the best healing to take place.
Setbacks Happen to Everyone
Setbacks in life are a challenge for everyone. As a parent, the best way to help your teen deal with setbacks in life is by helping your teen realize that their problem is not unique in the world. Being part of a larger group can help a teenager feel better than feeling alone and singled out for doom.
Of course anything that feels personal always feels worse than whatever anyone else has gone through, but the perspective of a larger group still makes a teen feel less personally attacked when they stop obsessing and think about it.
Working through Teen Problems Together
A listening ear without offered solutions allows teens to verbalize their problems which is the first step to dealing with situations. Simple questions such as; “..and how do you feel about that?” or “..what are your ideas in handling what happened?” aid in the cognitive process of putting things in perspective. Once a problem is compartmentalized it is easier to deal with in a rational manner. Teens generally need to vent first so the emotional rush is past before they can deal with the realities of a solution.
Setbacks in life are not without their uses as teaching moments. What life lessons can be learned from a setback? As a parent you can look at possibilities for improvement through setbacks.
Find a Positive Solution & Develop a Plan
What opportunities does the setback open? If there have been restrictions of any sort through a setback, encourage the teen to benefit from alternatives. If, for instance, lack of study results in not passing a driving exam, the inability to obtain a license may feel like the end of the world.
Carpooling with a friend may offer happier opportunities than continuing to be taken to school by mom or dad. Encourage the changing of a negative into a positive while the ultimate goal is being reworked.
Some setbacks in life can cause real hardship. Open, judgement-free communication with teens on a regular basis will make it easier to share difficult times. Hormones and changes in independence can result in a lot of ups and downs throughout the teenage years. A strong emotional support system is invaluable. When setbacks do occur, your teen will find it easier to open up to you for whatever is needed to handle an issue.
Do not degrade any setback as frivolous or unimportant. Because teens lack life experience and ride the constant roller coaster of hormonal and growth changes, everything is earthshaking.
Parents can help by being a “constant”, a rock to be counted upon for refuge from daily storms. Sometimes this means just the encouragement of a smile and sometimes the seriousness of late – night heart to heart discussions. Be there without intruding judgement or solutions unless asked.
Questions for Dealing with Setbacks in Life
- Have you ever known anyone with a similar problem? How did they go about resolving it?
- What could be done differently to prevent this situation from occurring in the future?
- How does this circumstance make you feel? When have you felt this way before?
Once your teen goes about trying to resolve their issues, allow them to proceed even if their choice is not the same way you might handle a situation. Sometimes their way works best for them and further mistakes can help build trust or reliance on the experience of parents who have the teens best interests at heart.
Setbacks and mistakes are opportunities for experience and growth. Teenage years are all about learning how to be an adult and doing it individually enough so they feel they are not simply parroting their parents in every respect. Parents need to respect that need for difference in approaches to problems even if it means teens sometimes have to learn the hard way…with further setbacks.
As a parent it can be hard to watch your child struggle, but ultimately acting as a guide while watching them grow is far more beneficial than correcting the immediate problem for your teen.
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