Losing a parent is one of the most difficult experiences anyone can go through, and for a teenager, it can feel impossible to cope with. Adolescents are already dealing with huge life changes and unique challenges as they navigate their way through high school, relationships, and future plans. The loss of a parent can disrupt all aspects of their lives.
In fact, several studies have demonstrated that the loss of a parent creates an increased risk of mental-health-related disorders and psychosocial issues. Fortunately, there are a few promising ways that you can help your teen cope with the loss of a parent and overcome this difficult period of their life.
How Does Losing A Parent Affect Teens?
Before we dive into the best ways to help your teen cope with this loss, it’s important to understand why this experience can be so harmful to them. First and foremost, losing a parent affects them from a psychological standpoint. Attachment theories show us that there are many different types of relationships that exist with parents. Depending on what attachment your teen had to their deceased parent will play a role in their grieving process. For example, if they experienced an anxious attachment to the parent, they are more prone to depression, anxiety, and poor academic performance.
Another way in which parent loss impacts teens is that they are effectively losing a vital role model that helps to shape and guide them as they age and approach adulthood. Whether it is a father or mother, each parent offers unique and specific modeling that directly influences their child’s behavior. Fathers often provide modeling in the form of being a protector, a provider, and a breadwinner in many cases. Mothers, on the other hand, often teach skills like emotional regulation and manners and provide a general sense of support. Without one of these essential guiding figures, it is natural to assume some level of development could be missed. It is also important to note that these roles fluctuate considerably within each family, and non-traditional families will offer their own unique influences as well.
One of the most important things you can do to help your teen cope with the loss of a parent is to encourage communication. Let your teen know that it is okay to talk about their feelings and emotions and that you are there to listen and support them. Encourage your teen to share their memories of their parent and to talk about their fears and worries. This can help them process their emotions and begin to come to terms with their loss.
Another critical way to help your teen cope with losing a parent is to provide support. Let your teen know that you are there for them and that you will do whatever you can to help them through this difficult time. This may mean helping them with their schoolwork, taking them to counseling, or just being there to listen when they need someone to talk to. Let your teen know that they are not alone and that you are there to support them through this challenging time.
Find Professional Services
Grief is a complex emotion that affects each person differently. It is crucial to recognize when your teen is struggling and seek professional help as soon as possible, as it can be difficult to know their thoughts as a parent. A counselor or therapist can help your teen deal with their emotions and provide educated support during this trying time. On top of this, a therapist can help guide your teen in developing coping strategies and ultimately provide a safe space for them to express their emotions.
Keep Routines In Place
The loss of a parent can disrupt all aspects of a teenager’s life, including their routines and schedules. Try to maintain some normalcy in their lives by keeping routines and schedules as much as possible. This includes maintaining regular mealtimes, bedtimes, and school schedules. Keeping routines and schedules can help provide stability and structure during a time of great change and uncertainty.
Encourage Regular Self-Care
Self-care is critical during times of grief, and it is essential to encourage your teen to take care of themselves physically, emotionally, and mentally. You will want to encourage your teen to eat well, exercise regularly, and get plenty of rest. Also, coaxing your teen to participate in activities they enjoy and spending time with friends and family can be immensely helpful.
Create A Support Network
Another way to help your teen cope with losing a parent is to create a support network. This can include family members, friends, counselors, or therapists. Let your teen know that there are people they can turn to when they need support or just someone to talk to. You might consider joining a grief support group specifically for younger adults and older children. These groups provide a safe space for teens to share their experiences with others who are going through similar experiences.
Remember To Be Patient
Grief is a process that takes time, and everyone processes it differently. Remember to be patient with your teen and understand that they may need time to come to terms with their loss. Your teen is likely to experience a wide range of emotions, including anger, sadness, and guilt. Let your teen know that it is okay to feel these emotions and that you are there to support them through it, no matter what.
Honor Their Parent’s Memory
Finally, it is important to honor the memory of the parent who passed away. Encourage your teen to find ways to remember and celebrate their parent’s life. This may include creating a memory box, writing letters, or creating a memorial. Honoring their parent’s memory can help your teen process their emotions and come to terms with their loss in a healthy way.
Allow For Individual Grieving
It is essential to recognize that everyone grieves differently, and your teen may need to grieve in their own way. Avoid comparing their grieving process to others or setting expectations for how they should be feeling.
Allow your teen to process their emotions at their own pace and in their own way. Similarly, your relationship with the deceased parent was separate and unique from the one that your teen had with them. Especially if there was a divorce or some form of falling out, it is vital to keep your own feelings about the parent to yourself.
Expressing negativity or unkind words and thoughts is only going to make the grieving process more difficult for your teen. Instead, try supporting them and allowing them to move through the stages at their own pace and level of comfort.
Take Care Of Yourself
As a parent, it is important to remember that you are grieving too. It is important to take care of yourself physically, emotionally, and mentally so that you can be there for your teen. Seek support from family and friends, and consider seeking professional help if needed. Taking care of yourself can help you better support your teen through their grieving process.
Losing a parent is one of the most challenging experiences anyone can go through, and the effects on teens and adolescents can be harmful in both the long term and short term. However, there are quite a few different ways to help your teen cope with their loss and navigate this period. Ultimately, everyone grieves differently, and it is your job as the surviving parent to be patient and supportive as your teen attempts to adjust to this trying time.
New Dimensions Can Help!
If you or someone you know is struggling with depression, anxiety, grief, or other mental health or substance abuse issues, New Dimensions can help. We have treatment programs located in Houston, Katy, and The Woodlands and have virtual online treatment for people who reside within the State of Texas. To learn more about our services, contact us at 800-685-9797 or visit our website at www.nddtreatment.com. You can also learn about other services at www.mhthrive.com
Keywords: Loss of parent; Grief; The grief process; Losing a parent