Tips to manage teen grief
Adolescence grief is different from how an adult experiences grief. While adults use more of the logic-based areas of their brains, adolescents are still developing mentally and will use more of the emotional part of their brains. This produces a range of different reactions from withdrawal to denial to outbursts in teens. However, when an adolescent reacts to grief, loss, or even trauma it is important that a parent or caregiver is able to help them through this stage of life. This will reduce the risk of adverse consequences such as the adolescent using drugs or alcohol to cope with their emotions because they do not know any other method to do so.
Helping adolescents deal with grief
Teens are dealing with a lot of emotional and physical change, often making it hard for them to know just how to respond to grief. They may react by acting as if they are okay, being silent or being argumentative. Some may exhibit psychosomatic symptoms such as unexplained physical aches and pains. Others may turn to risky sexual behavior or substance abuse. Most parents want to avoid these kinds of potentially harmful reactions.
For both the parents and caregivers who are unsure of just how to help their adolescent through a time of grief or loss, here are a few tips to help you out. No matter how your teen is reacting, remember that they will respond differently simply because of where they are in their developmental stage. Therefore, utilizing some of these tips will assist you in helping your teen navigate through their grief.
- Talking to your teen: While it may be one of the hardest things to do it is also extremely important. Asking your teen about what worries them and what can help them cope, let them know that they have someone they can trust and talk to about their concerns and issues. It may take a bit of time to get them to open up, but it is well worth the effort.
- Offering comfort: Whether your teen is in tears or seems to be putting on a stone face and building walls, offering comfort to them when they experience grief and loss is vital. It lets a teen know that it is okay to feel upset, cry, and let others help them through this hard phase in their life.
- Spending time together: For some teens, grief and loss can elicit feelings of being abandoned and alone so it is important to let them know that this is not the case. Spending time together allows them to feel included and supported by their loved ones and also helps avoid the inclination to pull away from others.
- Giving teen a break from chores: Giving a teen a break from the chores gives them a chance to slow down, think over what has happened to them, and grieve. After a few days you may want to give them appropriate tasks or allow them to participate in ways that make them feel useful and included so that they can smoothly transition back to their daily routines.
- Letting them have time with friends: No one knows what your teen is feeling more than their friends of the same age group. It would help your teen to spend time with their friends. This will allow them to talk over their grief or loss with friends who understand the torrent of emotions they are dealing with a little better than you might and also provide them a distraction. If they don’t want to spend time with friends, you can also encourage them to engage in creative activities that may help them work through their emotions (i.e. art or writing).
- Encouraging recreational activities: Giving teens a chance to move around and play increases the release of positive chemicals in the brain. This keeps them from dwelling on negative emotions and can help stave off depressive symptoms.
- Addressing your own grief: The best way to teach your teen how to deal with grief is to show through example. Make sure to deal with your own grief in a healthy way and pass this on to your teen.
- Making sure they know they are cared for: This is a part of making sure your teen knows they are not alone. Knowing that they are cared for helps them to be able to open up and share with friends and family and reduces the risk of them putting up barriers and seeking riskier methods of emotional release.
- Finding help if they are abusing drugs or alcohol: For some teens, the opportunity to use drugs and alcohol to cope and find emotional release may come too quickly to be prevented. In these cases, it is vital that you find proper treatment for your teen and, at the same time, work towards helping them deal with their grief or loss which may be done with the help of psychotherapy.
Treatment for grief
The death of a loved one, be it a parent, sibling, friend or family member, can be overwhelming for a teen and affect his/her daily life. In addition to the already existing physiological, psychological, and academic pressure, the feeling of grief can adversely affect the mental health of a child. It is therefore, important to provide all the necessary support required to the child suffering from grief.
Adeona Healthcare, a renowned mental health center for behavioral health, offers mental health and addiction treatment for adolescents aged between 12 to 17. We offer customized evidence-based treatment approaches to help teens deal with their grief and loss. To know more about our treatment programs, call our 24/7 helpline (888) 997-3966 and speak to a representative. You can also chat online to get more information about other behavioral and mental health problems and treatments offered. Contact us today as we can help your teen lead a better life.