Being a therapist to so many adolescents and pre-adolescents has given me a unique opportunity that most parents never experience. I am privy to information about the inner lives and social lives of these kids during what some people consider the most difficult times of growing up.
The teen and pre-teen years are riddled with self-identification, hormonal changes, and social pressures that most of us would not return to in a million years, even if there are some good memories sprinkled here and there. As their therapist, it’s my job to determine when a parent needs to be made aware of certain circumstances and when maintaining confidentiality is in the best interest of the teen. This is a struggle for parents sometimes, but I have found that most often they are comfortable (and even relieved) in knowing that their teenager is in good hands. I take this as a compliment when they have confidence in my judgement, and I value this confidence and trust, from both parents and kids.
However, not all kids are in counseling or need to be in counseling. Does this mean an adolescent is not facing a difficult personal decision or social pressures they feel they cannot handle? Absolutely not. No matter who they are, they will face some very challenging circumstances during these years. And unfortunately, they may find it too difficult to come to a parent for help. Even when they have a great relationship with a parent, sometimes kids worry about disappointing their mom or dad. Other times, they overestimate their maturity or ability to handle the problem.
I recommend that parents encourage their adolescent kids to foster a relationship with another adult that the parent trusts, such as a godparent, grandparent, or close family friend. Give them permission to confide in this person in the event they feel they cannot talk to their parents. The purpose of this is so that the teen has a safe person to turn to and the parent also feels comfortable their child is in good hands. Many times, this trusted adult can help the child tell their parent about the situation by being a source of support and can guide them in making better choices.
My final note on this topic is to always continue to build and maintain a positive and healthy relationship with your teenager, because ultimately, you want them to confide in you for guidance and support. As a parent, I want more than anything to have close relationships with my son and daughter. Experience has taught me though that this doesn’t mean they will tell me everything going on in their lives, especially during their adolescent years. For parents who have raised a teenager or two, I am always wondering, how did you do it? I would love to hear your comments!