For a teen loss can impact profoundly different than is the case for adults. Developmental stage and perspective can really rock one’s world in formative years. Take a moment to ask yourself, “Have I ever experienced a loss like my teen is facing now? How will it be different for my teen? What will be my teens experience of it?“*
Whether you are a parent or work with teens, the following will shed light and help equip with basic insight of how a painful season of loss can be teachable moments that make a difference for a lifetime and perhaps generations to come.
7 Losses (Each topic is a separate article):
- Loss of Role
- Ambiguous Loss
- Threatened Loss
Perspective and seasons of pain never go wasted. When we seek to look through the lens of where a teen is developmentally, we gain an empathetic reminder that no one know what they do not know. Often a loss is unchartered waters for seemingly everyone yet there are those that have gone before and journeyed to allow the significant of tragedy make a significant difference in the world.
A solid understanding of emotional maturity benefits how expectations are held, imposed and set. Expect from a teen what in normal for him at this stage of life and be mindful of abilities and limited abilities to cope as an adult might. Developmentally the brain has not fully matured in process ability. Because of this it is unreasonable to impose adult expectation on “young” humans. Size can often through off an adults expectations when outwardly and conversationally we tell them and ourselves they are young adults. Until age twenty-five development is still unfolding and that impacts the entire being of an adolescent. The natural question for an adult is to ask “What were you thinking?” The nature teen answer may well be “I don’t know.” Developmentally that is true, a teen brain is not fully capable of processing the same as an adult. Unrealistic expectations can hurt deeply when a loss is “down played” or “glossed over” sooner than the impact it may deeply have on a teenager.
Imagine for a moment, a teen hears “What were thinking?” Emotionally he could process that he is responsible for an incident completely unplanned, unforeseen but has ended is some kind of loss?” The the toll it takes on self esteem and self image can reap the residual impact of damaging emotional wounds. It is worth the time investment to use words of life, edification, encouragement and dig deep into recalling what we did as teens. Chances are the event today you recall some event as teen and thing to your self, I have no idea what I was a thinking.
When your teen experiences a loss, a crisis or trauma, the entire family and extended community experience the loss, crisis, and trauma. When the loss death, families and communities can feel chaotic and out of control of the emotions. This is normal to the circumstances in the unwelcome incident.
It is also common to desire and think that the family or community will never feel “normal” again. The truth is, everything has changed and is changing as a result of the incident.
“Tragedy is a time to anchor emotions in facts and honesty with self and others.”
We are all human. If an outward wound was visible and bleeding we would instinctively know respond to treat the wound. The unseen is more difficult. A “new normal” is possible and necessary. The good news is that a “new normal” can be different, better, stronger. A new normal is one defining choice at a time from making a lasting difference and bring from tragedy a significance because of the loss that touched your life.
Material loss is challenges everyone on some level. For a teen, it could be the loss of an object or familiar surroundings. The greater the attachment, the greater the sense of loss. This is often the first kind of loss a child experiences and is impacted by his awareness of loss. Have you ever known a child with a blanket or toy attachment? What was the experience when said item got lost? Chances are it rock everyone’s world! Such losses continue and have a compounding impact over the teen years. How one help the youth learn to process loss matters.
The more impactful the loss or frequency of losses, the greater impact is has on sense of security, self image, and self esteem. There are limits to want adults and provide, however, there are many thing adults can do to communicate and strengthen shaken lives of their teen.
The intensity of loss and feeling about it are closely tied to the replaceability of what is lost. When your teen rips a pair of jeans compare to smashes a phone screen, the teen’s sense of loss varies, and much is tied to how adults react and respond to the teens loss.
Death of a pet has a different impact. Unfortunately, many parents immediately provide what is thought to be a solution: “We will just have to get you a new one.” NO! This is not the best approach. If the loss is replaceable, the replacement can mask grief and debilitate the ability to process loss. Instead of helping the teen grieve and learn from the experience. Immediate replacement or suggestion of any thing can be a great disservice thats easily leads to enabling an ability to learn to take things and people for granted. Such entangled behavior results in the parent becoming more of a “provider” than the provision of fostering strong self worth and learning to process through loss. When we value the loss as unique and important to those impacted, we gain growth through the loss toward health and wellness in self and relationships.
While material loss is part of life, the lessons learned by how we respond make a huge impact on formidable teens. Be the difference maker this world needs. There is a generation in need of mentors that can change their world.
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