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Practical Ways To Help A Teen Through Loss And Loneliness

Although the average teen is likely to have hundreds, if not thousands, of followers on social media, most of them would still say they feel alone. There is a generational lack of authentic connectedness that makes today’s teen more likely to experience the loss of much-needed relationships and seasons of deep loneliness. In this article, I’ll explain how parents can help guide their teens through times of loneliness and grief, and what to do if these feelings lead to inappropriate behavior.



How to Help a Teen Struggling With Loss


Many teens struggle with loss of some kind without anyone recognizing the true source of their pain. Some losses can seem small and insignificant, but they feel big to your teen. So when teens experience these tough times, they desperately want someone to help. Think about the times when you’ve struggled through life’s painful situations. Can you remember how good it felt to have someone come alongside in a compassionate way to help? Well, teens want the same things.


You can help a teen struggling with loss by listening. This is the time for empathy, not judgement––even if they situation is their own fault. Put your energy into listening and reflecting back what you hear your teen say. As you let your teen talk through his hurt, you are helping him process his emotions and it will help you deepen your relationship with your teen. These times are opportunities to grow closer to your teen. So you don’t have to rush your teen to “get over it.” Healing doesn’t happen quickly, but it can happen with patient and compassionate help from Mom and Dad.



How to Help a Teen Struggling With Loneliness


Teens today lack deep connections. No amount of online “friends” can fill in their need for authentic relationships. But parents can help their teens stay connected at home, help them learn how to create real relationships, and push through this challenging time. Start by inviting your teen into conversations. Ask open-ended questions that let your teen express her opinions. Many times the things your teen wants to talk about may seem unimportant. It’s okay. Not every conversation needs to be about “important” topics. If it matters to your teen, then it should matter to you. Remember that no matter what crazy things your teen says, just let them talk without judging them, and don’t make any topic off limits. As you listen and ask questions, you will have the opportunity to share your wisdom, if you engage in open conversations.


Prioritize this time together and don’t let it get dropped when you’re busy. Try setting a regular time with your teen. Do something fun together and look for ways to laugh and have fun together. Show your teen that you want to spend time with him by including him in family decisions. Ask for your teen’s opinion about family activities and then, when possible, do what he suggests. Taking his ideas seriously communicates that your teen is a valuable member of the family––that he belongs. Plus, you might just have fun trying something new!



What Should Parents Do if Loss and Loneliness Lead to Inappropriate Behavior?


Every teen is going to feel lonely sometimes. They are going to get hurt. The problem becomes serious when depression kicks in—when teens begin to fear that they won’t ever be able to make connections again or get back to a healthy place. That despair leads to unhealthy isolation. So now is the time to talk to your teen about how he’s feeling. Find out what is motivating his unhealthy behavior.


If your teen is disengaging, isolating themself, and refusing to spend time with family, it’s a sure sign they are depressed. These behaviors won’t get better on their own. In fact, they will cause your teen to feel even more lonely. Parents need to be aware that a lonely teen may be willing to do just about anything, even dangerous and immoral things, to relieve the sense of loneliness and feel less pain. It’s a critical time. If your teen is depressed, now is the time to get outside help. Talk to other parents who have dealt with a depressed teen, seek wise counsel, and get your teen the help he needs to heal.





Hey moms and dads … chances are your child will wander off track and get “lost” somewhere in their teen years, and there’s even a greater chance they will experience some type of loss during that time––the death of a dog, the loss of a grandparent, the breakup of a relationship, or not attaining something they really wanted or hoped for. How you engage with your teen during these times of loss and loneliness will determine whether or not your teen gets “lost” along the way. This isn’t a time for “I told you so” or a time to harp on your teen about making bad decisions. It’s time to wrap your arms and heart around your teen and tell her that you’ll never leave, you will always be present with her, and your ears are big enough to hear anything she has to say. It’s an important time for your relationship. Your response might just keep your teen off a path she never really wanted to walk on.

Author: Mark Gregston

Mark Gregston began working with teens more than 40 years ago as a youth minister and Young Life director. He has authored nearly two dozen books, has written hundreds of articles, and is host of the nationally-acclaimed Parenting Today’s Teens podcast and radio broadcast.