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How Can Parents Deal with a Teenager’s Broken Heart?

How Can Parents Deal with a Teenager’s Broken Heart?

As parents, we need to fight against the illusion that everything is always fine with our teenagers.  Teens often hide their pain behind the “Fine” sign — which is another way of saying “Keep out of my life.”  

Parents can have difficulty believing their teenager is undergoing some of the most painful experiences they’ll have in life, while that teenager lives in their house, eats their food, and sleeps under their roof.  How can pain be happening in a place with Internet access, food on the table, and clothes in the closet?  

Here are some tips for dealing with a teenager that has a broken heart:

Pay Attention – Parents can have difficulty realizing their teenager has an emotional need.  What parents must pay attention to is when their teenager’s behavior changes.  

  • Your kid who’s never been much of a talker emotionally vanishes for days or weeks.  
  • Your kid who’s a drama queen about everything flatlines emotionally for an extended period of time.  

If things like this start to happen, pay attention.  Check in with your teen and ask how things are going.  If they don’t reply, acknowledge that they don’t want to talk and don’t push them.  Instead, leave them an open invitation to talk.

Check Yourself – If your teen experiences a broken heart over a known event, such as a relationship breakup or a divorce, a death, or a best friend moving across the country, keep track of how your teenager is navigating those waters.  It is possible the event that’s upset your teen has also upset you.  If you’re experiencing a broken heart as well because of what’s happened, seek out help for yourself.  The last thing an emotionally wobbly teenager needs is for you to start leaning on him or her for your own support.  Both of you are bound to fall.  

Avoid Judgement – Avoid judging what hurts your teenager.  When a teen is in pain, it doesn’t help to hear you consider the reason to be stupid or meaningless or, worse, childish.  Pain can be universal; everyone who hits their finger with a hammer will yelp.  Pain is also personal; what injuries one person may have shrugged off, another person might feel more deeply.  Even though you shrug off your teen’s pain, your teen still hurts.  

I encourage you to get to know your teenager, to get beyond your irritation at their behavior, and to pay attention to what that behavior tells you about your teen.  There seems to be an inverse reaction common among teens — the more they hurt, the more they hide.  But pain cannot stay hidden indefinitely.  Pain will come out.  As a parent, you need to watch for signs of pain coming out.  

  • Watch for changes in behavior over an extended period of time.  A couple of days of isolation are probably pretty normal for teens, but not a couple of weeks.  The more significant the shift in behavior, the more you need to pay attention.
  • Don’t expect an immediate response.  The first time you ask your teen how they’re doing and he or she says “Fine,” don’t stop there if you suspect things are not fine.  Let your teen know you’re concerned and specifically why.  
  • Communicate your willingness to talk about anything at any time.  Then, be prepared to follow it up, even if your teen unloads more than you want to know two hours past your bedtime on a weeknight.  

I can’t emphasize enough the pain teenagers hold in.  They get hurt in so many ways that fly under their parents’ radar.  Sometimes that pain translates into depression, eating disorders, anxiety, or substance abuse — behaviors that push the familial panic button and clearly signal something is very wrong.

But sometimes that pain is less obvious and the signals that something is wrong get drowned out by the sounds of everyday life.  Slowly, quietly, that pain translates into a loss of optimism, a cynicism about life, the gradual strangulation of dreams, and a loss of hope for the future.  

Is adolescence supposed to be a time of up-and-down moods and volatile emotions?  Yes, but pay attention if your teen spends too much time in the pits.  If he or she just doesn’t seem to be rebounding or continually refuses to talk about what’s going on, consider obtaining the help of a counselor.  School counselors can be of tremendous benefit, but realize your teen may need to see a professional counselor outside of school.  If your teen had a broken leg, you’d seek professional help.  Since you’d get help for a broken leg, why wouldn’t you get help for a broken heart?  

 

Authored by Dr. Gregory Jantz, founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE and author of 36 books. Pioneering whole-person care nearly 30 years ago, Dr. Jantz has dedicated his life’s work to creating possibilities for others, and helping people change their lives for good. The Center • A Place of HOPE, located on the Puget Sound in Edmonds, Washington, creates individualized programs to treat behavioral and mental health issues, including eating disorders, addiction, depression, anxiety and others.

 

What Does Forgiveness Mean to You?

What Does Forgiveness Mean to You?

Evil, destructive people must be scrupulously avoided.  Everyone else, including yourself, requires a lot of forgiveness.  You cannot punish your abuser by withholding forgiveness.  On the contrary, you can repudiate your abuser and supersede the abuse by intentionally choosing to live a different type of life, with positive responses.

Of all the ways we can respond to each other, you can choose love, mercy, and forgiveness.  These will first enrich your life, then bless the lives of others.

Think about what forgiveness means to you:

  1. Does forgiveness mean letting someone off the hook?
  2. It has been said that forgiving is also forgetting.  Do you believe that’s a good definition?  Is so, why?  It not, why not?
  3. Is it difficult for you to grant someone forgiveness if he or she doesn’t ask for it first?
  4. Do you think forgiveness involves an element of risk?  If so, what is the risk?
  5. How many times should you be expected to forgive someone?
  6. Are there some people you should not be expected to forgive?
  7. Do you feel forgiven by God?

With negative, destructive examples in your past, it is imperative that you constantly align yourself with God’s overwhelmingly positive presence in your present and future.  He will be your source of healing, forgiveness, and strength to rise above what was done to you by the sin of others.

Even more, it is his divine desire to heal your broken heart and rebuild your damaged spirit.  Make your relationship with him the primary relationship in your life.  Do this, and your ability to love yourself and others will multiply in the bounty of his love for you.

Please take some time to think about and answer the questions below.  They aren’t necessarily meant to draw you into a conclusion, but are meant to stimulate thought:

  1. How would you describe your present relationship with God?
  2. Are you satisfied with your present relationship with God?
  3. Do you feel comfortable praying to God by yourself?  When you pray to God, do you feel close to him?
  4. Do you pray because you want to talk to God or because you feel obligated to?
  5. Does the thought of prayer make you fearful, uncomfortable, awkward, or apprehensive?
  6. Do you spend time regularly reading God’s Word?  Do you generally understand what you read?
  7. Do you read the bible out of a sense of obligation or duty?
  8. Have you ever felt God speak to you through what you read?  If so, in what way?
  9. Are you a member of a faith community?  If so, what do you gain from being a member?
  10. If you are not a member of a faith community, what reasons have you given for not joining?

As you consider your responses to these questions, here is a prayer from which to draw strength.

God, with your love to strengthen me, I can truly look at and understand how I have been hurt.  Bind my wounds.  Rebuild who you created me to be.  Help me trust you.  Help me to forgive myself and others.

Authored by Dr. Gregory Jantz, founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE and author of 35 books. Pioneering whole-person care nearly 30 years ago, Dr. Jantz has dedicated his life’s work to creating possibilities for others, and helping people change their lives for good. The Center • A Place of HOPE, located on the Puget Sound in Edmonds, Washington, creates individualized programs to treat behavioral and mental health issues, including eating disorders, addiction, depression, anxiety and others.

 

How Often Do You Express Vented Anger?

How Often Do You Express Vented Anger?

Vented anger, because of its “out there” nature, can be much easier to identify.  However, many people still attempt to diffuse it by calling it other names.

I’d like you to take a look at the following list of words and mark any you identify as part of your anger repertoire.  Be honest and bold.  If you have a loved one or close friend, consider asking him or her to look over the list and discuss it with you.  Other people are a good barometer of what you aren’t able to recognize in yourself.

  • Disappointed
  • Bitter
  • Resentful
  • Critical
  • Controlling
  • Hostile
  • Mean
  • Sarcastic
  • Frustrated
  • Insecure
  • Victimized
  • Destructive
  • Anxious
  • Irritable
  • Impatient
  • Blaming
  • Manipulative
  • Selfish
  • Prideful

All of these can be ways of expressing anger.  Look over your list and answer the following questions.

  1. What do you tell yourself when you feel this way?
  2. Does your thought life escalate or deescalate your feelings?
  3. How do you feel after you express these feelings?
  4. How do you feel about yourself?
  5. How do you feel about anyone else involved?
  6. How do you feel physically?
  7. How long does it take you to get over the feelings?
  8. Do you “replay” the event and the feelings inside your head?
  9. Are you ashamed of how you reacted?
  10. Are you remorseful over how you reacted?
  11. If you could get rid of one of these reactions, which one would it be and why?

Be aware of your anger levels over the next several weeks.  Write down, if you’re able, what you feel and any reasons you determine for feeling that way.  Note any out-of-line or extreme reactions or feelings.  Be sure to write these down for more examination, thought, and prayer.

Above all, remember you have an active partner in this process.  Just as God said to Cain, he says to you: “Why are you angry?  Why is your face downcast?” (Gen.4:6).  There is a why to all of this, a why that can be determined and brought out into the light.

If you or a loved one is struggling with a anger issues, The Center • A Place of HOPE can help.  Call 1-888-771-5166 today and a specialist will answer any questions you might have.

Eating Disorder Recovery: Mapping Your Progress

Eating Disorder Recovery: Mapping Your Progress

Healing from an eating disorder is a journey.  The path isn’t always easy and level, but neither is life.  You must want to get well, to move forward and reestablish a healthy, balanced relationship with food.  Once you have understood that something is drastically wrong with the choices you are making in your life, the responsibility for making positive change lies solely with you.  You must replace the false control of food with a positive control based on your new understanding of yourself and your past.

As you continue on your healing journey, allow me to give you some food for thought.  Mapping your progress can be very beneficial.  I encourage you to use a journal to assist in the recovery process.  Here are six tips for you to consider:

  1. Imagine your healing process as a journey.  Draw a map in your journal of your progress so far.  Show the path you’ve taken, the obstacles you’ve had to overcome or work around.  Write about the high points where you’ve come to understand a hidden truth.  Label it, “My Journey.”  Remember, don’t worry about the quality of your drawing.  Use color and whatever details help cement how you’re really feeling.  This picture is for you, a visual chronicle of the work you’ve done so far.
  2. Go back through a previous healing journal to refresh your memory.  Read over the statements and questions you’ve already answered.  Take a moment to put this journey into perspective.  Fill in your journey up to this point and then, if you like, anticipate some of the highs and lows that may come up as you continue.  If you can anticipate the lows, it may help you to get through them.  You’ll have an idea they are coming, although you may not be sure exactly when.
  3. Looking at your map, what are the major high points so far?  What are the major valleys so far?
  4. As you look over your past, what are you able to see now, from a more mature viewpoint, that you haven’t been able to see before?  Think about letting go of your anger.  What are your immediate reactions?  Read these next two statements aloud and then write down your answers:
    • I’ve always thought I was at fault for what happened to me.  Now I can see that what happened to me happened because…
    • It’s difficult to forgive my parents for not being perfect because…
  5. Read over the following and respond as honestly as you can.
    • It’s hard for me to accept responsibility for how I use food because…
    • I realize I’ve contributed to my unhealthy relationship with food by…
    • In order to get well, I’ve been able to…
    • I choose to accept the responsibility for my future because…
    • In order to get well, I’ve been able to…
    • I choose to accept the responsibility for my future because…
  6. You have to want to get well.  You have to believe you can get well.  Use the following statements to reinforce your desire and your belief in your own healing.
    • I have the following reasons for wanting to get well…
    • These are the reasons I know I can get well…

You have been experiencing waves of emotions that have tossed and turned you about.  It is time for some calmer waters.  Everything we do, see, and experience is sifted through the filter of our perspective.  It provides the lend through which we see the world.  Continue to document your healing journey.  In time, you will be able to reflect and see how far you have come.

If you or a loved one is struggling with an eating disorder, The Center • A Place of HOPE can help.  Call 1-888-771-5166 today and a specialist will answer any questions you might have.

 

Excessive Behavior and Our Need for Control

Excessive Behavior and Our Need for Control

As human beings, we want to be in control of our own lives. This is a universal characteristic, whether people profess faith or not. Control is interpreted as freedom, while loss of control is interpreted as freedom, while loss of control is interpreted as slavery. The paradox is that we invite excessities into our lives from our position of control. We use our control and decide to engage in the Gotta Have It! behavior.

Excessities, however, are notoriously bad guests. They don’t tend to stay within the boundaries we set. Once told yes, they don’t like to be told no, and they perpetually promise what they can’t deliver. Before long, what you invited into your life to obey your needs ends up becoming the one you obey. The sad reality is we begin excessities thinking they will be our slaves – to bring us significance or value or pleasure or numbness whenever we decide – but they end up enslaving us.

Perhaps one of the most insightful groups into this phenomenon of control and slavery and how one can turn into the other rather quickly is Alcoholics Anonymous. The alcohol doesn’t take that first drink thinking it’s going to take over his or her life. No one forces them to take that first drink or the second or maybe even the third. After that, however, it gets a little murky. Alcoholism is a very slippery slope, and Alcoholics Anonymous bands together people in sobriety with a Twelve-Step path to recovery. Here are those Twelve Steps. As you read them, think in the context of Gotta Have It! behavior, whether it’s alcohol or not:

  1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
  4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
  6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
  7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
  8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
  9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
  11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
  12. Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and to practice these principles in all our affairs. {1}

The Twelve Steps, especially the first three, speak to a very fundamental reality that is constantly misconstrued and overlooked: first, that when our lives become unmanageable, they are out of control; and second, that in order to get back control, we have to completely give up control. Jesus puts it this way: “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it” (Luke 9:24). Again, self-control isn’t something you can arrive at all on your own. Rather, you gain self-control when you give it up to something else.

Giving up control is a frightening prospect for many people. They believe the control they have is the only thing holding the monsters of life at bay. What they don’t realize is that this control isn’t opening the door to freedom; it’s keeping the door closed with them imprisoned inside. The monsters aren’t being kept on the other side of the door; the monsters are really on their side of the door, being kept in.

As topsy-turvy and scary as it sounds, the best way to gain control is to give it up. You need to understand an important point: The control you are so hesitant to give up is in reality not your control; it is the control the excessity has over you. This is a tug-of-war of wills – yours versus the excessity. You need to give up your control, as the AA second step says, to a Power greater than yourself.

{1} “The Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous,” A.A. World Services, Inc., www.aa.org/en_pdfs/smf-121_en.pdf.

 

Healing Emotional Abuse Through Self-Commitment

Healing Emotional Abuse Through Self-Commitment

The effects of emotional abuse on your sense of self are significant. Yet often these effects are not linked to the emotional abuse you have suffered. Because this connection has not been made, you may find yourself suffering from one or several of these effects without really understanding why.

Here is a list of effects of emotional abuse:

  • Low self-esteem
  • Lack of self-confidence
  • Transfer of needs
  • Acting out sexually
  • Loneliness
  • Failure syndrome
  • Perfectionism
  • Unrealistic guilt
  • Crisis oriented
  • Unresolved anger and resentments

Go over these effects and honestly evaluate if and how they are present in your own life. Which ones are most debilitating to you today? As you look at these, are there some you’ve been able to overcome? God is not happy with the list above. He never intended that list to overshadow your life. Instead, he has another list he wants for you. It is found in Galatians 5:22-23:

  • Love
  • Joy
  • Peace
  • Patience
  • Kindness
  • Goodness
  • Faithfulness
  • Gentleness
  • Self-Control

Take time to explain how your life will be different with God’s list guiding your life and thoughts. Using God’s list, write down at least one way to counter each of the effects of emotional abuse.

Realistically, what will it take for you to begin to substitute the characteristics from God’s list for the negative consequences of your emotional abuse? What is the first step you need to take? Be sure to make note of any negative patterns you are not ready to give up. Identify why, and work to implement more positive patterns.

Countering the lies of emotional abuse with the truth about our true nature and value as individuals is important. For help in doing that, read over the following statements of commitment. Meditate on them and visualize the positive difference living out these commitments will make in your life.

  1. To believe in my true value.
  2. To reject the lies of emotional victimization.
  3. To pray that God’s love would increase in my life.
  4. To learn more about my true self, not my abused self.

One of the most important commitments you can make to yourself is to substitute the negative effects of emotional abuse with positive, affirming characteristics. I cannot think of a better list to strive for than the fruit of the Spirit talked about in Galatians 5:22-23. May these be yours more and more each day.