Nathalie Parent, psychologist
Audrey-Anne is studying for her geography exam tomorrow. She’s anxious and feels like she’s going to fail. She has a lump in her throat. She feels a hot flash coming on and her heart rate is speeding up.
Before things get worse, she goes to her mother, who tells her: “You have an appointment with your new psychologist in three weeks, that’ll help.” Audrey-Anne feels better knowing that her first session is scheduled. However, her mother is still worried and doesn’t know what to do to help more. Not to mention that Audrey-Anne’s little brother doesn’t understand what’s happening, and thinks that his sister is only looking for attention.
Does this story sound familiar?
You should know that many parents are experiencing the same difficulties. It’s not easy to deal with your child’s suffering, but with the strategies below, you can make it more tolerable and also gain a sense of control over what’s happening.
Take care of yourself
To help your teen effectively, you can start by acting on the situation so that you are not left alone with your worries. If you can reassure yourself, if you have confidence in your teen and if you’re certain that their troubles are temporary, you will help them believe in themselves and in the future.
To do this, don’t hesitate to surround yourself with people you trust—a family doctor, a friend, etc.—who you can talk to and who will be able to put you at ease. Beware of information found on the internet, as it can make you worry more. Remember that every case is different and calls for its own solutions.
Support your teen while waiting for the appointment
It’s important to maintain good communication with your teen, to take an interest in them and to find out what they are experiencing and feeling. Be present, but not too much, so as not to infantilize them. It is recommended that you validate their feelings—to do this, remind yourself of what you needed at their age during hard times.
To help your teen manage their situation while you wait to meet with a healthcare professional, you can suggest simple activities to do every day:
- Relaxation exercises like deep breathing, meditation and visualization. A daily practice can have a significant impact on their suffering;
- Writing their deepest ideas and thoughts in a notebook or diary to express their feelings;
- Drawing, painting, making music (and all other forms of art) to find relaxation;
- Confiding in a friend or close adult. If your teen wants to, they can also talk to specialists via phone or text for free. Consult our library of resources here.
- Reading can also help: a book with exercises on the subject causing the suffering, or a novel for escapism.
How to deal with siblings?
Various issues can present themselves between brothers and sisters when a family member is suffering psychologically. In this case, it’s best to speak openly and frankly … without saying everything.
You can say: “I understand that this is unsettling for you (validation).
Your sister is going through a hard time and we need you to help our family get through this, as a team (collaboration).
There may come a time when you’ll need help and we’ll all be there for you, your sister too.”
A mantra to foster hope
Nurturing the hope that something better is waiting for us is an effective way to maintain good mental health. While waiting to meet a healthcare professional, you can advise your teen to find a hope mantra to repeat in difficult times:
- “It’s temporary, like a wave passing through … there is an end.”
- “I’m taking refuge in a place within me where it’s calm.”
- “I’m positioning myself as an observer to what hurts so that it doesn’t take over: there is suffering and there is me.”
- “I will climb this mountain and reach the summit, one step at a time.”