A guest blog from my friend Jodi Okun of College Finacial Aid Advisors on that holiday trip home for college freshmen.
Even though you’ve enjoyed the time you’ve spent away at school, you may be looking forward to heading home for the first time. It may be for a long weekend, for Thanksgiving, or even for Winter Break. Regardless of when you go, you’ll most likely encounter some unexpected challenges.
But words have power and what we speak of to our friends and casual acquaintances reflects on who we are as people. Have you ever been in a conversation where a friend starts badmouthing another friend and wondered what happens when you are not around? Does that person speak poorly of you when your back is turned?
As scary and lonely as it may feel when a teenager is lost in depression it is important to know that there is a way out of the darkness and that they don’t have to go it alone. It is important for a parent to be comfortable with talking with their teenager about the intense feelings that come up when depression is present in their teen’s life.
Rather than talking down to their teens parents should validate the feelings that are being expressed and simply acknowledge the sadness and pain that is being shared.
The other night I had the honor of leading a discussion with the parents, teens, and friends of PFLAG LA. This group of parents and kids are dedicated to making change in the world by creating a place where they can speak out and speak their truth.
A question that came up for me is, who is the coming out process harder for, the parent or the teen?
Some people don't get it, but going back to school for a gay kid is a really scary thing. It can mean having to put on lots of layers of armor and acting straight so as to fit in and not feel like an outsider.
Why would an LGBT teenager have to act straight?
You notice teenager seems to be very moody, moodier than usual. They seem to be isolating from their friends, sleeping all the time, not eating, and losing interest in the things that use to excite them. They talk about being worthless and guilty when they choose to talk at all. School performance drops, they have difficulty concentrating and may even be expressing thoughts of death and suicide.
The coming out process for a GLBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender) adolescent can be a challenging moment for not only the teenager, but also their family and friends. It is a time of high emotions that can run the gamut from confusion, shock, disbelief, rejection, and anger, to acceptance, calmness, understanding, and concern. It is important at this potentially fragile time for parents and teens to be kind to each other and create room for this new information and identity to be processed.
Not to long ago, I was asked to teach a stress management workshop for the students at a highly competitive private school. As I prepared for the class I began to connect with how extremely stressed out many of today’s teenagers are and how much pressure is put on them to succeed. In working with teens I am reminded on a daily basis of how much information is available to them and how this constant stream of stimuli from TV, the internet, texting, and interaction with other teens is forcing adolescents to assume adult stress at a young age. It seems as if there is very little room just to be a kid.