Parenting a struggling teen is probably the most difficult job in the world. It is so easy to get caught up in power struggles that end almost every interaction with a fight. Before long, you may come to dread interacting with your child, and he or she will dread interacting with you.
This type of chronic negativity often produces feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, and depression in both you and your child. Do NOT beat yourself up about this, struggling is a part of parenting. You cannot and will not ever be a perfect parent.
A way to combat chronic negativity is to seek out places for your child to find small success. The goal at Adora is connection. We want to meet learners where they are and always find some way to connect with them. As the first sentence of this post implies, this is an INCREDIBLY difficult task and we are not perfect at accomplishing it.
One of our learners is really struggling right now and all of the staff members are working through the chronic negativity that surrounds interacting with him. This learner is one of many who takes riding lessons at a nearby stable on Saturdays. Last Saturday, while he was waiting for his turn on a horse, this learner helped me unload nearly 5000 lbs of bedding and stack the 50 lb bags neatly in the barn.
One of the main struggles for this learner is being attuned to the needs of others instead of focusing solely on himself. As we unloaded bag after bag he turned into the picture of chivalry, loading my dolly for me, and stacking his bags up high so short little me could stack mine on the lower rows.
You can bet I took this opportunity to praise the heck out of him, I was truly impressed by his selflessness. This was the first truly positive interaction either of us had had in weeks. Both of us left with a sense of accomplishment, some sore muscles, and a feeling of encouragement.
Did this fix any major problems? No. Did it completely turn the child’s behavior around? Nope. But it did give each of us hope that this negative rut wouldn’t last forever. It also gave me a beautiful opportunity to seek connection with a hurting child and him the opportunity to engage in soothing (and exhausting) proprioceptive work.
I know that not everyone has access to a barn and a trailer full of shavings to unload, but some easy ways to connect at home include:
- Baking and cleaning up
- Raking leaves
- Shoveling snow
- Cleaning the garage
- Listening to books on tape
- Rearranging furniture
Whatever you do, do it together.
Small Successes by Sarah Andrews