The Wounds of Adolescence

When Zachary, my 11-month-old gets hurt, it is immediately obvious. He cries, crawls over to me, wanting to be picked up and held. Needing to be soothed and comforted. The tears in his eyes and that little bottom lip sticking out….you know the look. We melt, right? Compassion and tenderness well up within and I drop whatever I’m doing to hold my baby.

My middle schooler is hurting too. Only, his hurts are not immediately obvious. He does not typically express his hurt in ways that readily elicit my compassion and tenderness. In fact, the way his hurts get expressed can often have the opposite impact on me. His behavior ranges from aloof avoidance of me to outright disrespect and yelling at me.

On countless occasions, I have reacted to the aloof attitude and disrespect with scolding, reprimanding, or yelling right back. “Don’t speak to me like that!” Or worse – sending him away from me, “Go to your room!”

About 10-seconds after my reaction, I remember that his behavior towards me has nothing to do with me. Sure enough, time-after-time, I come to learn that something happened during the day that wounded him. Only, his wound hasn’t resulted in a black-and-blue goose egg on his forehead like Zachary’s wounds typically do. He comes home with wounds that are invisible. And no less real or painful.

Soothing the Wounds of Adolescence
Adolescence is a time of staggering change for our children. Intense emotions, sudden mood changes, passionate expression, social pressures, desire for greater independence – these are all characteristics of adolescence. And through this turbulent time, our children need us to be their calm, steady presence in the storm. HOW do we to do this? Below are some ideas.

  1. I control my reactivity. I heard an expression when my kids were small and it’s stuck with me over the years: ‘The last thing a reactive child needs is a reactive parent.’ So true. Unfortunately, I can think of many times when I’ve reacted to my child’s reaction, which only increased the intensity of his reaction, which increased the intensity of my reaction… and round and round we go!

    The formula for controlling my reactivity goes like this: Pray. Breathe. Pray some more.
    My two go-to prayers when I feel myself on the verge of reacting are: “Come quickly Holy Spirit!” or “Jesus, make this easy!”

  2. Shhhh! I stop talking and just be still. Less words, more presence. When oh when will I finally master the art of keeping my mouth shut? The formula for helping me keep my mouth shut goes like this: Pray. Breathe. Pray some more.
  3. I am ready to listen when my child is ready to talk. Even when it’s late and I’m tired. Even when I’m in the middle of something and it’s inconvenient. The formula here? Yup… Pray. Breathe. Pray some more.
  4. I offer loving physical contact. Our adolescent children still need our physical touch, even though we may be resisted or rejected. Be willing to meet your child where he/she is. I find both of my adolescent children crave my physical touch at bedtime. Rubbing his back. Stroking her head. They need the nurturing contact.

Here’s a truth to remember “hurt people hurt people.” Meaning when my child is behaving in a way that is hurtful to me or to another, it is very likely because he or she is hurting inside. What will shift in our relationship when I manage my desire to react to his hurtful behavior? And instead of reprimanding or yelling, I offer my child what he really needs, which is love, acceptance, and compassion. For as long as we are their mamas, they will always need our love, acceptance, and compassion! No matter what age they happen to be today.

Let’s close with a prayer: Heavenly Father, I thank you for the privilege of being a mother. I thank you for the blessing of my children. Each one is Your own precious creation. Lord, I ask for Your guidance in my mothering. I pray for the eyes to see beyond undesirable behaviors; to recognize my child’s hurts and fears. I pray that Your Holy Spirit will enlighten me and guide me to connect more deeply with my child on a heart level. Please help me to model for them the healthy expression of emotions, and asking for what I need in a healthy manner. I ask that You would soothe my hurts. Fill me so completely with Your tenderness and compassion, that I may give the same freely to those around me. I ask all of this in Jesus’ name, AMEN.

Linking up with: Mommy Monday Blog Hop, Motivation Monday, Mommy Moments, Titus 2 Tuesday

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Join the conversation!
  1. Thank you for this post, De. It was a wonderful reminder to me to parent with love and compassion. This: “And instead of reprimanding or yelling, I offer my child what he really needs, which is love, acceptance, and compassion.” All too often, I fall into the trap of reacting to my kids’ emotions – reacting instead of being present, open, and ready to listen. Thank you again for this gentle reminder to be their rock during their turbulent times.

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  2. Carol Munz says:

    Thank you, De! What a great post…so very relevant. I never thought about it in this way. Thank you for the enlightening message!

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  3. Megan says:

    Thank you for this reflection, Aunt De! I can easily see how these steps can be applied to loving toddlers through days full of reactivity as well!

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  4. Cathy says:

    What an extremely insightful post! All too often parents don’t “parent” their older children, for they feel that they have instilled values and other important components of development, during their formative years. How right you are that they crave and require the affirmation that we are there for them. Thank you De for bringing this to the forefront of my mind

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  5. Colleen says:

    Beautiful De!

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  6. Maria says:

    Thank you, De! I really needed to hear this right now as I feel like I’m already going through a similar situation with my elementary aged boys. I just remarked the other day how I found it easier to be a nurturing mother when they were babies or toddlers and I knew exactly what was needed of me…nurse them, change them, put them down for a nap, get them a snack, give a hug or kiss a boo boo. But now, I often find myself wondering just how to fix what is wrong in their lives. And, all too often lately, I am responding to their hurtul and disrespectful behavior by feeling hurt myself and then taking it out on them right when they need me the most. But now I have renewed energy to stay calm, take more deep breaths, and be there for them at any age. Thank you for this!

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