The teen years are already emotionally tumultuous. Your teen may feel happy one minute and start brooding the next. The combination of fluctuating hormone levels and a new sense of awareness of the world can make dealing with grief and loss especially difficult. For many teens, it may be their first experience with loss, and your child may not know how to react. While you can’t bring a loved one or beloved pet back, you can take these steps to help your teen manage their grief.
Encourage Them to Talk About Their Feelings
Teenagers aren’t exactly known for being forthcoming about their feelings. However, this might be different. Your teenager may not want to talk about their latest crush, but they are likely to lean on you for help during their time of grief. Let them know that you are available to answer their questions about their first loss so that they can come to you whenever they are having a painful moment.
Involve Them in Planning a Memorial
Many children find that their first experience with grief is after the loss of a pet. You can use this experience to help your child learn how to manage loss in general. One of the best ways to show your child how to cope with the loss of a pet is to ask for their help in planning a memorial. For example, your teen may want to choose a special urn to keep after their pet is cremated. They may also want to share a poem about their pet or place a photograph of them on a table during a memorial ceremony.
Find Healthy Ways to Vent Negative Emotions
Teenagers sometimes need to work off their pent up emotions. Anger is a common emotion during the grieving process that your teen may need to vent in healthy ways. Talk to them about how they can find a physical outlet that improves their emotional state. For instance, going for a brisk run might help clear your teen’s head. Journaling is another way to vent that is less physical, and quiet teens may prefer to write out their negative thoughts so that they gain more clarity.
Give Them Permission to Move Forward
Your teenager may not know how to let go of their grief. You can talk to them about how it is normal to feel sad but suddenly discover that they are caught up having fun doing an activity. Your teen may also need to hear that it is normal to move on and find a new pet to love. Choosing to form new relationships and love again is a sign that they had a strong connection to the ones they have lost.
Losing a love done or pet is never easy for anyone, but teens tend to feel their grief more acutely than others. By being there for your teen, you can help them learn how to manage grief and find positive ways to move on with life.
Brooke Chaplan is a freelance writer and blogger. She lives and works out of her home in Los Lunas, New Mexico. She loves the outdoors and spends most of her time hiking, biking, and gardening. For more information, contact Brooke via Facebook at facebook.com/brooke.chaplan or Twitter @BrookeChaplan