Having so many losses in a child’s life naturally alters their teenage years into adulthood. The need for love is so traumatic that it doesn’t matter the cost involved in getting that love even if it means deceiving themselves. Teens will crave attention, find themselves involved in addictive patterns, and create problems that can become a danger to their welfare. It doesn’t matter if they are adoptees, fostered or biological.
Before you know it, you are in the midst of a crisis. Is your teen having sex to have a child so that they can retrieve the love that they didn’t get when they were younger? Is your teen gravitating to older men or women for a relationship? Are they constantly on the internet finding and connecting with people to fill that hole of abandonment that they have struggled with for years? Do they show addictive behavior in order to achieve the goal of feeling loved? Or worse yet, crave attention so badly that they would hurt someone else to get it.
Such was the case of 12-year-old Jamarion of Michigan, who stabbed a friend and told a witness ‘I want to die. I don’t want to be on this earth anymore.’ He says Jamarion told him that he lashed out because he had ‘taken many pills’ and nobody loved him. The witness further said the first emergency personnel went to the playground to help the victim. This upset the boy. ‘Hello. I’m right here. You’re going the wrong way,’ Jamarion shouted as officers arrived.
We need to observe these issues more closely in our teens. Emotional abandonment is far worse than a physical abandonment. Whether or not a teen has been rejected over and over or felt a very painful traumatic event, it is still difficult to move forward in any facet of their life.
If you can imagine a tree trunk as the root of abandonment, the branches that grow from it become even bigger and more serious such as the ones below.
• Low self-esteem
• Trust issues
• Deserving of pain (self-harm)
• Abusive relationships
• Sexual promiscuities and unwed pregnancy
The list just grows and grows. The desperation of getting that abandonment hole filled for some is at any cost, such as the life of Jamarion. Teenagers are guided by their feelings and emotions that drive them to those desperate places in their life. Anything to take the pain away would satisfy them.
As parents, it is difficult to watch this unfold before our eyes. We of course want to give them unconditional love and shower them with praises. However, a teen with deep abandonment and trust issues prevents them from opening up. But should that keep us from attaining the help they need? Absolutely not! We need to be even more pro-active while they are young to get counsel and break through the core of their trouble before it is too late.
Secondly, we must as parents continue to show them unconditional love. It is extremely hard to do when all we see in front of us are issues that are tearing them down. Some of those issues anger us or cause us to react in the wrong way. I have been there. I have reacted in the wrong way. It is never easy. I have had to put my own selfishness aside to try to understand those needs.
However, there are things that you can do to help fill that abandonment hole in their life.
1. Write down and share your list of why you love them and how you value them.
2. Tell them about their talents and gifting so that they can recognize what others would appreciate in them.
3. Let them know how far they have come and that growth is sometimes slow but just as good.
4. Make goals together of what they want to accomplish. Start with one and a date to meet that goal. Give them praise every step of the way.
5. Encourage them to write letters of loss to express their feelings in a new way. They can also write it in song/rap or as a poem.
6. Take them to a fitness center to let off some of the anger they have been holding in. Let them know there is another way to cope with their pent up emotions.
7. Get them involved in a sports activity with YOU participating. If they don’t like sports, then do walks or bicycle challenges. This shows them how much you want to be a part of their every day life.
8. Those who are very influential or good mentors in their life, have them spend some quality time teaching them a trade or job. This will help build their self-esteem.
9. Get involved in a community event that helps victims. By helping, they will turn their focus off of themselves and onto someone else who needs encouragement. This will build up their worth that they can offer something good.
10. Help them be creative. Have them do fun photography assignments and then do editing on the computer through PicMonkey.com. Their first assignment would be to express how they feel in their life – any topic. Don’t be afraid to challenge them to share something personal through their project
11. Find a counselor. A teen sharing any personal feelings with a parent may be too difficult to do. They often need an outsider to talk with that isn’t so close to the family. It would also relieve the parent of the heavy burden of trying to fix their teen when it might be something where a professional is required.
12. Most importantly, pray for your teen. You may not understand why they have these issues, but you can pray that God reveals clarity and discernment to you along with professional wisdom.
HE HEALS THE BROKENHEARTED AND BINDS UP THEIR WOUNDS. PSALM 147:3