Contributed by Omaira Gonzalez
I remember a time when my daughter and I were getting ready to attend a women’s conference. She had been asked to perform a dance that day. As we were getting ready, I spent moments earlier holding her in my arms consoling her from a heartbreak she had experienced, drying her tears. I didn’t know what to say that would make things better or make the pain feel any less. I remember mumbling words hoping something I would say would stick or would work like Tylenol and ease some of the pain. It felt like a hopeless attempt every time. We arrived at the conference and she put on her strongest face, smiling though you could still see pain piercing through her eyes. I smiled and chatted away, trying to distract everybody from the obvious question everyone wanted to ask. The moment finally came when my daughter had to perform… but how do you do it? How do you give it your all when you are hurting, your mind is foggy and you feel like a part of you is crushed? She stood there and with all of what was left, she gave it her all. It was one of her most memorable and best performances ever. She took the pain inside and used it to fuel her to dance while tears rolled down her face.
This experience brought me to an important realization… When your kids have a cold, you give them cold medicine; if they struggle with school, you help them with more tutoring; if they fall, you place a band-aid on them. However, what do you do when your child has had a traumatic experience in his or her life? How do you help? No band-aid can fix it, no tutoring or cold medicines can give pain relief. You may even feel a bit frustrated because you don’t have the skills, insight or resources to deal with it at the moment.
Today teens are dealing with more than a heart break. They are dealing with suicidal thoughts, eating disorders, sexual identity, divorce, loss of a friend or loved one, and substance abuse, just to name a few. How we respond to this is as important as knowing when to get professional help when necessary. As a parent, our influence is very important. We need to be prepared to talk to them and walk them through their crisis with wisdom, compassion and the tools to help them heal. A friend once shared with me this advice: “Listen with your heart.” That was one of the best advice she could’ve given me when dealing with my teens and some of the crises I came across. I was so used to always using my head in dealing with their issues that many times I left out the most important part – my heart! I forgot that when you listen with your heart then you begin to connect with them emotionally, instead of trying to figure out the problem and search for quick solutions. I realized that once I started listening with my heart, I had better results. We connected better, because I understood them more and started to see where they were coming from and what they really needed.
Hopeless times may come when your teens face some of the most difficult moments in their lives. Remember that wisdom, compassion and most important— to “listen with your heart”—will help you get through those hard times.