Life can be a complicated mess of difficult challenges and unexpected setbacks. As we wade through the many obstacles that are thrown our way, it’s easy to feel confused and unsure about a great many things. But as a parent, there’s one thing that you’re always 100% sure of, no matter the situation: you love your child, and you want the very best for them.
Unfortunately, this is a fact that’s often lost on your teenager, especially when you’re pursuing ways to help them with their problems. Teenagers are notoriously reluctant at admitting their faults and seeking help, and what is a clear and obvious problem may be a non-issue in their eyes. This is something we often see at our Spanish Fork residential treatment center — parents seek out counseling for their teenagers, but the teenagers are loath to admit that they need help.
With an issue such as sexual behavioral problems, this is an especially thorny road to navigate. There is potential for a lot of shame and embarrassment, and it’s often easier for teenagers to deny the severity of the issue because they don’t want to feel judged or shamed. While nobody here is judging anyone, it’s important to know how to help open up your teenage son to the idea of therapy and counseling. Here are some tips to consider:
Find the Right Moment to Discuss It
This isn’t a tip just for talking about therapy, it’s simple Teenagers 101 — do not bring up difficult topics at the wrong moment! Counseling and treatment is a delicate subject, especially because teenagers often take it to mean that something is wrong with them. If their emotions are already heightened by stress or other unrelated tension, they’re probably not going to take the news well.
This is a conversation that’s best-suited for a calm, stress-free atmosphere. Bring it up when your teenager is in a good mood, and when you know you have time to have a real discussion that won’t be cut off. And, of course, it’s always best if you can find an organic window to discuss the issue instead of just jumping right into it. Ask them about their life. Get a read on how they’re doing. With any luck, you can navigate the conversation to where you want it without feeling like you’re forcing the issue.
Help Them to Not Feel Judged
At Kaizen Academy, we focus on sexual behavioral problems, and due to the nature of these issues, it’s pretty hard not to be walking on eggshells when you have a conversation about it. There’s a sense of taboo around sexual topics in general, so if your teenager is struggling with problems such as sex addiction or pornography, it’s highly likely they’ll feel some guilt or shame about it. Unfortunately, these feelings can be greatly compounded if they feel like they’re being judged.
This is a tricky line to walk. If you go easy on them, they may feel like there’s not a problem at all and their behavior is justified. If you lean too far in the other direction, they’ll feel like there’s something wrong with them and that you want to “fix” them. And, of course, the idea of being fixed implies that they’re damaged goods. Once your teenage son feels like you’re looking at him in this light, it can be demoralizing for him and may only make things worse.
Do everything you can to make your teenager feel loved and respected. Help them to understand that everyone needs help with certain things in life and that their problem isn’t something to feel ashamed about. With the right tone, it’s possible to acknowledge a real problem while still showing empathy and love.
Focus On the Tangible
Try not to focus on the moral aspect of their sexual behavioral problems. Don’t make them feel like it’s bad simply because it’s bad — help them understand tangible reasons why they’d benefit from treatment.
Take pornography addiction, for example. Pornography can cause changes in brain chemistry that can be highly problematic over sustained periods of time. Instead of telling your son that pornography is a sleazy sin or an amoral habit, consider helping them to understand how it could affect their actual brain in the long-term. They’re more likely to acknowledge a problem when there are tangible, comprehensible consequences. Likewise, it’s easier to accept help when there are clear advantages to accepting treatments.
The problem with intangible motivations is that they’re often relative. Again, using pornography as an example, you can tell them that it’s wrong for moral reasons, but that’s not something that everybody can agree on. Parents and religious figures may disparage pornography, while folks on the other side of the spectrum see it in a positive light. If you can’t please everyone, what’s the point in even trying?
Admit That You Don’t Have All the Answers
At Kaizen Academy, we’ve found that sexual behavioral problems are rarely an isolated problem; more often than not, they’re symptomatic of other issues such as depression and loneliness. By focusing solely on the sexual aspect, you may be ignoring the bigger problems that need to be tackled first, and these are things that may be out of your league. There is a reason why professionals exist in the world of psychology, psychiatry, and therapy — these are difficult, complex issues and your teen may respond well if you admit that you’re not wholly qualified.
Ask them if they would feel more comfortable talking to somebody who’s professionally trained to tackle these types of problems. Help them to see why it might be advantageous to confide in someone who’s not so deeply connected to them. Counseling and therapy for teenagers can be therapeutic because it allows them to truly address their problems without the complicated baggage that loved ones may bring to the table.
Don’t focus on yourself. Remove yourself from the equation as much as possible. Your child needs to understand that they’re not doing this to please you, but that they’re doing it to help themselves. This is about them, so by admitting your own shortcomings and acknowledging that others may know better, it’s an indication that you have their best interests in mind.
Give Them the Choice to Try It Out
First off, it’s important to note that some problems are non-negotiable. If your teenager is struggling with behaviors that are harmful to other people, you might need to enroll them in a residential treatment center regardless of their personal feelings. But not every problem has that kind of intense urgency, and in those cases, you may have more luck allowing your son to decide for himself to pursue treatment.
When you drag a teenager kicking and screaming, they could end up resenting the entire process and only end up worse because of it. But when they make the choice themselves, they’ll be much more receptive to change.
We recommend offering your teenager a chance to give it a try without committing to a long-term program from the get-go. It often helps when they can meet prospective therapists and counselors and then try out a couple of sessions. While our program is a residential treatment center rather than a walk-in office, we’re always happy to meet and greet with any teenagers who are open-minded enough to give the Kaizen Academy a try.
Do you want to get your son started in our boys’ residential treatment center? We focus on helping our teenagers from every possible angle. Our teenage counseling is among the best in the state, and we will also help your son to grow in other important areas. Contact us today to get started!