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Helping Your Teen Through Despair

There’s no way around it, at some point your kids is going to face disappointment, rejection, and hurt. Sometimes this can lead to despair. Despair is a loss of hope, believing that tomorrow won’t be any better than today. Despair is a powerful emotional state and a dangerous one if not healed and brought back to a place of hope again.

But there is a force that is stronger than despair. A force that studies have shown heals despair and restores hope. That force is a PARENT.

Parents are the most influential person in a teen’s life. There is no one more influential. No Friend, no teacher, no video game character, and no musician can compare to the influential power a parent has. With that power, parents have the greatest opportunity to restore hope to a teen in despair.

Research has found a common thread that heals despair, especially when it comes from a parent. Phycologist call it attunement. Attunement is deep emotional connectedness founded on empathy. Its a deep sense of love. When a teen feels this attunement from a parent, life change takes place.

Now every parent desires connection with their kids, but over time, teens begin to push back and sometimes push parents out, making seem impossible to emotionally connect. Though these are not easy to execute, these practical steps, over time, will produce emotional connectedness and help heal despair.

ATTUNE

A – ATTEND

Attend means to be present. Showing up physically but also mentally too.

T – TONE

So much of our communication is non-verbal. What we say matters, how we say it matters more.

T – TIME

As a child, the average parent spends 42 minutes a day of quality time with their kid. As a teen, the average parent spends 26 minutes a day of quality time with their teen. 3 hours a week of quality time isn’t enough. If you have a 6th grader, you only have 364 weeks left before they graduate. If you have a 10th grader, you only have 156 weeks left before they graduate. How can you maximize that time?

U – UNPLUG

One day I was scrolling on my phone when my 3 year old attempted to get my attention. “Dad. Dad! DADDDDD.” Finally she grabbed my chin and turned my face towards her, “DAAADDDDYYYYY! Look at Me.” We need time to unplug and be present… and so do they. Create some “No phone Zones” in your time together.

N – NOTICE

Notice the emotion of the moment. Sometimes we can unintentionally discredit the emotion a teen is feeling with logical or emotionless statements. Avoid cliches and take time to explore what they are really feeling, don’t assume, and meet them where they are. If you meet them where they are, you can guide them to somewhere else.

E – EYE-CONTACT

Eye Contact might be the super power of attunement. There is no act more powerful than eye contact. It is love in purist form and somehow, some way, encouraging words and eye contact starts to create new neuro pathways in the brain and heal despair.

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Will Hutch

Will Hutch is a motivational speaker, leadership expert, and global youth advocate. He is founder and president of Youth Leadership Collective, a nonprofit organization that partners with educators and parents to heal despair in teens.

2 Comments

  1. Trav Eslinger on March 27, 2019 at 12:33 pm

    Will, I heard this message on Nick Blevins’ podcast and though it was great. Thank you for your work.

    Can you cite the research you used to get your average quality time numbers? I’d like to use that in talking with the staff/parents that I serve.

    • Will Hutcherson on April 8, 2019 at 12:38 pm

      Hey Travis, Glad you enjoyed the podcast and found it helpful. That specific stat I heard from a breakout by Josh Shipp at Orange Conference in 2018. I have read comparable research and stats from Orange, Fuller, and Life Way.

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