How To Talk To A Self-Loathing Teenager

Do you have a teenager that consistently gets mad at his or herself? Your teenager may be dealing with the feeling of self-loathing or hating oneself. It’s difficult to see our children struggle with their emotions especially when it comes to ones that may be very toxic to the mind, body, and soul. When you witness frustration and anger turn inward within your teen, as a concerned parent you want answers, but they may not come easily. Talking is the answer, but how? What do you need to know for there to be an abundance of self-love and self-acceptance again, without sounding too parental or as if you know better?

Teenagers struggle with their desire to be independent. They desire to make unique choices that fully express who they are and at the same time it is difficult to fully know if their decision was right or wrong, good or bad, constructive or destructive, healthy or unhealthy. They desire to grow apart from you and at the same time are dependent on you, but for what? Here is where you come in.

Self-loathing is created when the values of judgment, perfection, integrity, and unique expression come into play with the experience your teenager is having. I’ll explain. When a choice has been made and your child perceives his or her choice to be less than perfect, or doesn’t hold up to the standard of “rightness” with which they were raised, and/or goes against his or her personal expression the result will be a self-condemning guilt for not having done better or not knowing better.

As parents it is good to be sensitive to the forming personality and character of your teenager. Being gracious when your teenager makes a mistake whether in your own eyes or his or hers is the beginning of allowing the self-loathing to release and start fresh. Making mistakes is a part of everyone’s growth as a human being.  Mistakes have the power to bring your teenager to the next level of thinking for which they reach. For example, if your teenager sneaks out to get drunk with a friend, they may have loved it because they were having fun, but hated it because they broke the rules (and the law). They may end up hating their desire to have fun (resulting in hating a part of themselves) because they temporarily thought they had to break the law to be their own unique person.

Getting clear on what drives your teenager to make the choices they do is key. When you understand what it is they want, then you may be able to provide resources, answers, and a way for them to make choices in a way that supports their better judgment, their integrity and their unique expression of who they are. Kindly though firmly asking them, “What do you want?” is the best question you could ask. Follow it with a compassionate and sincere, “What else?

Often times, teenagers won’t let themselves off the hook until something is learned. Direct the conversation toward a higher learning or perhaps ask them to discover what information (about themselves) was missed or needed for next time in order to make a better choice? A conversation full of acceptance and understanding will quell the stormy seas of a self-loathing teenager, and bring them back to self-love, acceptance and will give them room to deepen their character.

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