Parenting a troubled teenager can be a complex and stressful experience. Some common problems parents may encounter include difficulty communicating with their teenagers, a lack of cooperation or compliance, behavioral issues, and emotional difficulties.
Parenting a troubled teenager can be a complex and stressful experience.
Dealing with a teenager's defense mechanisms requires skill, self-awareness, and self-control.
Some common problems that parents may encounter include difficulty communicating with their teenager, a lack of cooperation or compliance, behavioral issues, and emotional difficulties.
Communication issues can lead to feelings of frustration, helplessness, and exhaustion for parents.
It is important for parents to seek support and guidance in addressing behavioral and communication problems, as they can be overwhelming to handle alone.
Wednesday Addams' complex interactions with her therapist and the defenses she adopts are typical of the complexities that adolescents face when seeking help.
Court assigned therapy
In the first episode of the Netflix series, we see that Wednesday is required to participate in weekly therapy sessions per a court order. Court-assigned therapy for teenagers can be a challenging and often stressful experience, especially if the teenager does not feel that they are getting anything out of the therapy or are resistant to the process.
Wednesday is clearly on the defensive in these sessions, as viewers see from her exchanges with her therapist. Her facial expressions and body posture reveal her underlying sense of threat and danger.
Defense mechanisms are psychological strategies that people use to protect themselves from feelings of anxiety, stress, or threat. These mechanisms are often unconscious and are used to distort or modify reality in some way to protect the individual from difficult or unpleasant emotions. Some common defense mechanisms include:
- Denial. Refusing to accept or acknowledge a difficult or unpleasant reality.
- Repression. Pushing difficult or unpleasant memories or thoughts out of consciousness.
- Projection. Attributing one's own thoughts, feelings, or behaviors to someone else.
- Displacement. Directing one's own emotions towards a less threatening person or object.
Strategies for lowering defenses
Wednesday's therapist is very confrontational and, at times, sarcastic. She also makes a lot of assumptions and judgments about Wednesday. For example, she says things like, “Oh look, you made it through the entire session without trying to escape!” and “I read all about you before we met!”
Examples of Wednesday’s defensive statements to her therapist:
“My personal philosophy is kill or be killed” (As she jumps up to leave);
- “Don't try to lure me into one of your psychological traps.”;
- “Emotions are a gateway trait.” They lead to feelings, which trigger tears. “I don’t do tears.”
Any teenager (or adult, for that matter) would react defensively to this type of engagement. It is the polar opposite of what a skilled and experienced therapist would do. Parents can learn from this as well. Here are a few suggestions for decreasing teens' defenses and fostering meaningful conversations:
- Show genuine interest and concern. Demonstrate to the teenager that you are genuinely interested in their thoughts and feelings and that you care about them. This can help to create a sense of trust and connection, which can lead to lowering their defenses.
- Use open-ended questions. Rather than asking closed-ended questions (questions that can be answered with a simple “yes” or “no”), try using open-ended questions that encourage the teenager to share more about their thoughts and feelings.
- Acknowledge and validate their emotions, even if you disagree with them. This can help to create a sense of understanding and connection, which can help to lower their defenses.
- Avoid criticism or judgment, as this will immediately lead to heightened defensiveness. Instead, try to be empathic and non-judgmental.
- Be patient. It may take time for the teenager's defenses to come down, so be patient and give them space if needed. It can be helpful to create a safe and supportive environment where they feel comfortable opening up.
None of the above is easy for a busy parent and will take a lot of skill, self-awareness, and self-control. However, by actively listening to your teenager, you can show them that you care about their experiences and concerns and are willing to listen and support them. This will help strengthen your relationship and foster a sense of connection and trust.
Reasons teens may seek treatment
Even though Wednesday has to go to therapy because the court ordered her to, there are many reasons why a teen might benefit from attending therapy. Some possible reasons include the following:
- Dealing with difficult emotions. Adolescence can be emotionally challenging, as teenagers often deal with a range of intense and complex feelings. Therapy can provide a safe and supportive space for teenagers to explore and process these emotions and to develop healthy coping mechanisms for managing them.
- Improving relationships. Therapy can be a helpful way for teenagers to improve their relationships with family members and friends. It can provide an opportunity to work through conflicts, develop communication skills, and build stronger and more supportive relationships.
- Coping with stress and anxiety. Many teenagers experience stress and anxiety related to school, relationships, and other challenges of adolescence. Therapy can provide a space for teenagers to discuss their worries and fears and to develop strategies for healthily managing stress and anxiety.
- Coping with trauma or abuse. If a teenager has experienced trauma or abuse, therapy can be an important way to process their experiences and begin healing. A therapist can provide a safe and supportive space for teenagers to talk about their feelings and work through any related issues.
- Improving self-esteem and self-image. Teenagers can often struggle with these issues. Therapy can help teenagers to explore and understand their thoughts and feelings about themselves and to develop a more positive and healthy sense of self.
One of the series' most memorable episodes was when the Addams family met with the therapist for a family therapy session. This was interesting because the family dynamics were highlighted, and all dysfunctions were displayed.
Family therapy with teenagers can be a helpful way to address issues or conflicts within the family and promote communication and understanding. In family therapy, a therapist works with the entire family to explore and address the family's concerns and conflicts. Family therapy can help a teen feel heard and understood. It can also help improve communication within the family and strengthen family bonds. It is important to find a therapist who is experienced in working with families and who can create a safe and supportive environment for therapy.
It is important for parents to seek guidance and assistance while addressing communication and behavioral issues, as they can be daunting to face alone. By getting professional support and collaborating with their adolescent, parents can work towards finding solutions and supporting their teenagers through their challenges.
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