Parent of Someone Who Has Been Bullied, Abused or Hurt: What to do now that you know.
Remember your child is the SAME person they always were. Your child may even be an adult now, but they have not changed the core of who they are; thus tapping into what feels like your relationship – shared interests, hobbies, even favorite foods can be comforting and remind you of who they are inside when things feel so unstable. Looking at pictures and having memories that support seeing them as a whole person with a history can help you and them see that this s only a piece of the puzzle of who they are in totality.
- You will have MANY emotions, even at the same time. Just because you are not the one it happened to does not mean you are not affected. It is normal to have times you are quiet and have a blank mind that is so overwhelmed it seems frozen, and time that you are so full of ideas and anger, sadness, and energy that you feel you might burst. Remember that all these emotions are good and to allow yourself to feel them and not judge yourself. Using the energy to get things done or to talk or journal about your feelings is great. Journaling can be in handwriting, voice command, making a collage, drawing, painting, basically anything to get the feelings out. Making art can be abstract and not specific – it helps you process and get through the feelings even without being specific.
- It is not your fault. You may find yourself looking back to the events that happened for “red flags” that you “should” have looked into. Usually, a caring parent does not see something wrong and ignore it. Small things happen every day and with the hindsight at 20/20, we paint a different picture of what we experienced. Our new knowledge colors the past in shame, guilt, and hurt. Remember that you acted on what info you had and you trusted in the basic goodness of people and in your child. You did not ask for this, you could not have acted in a different way. Now is the time to handle the present with mindfulness and being in the present, not wrapped up in the past. Allow yourself to process these emotions, but be careful not to get stuck with shame and guilt that sidetracks you from being present in the issue and life today.
- It seems it will NEVER end. It is normal to feel that this will be a part of your and their life forever. It may seem exhausting to talk about or listen to the same things over and over. Many people need to process by repeating their feelings and thoughts. It is ok to listen and then also ok to say you need a small break and help them find someone else.
Remember that this is big, but it is PART of life, not the whole thing! You are in one moment of your life and you will move to another. Even in this moment, you have times that the issue is not part of what you are doing or thinking. It is good to remind yourself that you are sleeping, eating, going to school/work, and doing things that have nothing to do with the issue. These are all part of your life too.
When it comes to legal issues or other hard things you must manage with this, remember that you do not need to deal with them daily. Set aside a day and time to gather info, call lawyers, etc. to deal with the issue and give yourself time off for the rest of the week. Usually 1-2 times a week will do. You do not need this to encompass your whole life. You have MUCH more to your life than this.
If you imagine your whole life and see what it looks like when you are 80 – how much time and energy was taken on the issue? When will it no longer be a daily, weekly, even a thing you deal with? Looking at the light at the end of the tunnel is good – there is not just light, but a whole life full of years that can be past this issue.
- Let them know there is help. As a apparent you want to be there for your child, even if they are an adult. It is good to tell them this and be concrete in what you can offer. Offer to listen, to talk, to handle legal issues or other stressful things related to the issue, to have good times with them so that they can get their mind off things, or simply to be physically there so that they are not lonely.
Try to be open to help that seems small. This can be a test to see if you are really there. Also, when people need help, they often need to just be themselves and be positive for a while, or talk a bit, but may not be in tears and look a mess. Know that just being a support that is there and present matters – it battles loneliness and isolation. You cannot make the person use you and do not strong-arm into their lives, but be available.
Ideas for connecting:
*Tell them you are there and they can talk/text/etc. whenever and you will listen.
*Offer how you feel about the issue to show them it is ok to hurt, be angry, and to be confused. *Be honest and let them see you are human too.
*Do something fun – get out of the rut of the stress and do something you enjoyed in the past or even something new.
*Do the same-old-same-old. Having traditions, ruts, stability are great. This may be getting donuts on a Saturday, ordering pizza on a Tuesday, watching TV together, going to a movie, or just going for a walk. Do not change the flow and course of normal life. These predictable things help us have a sense of stability and that is exactly what your child needs now.
- Take Care of yourself. Often we do not realize that being so close to something bug can affect us too. This is a marathon, not a sprint, so take time to not deal with it, time you can shut off your phone, and talk to people about your feelings and get help as you need too. If you are not well, you cannot be there for them.
Dr. Chelsie Reed, PhD, LPC 480-855-4009 drchelsie.com
Counselor in Chandler, AZ that can assist those ages 4+ as individuals, couples, or family in with most life issues. Available in Chandler, online webcam counseling, and in group settings.
Mental Health Crisis line for Maricopa County 602-222-9444
24/7 call center and mobile counseling to help when you need to chat or need intervention. Everything from a friendly ear to in-person help for suicidal thoughts or need to find hospitalization. You can tell them a fake name even to feel more anonymous.
Teen Lifeline http://teenlifeline.org/ 480-440-3242
24/7 chat center for teens who need to talk about emotions or feel suicidal.
|1-800-SUICIDE 1-800-784-2433 National Suicide Hotline & Chat||1-800-273-TALK 1-800-273-8255 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline & Chat|
Other hotlines: http://www.suicidehotlines.com/arizona.html
Mental Health Resources: http://www.nami.org/
Find a Therapist/Counselor: PsychologyToday.com/Arizona