We hear from parents all the time that they work hard to support their teen to use their coping skills only to be met with this stuck feeling that the skill won’t actually calm their teen down. This can be scary for parents whose teens are struggling with dark thoughts.
The truth is, deep breaths are just one piece of the puzzle. It’s actually not that easy for teens with big feelings to stop, notice the big feeling in its intensity and take action. Taking a deep breath can work, but a teen has to catch it early or to do it long enough to calm the body’s nervous system, which is activated every time your teen feels a big feeling.
This is quite a challenge for a teen who judges themselves for even having the big feelings in the first place. We work with teens to first acknowledge their emotion and stop the judgment. Saying “don’t worry” or “everyone has feelings” isn’t impactful for teens who feel deeply.
What we help teens realize is that even if you feel big feelings, and feel singled out because of this, there are still people out there like you, and it’s why our groups are so helpful. Teens learn the strategies without venting about their days when they come to group (because that’s counterproductive in DBT, and why we actually call it skills class, not skills group!)
They feel a part of a community without being overwhelmed, and when they witness the skills working for other teens they feel engaged enough to try them at home even if their parents have struggled to get them to do it on their own before. And parents feel supported because in skills class it’s built into the curriculum to achieve motivation for your teen to do the skills and accountability to follow through… Parents are always happy to stop nagging if it means they’re not giving up or giving in!
Teens get the support they need to make actionable change, take ownership over their emotions and actions without shame, and learn to stop the self-judgment and panic.