Has your teen has lost someone important or experienced something traumatic?
You might see a change in their attitude, behavior and emotions as the anniversary of the event approaches.
This is normal. We all do this, even if we’ve never noticed before.
One fascinating discovery I've made as an adult has been the impact anniversaries have on me. Certain types of anniversaries have been obvious for a long time. These include my birthday and my parents' wedding anniversary. For me, these have always been happy occasions that I recognize with warm feelings.
I had never thought about the impact of a different type of anniversary before: Bad ones. Hard ones. Traumatic ones.
It took becoming a social worker to help me understand. Working with people who have experienced very difficult or traumatic events helped me realize how much those anniversaries mean. I have them, too. I'd just never realized it before.
The memories of difficult times and events stick with us.
Even your teen.
Believe it or not, they need YOUR help to get through. They need help learning to cope.
Your son or daughter may need extra comfort. They might need help coping with the feelings that hard anniversaries bring up.
Some of the anniversaries to keep in mind include:
What can a parent do to help?
First, figure out a way to remember the date. If it is as significant to you as them, this is simple. Some events might be less obvious and harder for you to remember. For example, the date of an awful break-up, an accident or when you told them about your divorce. Put this date somewhere. Your journal, your calendar, your phone. Anywhere that works for you.
Start paying attention as soon as a month before the event. This will help you will recognize signs of distress and stress in your son or daughter. They might be big and obvious, but they could also be more subtle. To be fair, some teens might actually be fine. Keep an eye out anyway.
Remember that every teen will respond in their own unique way. Here are a few that I’ve seen:
If you begin to notice a change in their demeanor or behavior, check in. It is alright to remind them that a difficult anniversary is approaching. It is possible that they do not know why they feel so “off.” They may also deny that they are being affected by the anniversary. This is alright. Your goal in this moment is to assure them that they can come to you if they ever aren’t okay.
Once your teen is ready to talk, here are a few DOS and DON’TS:
Have you or your teen ever done something to honor a loved one that has died or a difficult event? I’d love to hear your story. Leave a comment below!
Struggling how to help your child with the death of someone significant? Read more here.
Bethany Raab is a Denver-based social worker who loves helping teens and their families be happy and healthy!