Many of the teenagers that I see for psychotherapy come to therapy believing that no one loves them. They tell me their parents don’t love them, their siblings don’t care about them and no one at school cares about them. They feel they are unloveable and no one cares if they live or die. Because they have this belief, they don’t care about themselves. They don’t care how they are doing in school and they see no future for themselves.
There are many reasons why children have this feeling about themselves. For some their parents were drug addicts, for some they were sexually or physically abused, some have gone from foster home to foster home their entire lives. They why or how teenagers developed this attitude is not always the most important issue. What matters is they have this belief and what this belief can do to their lives.
Many teenagers who feel unlovable turn to drugs or alcohol to numb these feelings. Some turn to self-mutilating behaviors such as cutting again as a way to numb these feelings or punishing themselves. Many usually become sexually active at an very early age. They equate sex with love. Also many of these teens become involved with gangs and bullying. The gangs serve as a psedufamily for the teenagers. The bullying is another way these teens numb out their pain. They believe by making someone else look weak that it makes them look strong and people will respect them.
The above are a few ways that teenagers deal with feeling unlovable. However, the number of teenagers who feel this way are creating numerous problems for everyone. As a result of teens feeling unlovable, we have a severe drug problem in the teenage population. Teenagers are dying from accidental drug over dosages at an epidemic rate. The number of teens using drugs is at an epidemic rate. Cutting, suicide and being murdered are all at epidemic rates for teenagers. All because they don’t feel loved.
We are receiving this message in many ways. In Disney’s movie, Frozen, they mention that people make poor choices and do hurtful things because they feel unloved. The movie goes further to say that if people feel loved you would be amazed at how they can change. Oprah in her last show commented on one thing she had learned from her show was that everyone wants to know that they are important to someone and that someone sees them and cares about what they say and do. Challenge Day, a program designed to work with teenagers, believes all teens deserved to feel loved and cared for by people. I have worked with Challenge Day and I am amazed every time that once this big, tough teenager ends up crying on the floor when he realizes that he is lovable.
Valentine’s Day is this week and is about love. We know love makes a difference to many people so why not teenagers? The teenagers I work with don’t really want to be the tough guy. They want to know that they are lovable. When I tell a teen in therapy that they deserve to be loved, they think I’m crazy. They test me in numerous ways to throw them out of my office. They are testing to the point I made that they are lovable. They try everything they can think of to prove me wrong. I hold strong and tell them I won’t change my mind and I will not give up. I will not throw them out of therapy. If they decide to walk out that is their choice and I can’t stop it. I also let them know if they do walk out my door will always be open.
After testing me, many of these teens decide they are worth it and decide to make a future for themselves. It is amazing to see and it is very nice to see. However, there are those teenagers who walk out and that is very disappointing. It’s not disappointing because I lost it is disappointing because this teenager will continue to live in pain.
The main point is that Challenge Day, Alive and Free (another program for teens) and other therapist like myself cannot be the only ones trying to help teenagers. We need everyone to help. Parents, teachers, physicians, psychotherapists, the juvenile justice system and our communities. We need to let children know from the day that they are born that they deserve to be loved and that they are important members of our society. We cannot continue to wait until these children are teenagers to tell them they are lovable. As a teenager it is too easy not to listen. If we start when they are babies, they will grow up with a sense that they are important and deserved to be loved. This could help reduce how many teens turn to drugs or violence.
So this Valentine’s Day, think about how you can show a teenager that they deserve to be loved and that they are important. If everyone starts with one teenager, you would be surprised the changes you can make in someone’s life.
Dr. Michael Rubino specializes in treating children and teenagers. He has over 20 years experience treating teenagers. If you want more information about Dr. Rubino visit his website at www.rubinocounseling.com or like his Facebook page www.facebook.com/drrubino3.