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Helping Our Teens Go Inside To Find Their Joy

Written by Erica Ehm

My daughter’s nickname was Jessie Joy. By the time she was 15, she was enveloped in a negative cycle of depression and anxiety, with little joy in her life. You can imagine, as a parent, how terrifying and heartbreaking it is to watch your child’s sense of self crumble. No amount of love I tried to pour into her could “fix” her. She needed professional guidance to give her skills to climb out of the darkness and rediscover her joy.

The best thing I did was sign Jessie up for DBT Therapy at Broadview Psychology. The wait list to be in the program was six months long, but the agonizing wait was worth it. The program is based on DBT (Dialectical Behaviour Therapy) and it’s intensive. My daughter had to commit to attending a year of weekly sessions with a therapist, weekly group therapy with other teens and my husband and I had to attend mandatory bi-weekly parent meetings with other moms and dads with kids in the program.

My daughter, and many of the other teens in the program, are highly sensitive kids lacking skills to navigate the road to adulthood. Therapy gave her coping skills, tips and tricks to use when life feels overwhelming. It also gave my daughter and I a common language to discuss emotions, and a framework for my husband and I to parent her in a way that she needed.

She recently turned eighteen and is beginning to find her joy again. Just writing those words bring a lump to my throat, so proud of the hard work she’s done to rebuild her life and her sense of self.

My daughter inspired me to speak out about teen mental health for other heartbroken parents who feel powerless to help their kids. First, I started a private Facebook Group for parents of teens where they can vent, share resources, and know that they’re not alone. The conversations within the group are validating, kind and helpful – there’s a feeling that we’re all in this together and it's beautiful to see.

The truth is, teens are struggling now more than ever, but there are very few resources for parents to understand what to do. So, once again inspired by my daughter’s experience, I’ve co-founded the InsideOut Initiative, a not for profit to help teens discover what lights them up while giving parents a new framework to help their kids succeed. By encouraging our kids to follow their passions and discover their purpose, they become intrinsically motivated to succeed doing what they love.

At the end of the day, there’s nothing better than watching our kids find their unique path in life and rediscovering their joy, just like my daughter did. When our kids succeed, we all succeed.

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