Ask Dr. Allen: Helping kids figure it out

Dr. Greg Allen, founder of Freedom4U, holds teen improv, concerts and art workshops in the beach cities and Palos Verdes. Photo by David Fairchild (

What forms our kids’ personalities, their outlook on life, their view on relationships, people, society, our country? Do you ever wonder who they are developing into? What experiences are sticking with them in terms of forming the adults they will become?

Experiences have significance, both good and bad experiences. For difficult encounters, try as we may to forget them, they still stick within us, forming our perception of the world.

Each significant experience (not only those that are traumatic), should be processed to discover their aftereffects within us.

Establishing a way to process life experiences is necessary for healthy living. One way to do this is for family members to check in with each other to discuss what has transpired. What were the feelings and thoughts connected to what happened in the moments the event occurred? What are the leftover feelings?

Options for dealing with the aftereffects could be just letting it go, and moving on, or spending time processing it through discussion, journaling or getting more support. Another option might be to revisit the people involved in the experience we are struggling to let go of.

Our task as parents is to track what our kids are going through daily. Our goal is to help them understand their hearts and minds and ultimately pull some good from difficult experiences. In time we will find consistent themes that seem to trip them up, and understand their vulnerabilities. This might be how peers treat them, or what bothers them the most.

We have to learn to let go of difficult times we went through. This doesn’t mean we don’t care or that we will allow it to happen again, but sometimes we can only examine something so much and then it needs to be surrendered.

Stepping back allows us to see a different perspective on what happened.

We have an opportunity to learn something meaningful from going through a hard time.

Process life with your kids. Allow for open ended discussions, along with time to reflect. Be patient when processing difficult experiences. Take time to process, this could be days, weeks or months. Meaningful conclusions don’t come quickly.

We learn from going through hard times. Allow kids the mental, emotional, and physical space to reflect, express, and ultimately learn from going through difficult experiences. This will develop positive character qualities and a healthier outlook on the future. ER

Dr Greg Allen is a therapist (, and Director of Freedom4U (, and Hearts Respond, ( Pen


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