As parents, we mean well and want to help our kids. When we see our teens hurting, we want to try to make it better. Here's one of the most usually-well-meaning, but often the most potentially-damaging, things we can say to our kids: "Buck up!" or, "Get over it!"
While it's not a good idea to wallow in bad or negative feelings for an extended period of time, it is healthy and necessary to feel your feelings. Saying this to your kids encourages them to block out and numb their feelings, which can result in unhealthy coping mechanisms like alcohol or drug use.
When you dismiss their feelings as being unimportant, you lessen the likelihood they will ever come to you to talk about anything.
What your kids need instead is validation. And empathy. Remember middle school and high school and all the drama? Remember how hard it was to feel like you fit in and how important your friends were to you? Remember that first crush... and how devastated you were when he/she didn't return your level of affection? Those feelings were real to you then. Just like your teen's feelings are real to him/her now.
Many teens feel very intense emotions. They are experiencing things they have not ever experienced and they often don't know how to handle it. They don't know what is "normal," and often, they feel abnormal. And scared. When you share how you felt when you experienced those things, it can be such a relief for them to realize that someone else has felt the same way as they do. It will help them feel closer to you when they realize you have these things in common.
When your teen is in pain, what he/she needs the most is for you to just be there wherever he/she is in that moment -- right in the middle of the emotions. Picture it as a roller coaster ride: teens in pain just need you to sit right there next to them, holding their hands on the ride.
Tell your teen what he is feeling is normal. Hard, uncomfortable and painful, but normal. Tell her you admire her for her courage and strength in dealing with things. Tell him what you did when you were his age in that situation and what worked and what didn't.
Once your teen feels connected to you and safe to talk about anything, then he/she will be much more open to your help and advice.
For more parenting help, go to www.joycelinder.net. Or order Joyce's new book,"Parental Guidance: a School Counselor's Guide to Understanding and Raising Today's Tweens and Teens".
Follow Joyce Linder on Twitter: www.twitter.com/JoyceLinder1
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