Parenting a teenager isn’t always easy. It could be even more of a challenge when it comes to parenting an adolescent with borderline personality disorder (BPD). Living with BPD can be frustrating, confusing, and difficult for loved ones to understand.
As your teenager’s parent, you want to do your best to understand what your child is going through and how to help them cope. In this guide, we’ll give you some tips on how to parent a teen with borderline personality disorder. Keep reading to learn more.
Explaining the consequences of poor decisions may work on other teens, but it’s best to focus on the emotional aspect when it comes to teens with borderline personality disorder. Teens with BPD need a lot of emotional support. To better understand or even hear the logical reasoning of a poor decision’s damaging consequences, they need to know that their parent or guardian understands and empathizes with their emotional needs first.
A teen diagnosed with borderline personality disorder are prone to self-harming behaviors. These self-harming behaviors may include picking, cutting, hitting, bruising, and restrictive dieting.
It’s important to understand that using logic to explain the ill-effects of these behaviors does not work with teens diagnosed with BPD. What you need to do as a parent is understand your teen’s emotional trauma, which led to these self-harming behaviors.
It’s also crucial that, as a parent, you take suicidal behavior seriously. Suicidal tendencies can begin as early as 12 years old. With age, suicidal thoughts and idealization may turn into attempts. Any comment or attempt needs to be taken seriously and treated by a professional, regardless of the severity.
To avoid feeling intense pain, someone diagnosed with borderline personality disorder may disassociate. Dissociation is a defense and coping mechanism where the individual mentally “checks out” or steps outside of their body. If you notice your teen losing track of time and place or struggle to accurately recall details of an event, it could be part of their disassociating defense mechanism.
If you feel like your teen is constantly lying or remembering things differently, sometimes they’re likely lying unintentionally. When your teen disassociates, their mind “checks out,” so they aren’t fully present.
When they aren’t fully present, it is harder for them to have an accurate recollection of events. Sometimes they may have details confused or won’t even be able to recall what they said moments ago.
When a kid dissociates, they are not fully present and therefore do not have an accurate memory of the event. Your teen really doesn’t remember, so their lying is unintentional. Punishing your teen for lying only intensifies their fear of abandonment or elicits mistrust in their relationship with you.
A fear of abandonment is common in teens diagnosed with BPD, but the fear is even more intense if they have actually been abandoned at one point in their lives. Abandonment isn’t always physical such as a parent who has left. Abandonment can also be emotional abandonment as well. Emotional abandonment could be a parent who ignores or neglects, refuses to spend one-on-one time, lacks empathy, or is always overworking.
When it comes to traditional parenting, we use effective and direct statements that are short and sweet. When parenting a teen diagnosed with BPD, it’s best to parent in a passive way versus a direct way.
For example, with directing parenting, you would help your teens find solutions for problems. With passive parenting, you help draw the solutions out of them or help them figure it out on their own. First, empathize with their emotions by saying something like, “That sounds frustrating.” Then ask your teen how they’re going to handle it. Only provide a solution if your teen asks you for one.
If you feel like your teen is controlling when acting up, understand that this is actually them reflecting how out of control they feel. This is them desperately trying to get someone to feel as deeply as they do about a specific matter.
Often they don’t want to be in control or don’t even know how to be in control. They just need someone to empathize with them so they can feel a sense of normalcy.
Addictive behaviors that begin before the age of 14 have the tendency to become problematic for the rest of that person’s life. Addictions can vary from video games to illegal drugs. If you notice any signs of early addictions in your teenager, contact a professional right away so they can help your teen confront and deal with any of these behaviors.
Most kids grow out of the “temper tantrum” stage by the time they are five years old. However, those with borderline personality disorder do not. What actually happens is that the rage they experience seems to intensify. Their rage intensifies the less they feel heard, understood, or feel like someone is empathizing with their emotions.
What every teen diagnosed with borderline personality disorder needs is unconditional love, or anyone struggling with their mental health in general, needs is unconditional love. You need to show them this love and that there is a deep attachment between you two.
Your teen needs a love that feels safe and secure, especially when they are prone to fears of abandonment. Your teen’s perspective matters most, so try to ask if they feel unconditionally loved by you.
Parenting a teenager diagnosed with borderline personality disorder isn’t easy and may even seem overwhelming at times. When you have a better understanding of the symptoms or what’s typical and what isn’t, you’ll be better at giving your teen what they need.
In the end, parenting a teen diagnosed with BPD comes down to unconditional love, patience, and knowing when to get help from a professional. If you want to get your teen or someone in your family help right now, please do not hesitate to contact us at Boyce Family Recovery Solutions.