As I watched the price of oil plummet on the stock market today, it reminded me of some of the feelings I have had as a parent. For those who watch the stock market like I do, you might also be aware of the ’emotional cycle of investing.’ It is the wave of emotion that we feel as we follow the ebbs and flows of the stock market. When the market is going up we tend to be overly optimistic and can even become greedy, losing sight of the warning signs and the need to sell. At the height of our confidence, the market usually reverses and begins to head down. But we tend to be indifferent, believing that the market will right itself shortly. Of course, as we have seen lately in oil prices or with the banks in 2008, this sentiment can quickly turn from indifference to fear and despair. Many investors decide to sell at this very low point. Tired of losing money and angry with themselves for not selling sooner, they give up and get out of the market. At first, they are often relieved that they have taken action and are back in control. Of course, these feelings are short lived as the market capitulates and begins to head back up.
Life with teens can often feel like this emotional roller coaster. When things are going well, it is easy to become complacent and not notice new risky behaviors or to allow negative attitudes to slide. When things are hardest, it is easy to feel trapped and hopeless. This can be especially true for parents when their teen is away from home and in a therapeutic facility. At first, there is great optimism. The placement of the teen feels like a major hurdle has been overcome and our hope as parents is sky high. This upward momentum lasts for various lengths of time, but I can guarantee after watching this cycle for the past twenty-four years, difficulty is coming. It’s impossible for stocks to only go up, just like it’s unrealistic to expect that people will grow in only one direction. Problems will occur in any setting, and while parents will often remain committed to the process at first and promise to be long-term investors, the crisis deepens and tests the resolve of even the strongest parents.
It is helpful to remember that your teen is also going through an emotional cycle. They are also working through emotions like denial, telling themselves that this is not going to happen to them. Proclaiming that this situation just can’t be true, and that they are not staying in a program. Maybe they are experiencing a need to bargain, or are confused, asking themselves, “Why did this happen to me? I am not so bad…my friends are worse.” This can lead to feelings of depression, being trapped, hopelessness or anger.
So, Mom and Dad, don’t sell your stock at its lowest price when things look the most desperate. Don’t panic and quit when the therapeutic program is reporting a lack of change in your teen. Markets take time to reverse and so do teens. When a teen is struggling the most and things seem the bleakest, this is often when they will finally capitulate and begin the process of positive growth. So try to be grateful in these moments of despair. Try to be calm when you might actually be very nervous. Lean more heavily into meditation and spiritual reflection to gain a proper perspective and peace.