Ep 291: Parenting a "Problem Child"

Kristina Kuzmic, author of I Can Fix This and Other Lies I Told Myself While Parenting My Struggling Child, shares personal insights on handling teen depression, substance use, and the importance of connection over control in parent-child relationships.

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Full Show Notes

Parenting a struggling teen comes with challenges that can often feel insurmountable. Whether you're facing issues like lying, substance use, tantrums, or even violence and aggression, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and at a loss for solutions. Understanding how to foster an environment where your child feels seen and supported—despite the chaos—can make a significant difference in both your lives.

When Kristin Kuzmic's son began showing signs of severe depression and substance use during his teen years, she embarked on a journey to understand, support, and ultimately help him heal. Her story, detailed in her latest book, I Can Fix This and Other Lies I Told Myself While Parenting My Struggling Child, offers a wealth of knowledge for parents in similar situations.

Joining us on the show today, Kristina explains how her initial reluctance about sharing her journey turned into a powerful testimony of the strength and resilience required to parent a struggling child. With her son’s blessing and contribution, the book became a crucial resource for parents dealing with similar issues.

Identifying Signs of Struggle

Kristina noticed her son's change in behavior around age 12—what began as typical teenage mood swings escalated into serious signs of depression. From isolating behaviors to violent outbursts, Kristina's home became a battleground. Persistent therapy sessions seemed futile until the deeper issues at play were properly identified as clinical depression. Recognizing that these behaviors are symptoms of deeper issues, not simple teenage rebellion, was a vital step in addressing his struggles.

Connection Over Control

A theme that permeates Kristina’s approach is the necessity of connection over control. She emphasizes that the first instinct of many parents—controlling behavior—is often counterproductive. Instead, she advocates for a connection-driven approach, focusing on truly understanding your child’s individual struggles and needs. Practical steps like using grounding techniques and calming your own responses to their actions can open up channels for genuine communication and support.

The Power of Showing Up

Throughout Luca’s most troubling times, Kristina maintained a constant presence in his life, even when he tried pushing her away. This persistent showing up helped build a foundation of trust that eventually allowed her son to turn to her in his moments of deepest need. This approach is a testament to the importance of being physically and emotionally present, even when it feels like you're not making a difference.

Navigating the Maze of Mental Health Support

From psychiatric care to residential treatment centers, Kristina and her family navigated the complex mental health system. She shares valuable advice on making these decisions and finding the right support systems while emphasizing the importance of consent and involvement from the struggling teen.

The Overlooked "Good" Child

While dealing with a struggling child, it’s easy to overlook siblings who appear to be coping well. Kristina warns parents against this oversight, sharing how her daughter suffered silently while maintaining a facade of stability. Ensuring that all children in a family receive the attention and support they need, regardless of apparent signs of distress, is crucial.

Self-Care is Not Selfish

Kristina discusses the often neglected topic of parental self-care. Facing the immense emotional toll of supporting a struggling teen, parents might feel guilty for any self-indulgence or personal time. However, Kristina argues that taking care of oneself is also an essential part of being an effective, compassionate parent. Both her anecdotal experiences and the transformative advice from her friend Zach highlight that parents maintaining their personal well-being inadvertently lift a significant burden off their children.

Communicate Clearly, Even with a Spouse

Another key element Kristina found beneficial was maintaining open communication with her spouse through daily emails. This practice allowed them to express emotions and concerns without confrontation, resulting in a stronger partnership and a united front in dealing with their son’s struggles.

In the Episode...

Throughout our conversation, Kristina offers profound wisdom and practical advice for parents dealing with similar challenges. Other topics we cover include:

- How to address violent behavior stemming from depression
- Strategies for creating a trust-based rather than control-based relationship
- How enforcing too much consistency may actually be counterproductive
- How to spot signs of hidden depression in “good” kids

If you are a parent, guardian, or anyone concerned about a struggling teen, you won't want to miss this episode. Kristina Kuzmic’s book, I Can Fix This and Other Lies I Told Myself While Parenting My Struggling Child, provides a deeply personal yet universally valuable account. For more updates, Kristina can be found on social media under @KristinaKuzmic. Don’t forget to share and subscribe for more insightful episodes like this one!

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Creators and Guests

Andy Earle
Andy Earle
Host of the Talking to Teens Podcast and founder of Write It Great
Kristina Kuzmic
Kristina Kuzmic
Author of HOLD ON, BUT DON’T HOLD STILL and I CAN FIX THIS, Immigrant from Croatia, Over 1 Billion video views on FB, Recovering pessimist, Carb addict
Ep 291: Parenting a "Problem Child"
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