Teenagers and parents of teens are navigating uncharted territories. Since the COVID pandemic, teenagers went from busy social, school, sport, and church schedules to a halt in their regularly scheduled programming. Teenagers who were already struggling with pornography, drugs/alcohol, self-harm, depression, relationships, and anxiety were then confined to smaller spaces and missing their social outlets.Teenagers who were in Bible studies once a week and in church on Sunday mornings might have stopped going to church altogether because of the anxiety of everything swirling about them or because their churches halted services and gatherings.
As chaos built over those first few months, teenagers may be struggling, now more than ever, to feel connected. They may be longing for effective coping skills but are unsure of how to navigate these new, intense feelings, loss of connectedness, and sense of belonging.
Just like all human beings, teenagers long for a sense of purpose and identity, something that some teens find through team sports or by joining the school’s jazz band or drama club. Some teenagers like to give back, serving in their communities by helping with children’s sports and programs, volunteering at a nursing home, or babysitting on the weekends to help a young couple out.
7 Ways to Help Your Teenager Thrive
If you are a parent of a teenager, you might notice that they are quieter and more withdrawn than they used to be.
Here are a few simple things you can do to help your teen during these uncertain times:
1. Find creative ways for them to socialize.
Teenagers can spend one-on-one time with friends, get outside, and use Zoom to talk to a group of friends. COVID has sparked a surge of creativity as teenagers and adults are doing activities on Zoom like art classes, dinners with out-of-town friends and family, yoga, and group boxing classes.
You can encourage your teen to try something new by doing it as a family or encouraging them to try something that is out of their comfort zone. There are still things to learn and ways to grow – even if that looks different right now.
2. Ask for their ideas on ways to give back and serve others.
There are always ways for teenagers and families to get involved in the community and help others. To continue to confirm your teenager and help them grow, ask them for ideas of ways your family can serve others and the community, even from your own home.
As a family, you can make cards for healthcare workers, drop off a plate of cookies to first responders, make encouragement goodie bags for teachers, or leave flowers and a warm meal for a recent widow who is still homebound. The possibilities are endless. Let your teen lead the way and ask for their ideas of ways your family can encourage and help others.
3. Try to start more conversations.
Have family meals when you can. Engage in fun family game nights and movie nights. Try to make memories and have vulnerable conversations, especially when times are so uncertain. For teenagers, it is important to offer stability at home.
Here are a few starter questions to check in on their mental health:
- How are you feeling right now?
- How have you been sleeping?
- What did you do today that made you feel good?
- What is taking up most of your headspace lately?
- How can I support you right now?
- What are you grateful for right now?
- If there was something you could change about how things are going right now, what would it be?
- What is something that feels difficult right now?
4. Continue to offer support and hope for their futures.
While sports scholarships and school sports might look different right now, it is still important to get excited about their futures with them. Support them in their dreams and endeavors. Sit down with them and help them paint a picture of their dreams. Help them plan ways to be involved in the things that set their heart on fire.
Lady Bird Johnson said, “Encourage and support your kids because children are apt to live up to what you believe of them.”
5. Know that some teenagers may be grieving in their own way.
Maybe relationships have faded, school is different, they feel more anxious than normal, and sports and afterschool activities might be a new kind of adventure. It is important to support their feelings, continue to check in on them, and try to find ways to get involved in activities that bring them joy.
It is important that teenagers be equipped with healthy coping mechanisms and outlets, to avoid falling into a pit of loneliness, anxiety, and hopelessness. Encourage teenagers to be active, socialize when they can, and find activities that make their hearts soar. Encourage them to get involved in a small group Bible study, mentor someone, or start a new hobby.
6. Offer spiritual growth opportunities.
In uncertain times, Jesus is the one thing we can always count on. When anxiety spirals, when the future seems unknown, He is readily available to comfort us and use these times to mold and shape us. For teenagers, trying to find their way and develop their faith, it is crucial to take time to engage in Bible studies, attend church services (in-person or virtually), and continue to talk to them about the hope Christ offers.
Train up a child in the way he should go, and [or even] when he is old, he will not depart from it. – Proverbs 22:6
7. Keep checking in on them.
One day your teenager might seem like their old self, and other days, they may struggle with missing the way things used to be. Some teenagers might be struggling with mask-wearing panic attacks while others thought they knew their plans but have no idea what that looks like now. Christian counseling is an excellent choice for your teen during these uncertain times as they navigate new feelings, try to cope with any anxiety, and try to make sense of what everyday life is now.
Let us reiterate these to our teenagers today:
- It is okay if you are having a tough time.
- You are not in this alone.
- You are stronger than you think you are.
- Small steps are also progress.
- Asking for help is strength.
- Jesus is our hope yesterday, today, and forever.
“Raising a Teenager is Hard” by Raising Teens Today:
“Raising a teenager is hard,
But being a teenager is hard, too, which is why our kids need someone they trust to lean on,
To come to for advice and to share their lives – the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Having a front row seat in our kids’ lives is a far better place to be than sitting on the highest bleacher.”
What a task we have, as parents of teenagers, to support and encourage them in these uncertain and ever-changing times. May we use this as an opportunity of how to live authentically, ask for help, and trust God in the mountain top and valley seasons of life.
To help equip your teenager in battling anxiety or feelings of uncertainty, here are a few promises to hold on to:
The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe. – Proverbs 18:10
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:6-7
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. – 1 Peter 5:6-7
Christian Counseling for Teens
If you’re looking for additional support, I invite you to contact me or one of the other counselors in the counselor directory to schedule an appointment. Counseling for teens is a great way to help them overcome certain struggles and establish new habits for growth. It would be an honor to work with your teen.
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