As a parent, there are so many things not discussed before the teenage years, or not prepared for that cause many of us distress. Is he or she happy and healthy? Do they have friends? Why does she feel so distant? The list feels never-ending.As they become teens, these concerns seem to multiply and become more significant. Instead of worrying about if they have someone to play with at recess, you worry whether they have good influences in whom they can confide. Instead of worrying whether she shares, you worry whether she will say no when it matters.
Friendships, relationships, drug and alcohol use, and sexuality are a few of the neon signs flashing in parents’ minds. Add to that less glaring topics like motivation, honesty, and school pressures, and suddenly you find yourself wishing you could worry about who he or she would play with at recess again.
The topics teens face are intense, and these things can lead to concerns about their overall well-being and mental health. These same concerns can result in worrying about their future relationships and even their place in eternity.
While you know it is important to think about, it can be hard to know where to start. Prayer is always a good tool, even for something like mental health. But it’s important to know more.
What should parents know about teens and mental health?
We hear about mental health a lot now, which shows incredible progress in removing some of the stigma associated with it as well as overall education about mental health. Still, it can be hard to know what is accurate and what is important. Between the pandemic and the chaos surrounding the sexual identity crisis, it leaves parents and teens confused and conflicted.
“Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.” (MentalHealth.gov)
When it comes to teens and their mental health, it is especially important to note that the changes of adolescence, both socially and physiologically, make mental health a particularly important topic. The shifting hormones, unique pressures, and overall changes can result in teens struggling emotionally, psychologically, and socially, thus affecting their mental health.
Just like when your child has a sore throat and you get extra popsicles and take him or her to the doctor, mental health concerns need care. Mental health is just as important as physical health, and with prominent organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and the Children’s Hospital Association declaring child and adolescent mental health a national emergency, we all must pay attention.
Things to look for in your teen’s mental health.
Understanding the importance of mental health and wellbeing is only part of the picture. As a parent, you need to know what to look for in your child.
Start by looking for changes that last for multiple days and are atypical for your teen including:
- New or recent difficulty in school.
- Lack of interest in things they enjoyed.
- Difficulty completing daily tasks.
- Increased isolation, especially from friends.
- Suicidal thoughts.
While this list is not exhaustive it gives you an idea of things of which to be aware. Just because your teen exhibits one or more of these behaviors, it does not mean he or she has a mental health problem or mental illness. Instead, these indicators help you know when to have discussions with your teen and to seek advice from a medical professional or therapist for support.
Ways to support your teenager.
Creating an open, trustworthy relationship with your teen will help foster communication. This enables your teen to come to you more freely when he or she is struggling. It is important to note, however, that it is not your role to be his or her therapist.
A teen is unlikely to confide fully in a parent. This is why it is also important to encourage other relationships with adults you and your teen can trust. This can include a therapist, a relative, or a close friend.
Modeling behavior is also a key way you can support your teen. When you model positive talk about counseling or therapy, as well as other self-care techniques such as journaling, talking to people you trust, physical activity, rest, and respect for yourself and others, you show your teen they can do the same.
When we display behaviors contrary to what we expect of them, such as angry outbursts, lack of self-control in our own emotions, or laziness, we cannot expect different from them.
Tools available to parents and teens.
With increased attention on mental health, there are more tools available to both teens and parents. For some believers, these tools have caused conflict in the past. Some people believed that it was only things like prayer and healing that could help someone who was struggling. Now we know, however, that even though prayer is the most important tool, it is not the only tool to be utilized.
Just as you wouldn’t use prayer as the only tool when your child had a broken bone, you cannot rely solely on that with mental health issues. Instead, it is a combination of tools working together to help support the person who is struggling.
Some effective tools include:
- Daily prayer
- Therapy/counseling (both for the individual and the parent)
- Some cases, medication
- Support groups such as those at school, church, or through counselors
- Communicating with other adults like teachers, coaches, etc.
- Parent Support Network
- SAMHSA and 988 services
Why you should use prayer to support your teen’s mental health.
Studies have shown that prayer is an effective tool for those struggling with their mental health. This is a wonderful thing to know and understand. But it is also important for a parent to use prayer as a way to support their child.
The Bible is full of reasons to pray for your teen’s mental health:
- James 5:16 (NIV) reminds us to “pray for one another, so that you may be healed.” The same verse also reassures us that, “The prayer of a righteous person is very powerful in its effect.”
- 1 Thessalonians 5:17 (NKJV) tells us to “Pray without ceasing.”
- Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV) not only tells us to pray, but reminds us of what God does when we pray: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
When your teen is struggling, it is hard on him or her and you. Using prayer and relying on the promises of scripture will help you both as you walk through to a healthier place.
How to pray for your teen’s mental health.
The best way to pray for your teen is with honesty. God knows everything that is going on in your heart and mind as well as in your teen. You can talk to him about how you feel, what you are concerned about, and ask for help. The promises about his faithfulness are true, even in this hard place.
Start by telling God how you feel. Maybe you are worried or angry. Maybe you don’t know what to think. Tell him and trust him with those emotions.
Next, tell God what you see in your teen. Talk to him about the concerning behaviors, the challenges your teen is facing, and even your deep fears for them as you try to help and understand their struggle. You can also use this time to ask God to bring relief, freedom, and healing to your teen.
Finally, ask for wisdom. God will help give you insight into what to do next. Ask him to show you to whom you should talk, where to find support and how to talk to your teen. He is faithful in all things, even in this.
Your teen’s mental health is just as important as their physical health. Learning how to help and support them is essential for his or her well-being. One of the ways you can do this is by praying for your teen.
Preparing for your children’s teen years should start as early as the toddler years. If there has not been intentionality in building a healthy relationship with your children, challenges during their teen years will come at no surprise. If you find yourself in this category, family therapy might be the best route in getting started, healing and building a healthy relationship.
Remember, prayer is an important tool in supporting your teen’s mental health, but it is not the only tool. We are here to help. Reach out and make an appointment with a caring Christian counselor so we can help you love, support, and protect your teen.
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