Emotionally healthy parents can train their kids to be emotionally healthy teenagers.
A very disturbing CDC report about the increase in mental health issues in teenage girls was released Monday, February 13th. Among the findings:
- 30% of teenage girls seriously considered attempting suicide in 2021.
- 24% of females made a suicide plan in 2021.
- Including boys, 10% of respondents said they attempted suicide.
Every one of us has experienced the explosion of emotions that come with being a teenager. Until ten years old, or so, kids largely see themselves through the eyes, words, and actions of their parents. Somewhere around ten to twelve years to age, kids notice themselves. I have clear memories of both my children stopping in front of every reflective surface to check out their own appearance.
At the same time the eyes, words, and actions of their friends, and others, grow in influence. Self-awareness increases significantly. Teenagers feelings about themselves rapidly connect to cultural trends that shift with the wind; to the opinions of other, equally emotionally volatile teenagers; to their own moods; and, still, to the eyes, words, and actions of their parents.
So how can parents help their teenagers navigate the “chaos” of their new emotional realities? Here are four essentials for parenting teenagers through their emotions:
Your adoption from the orphanage of the world into the family of our Father is supposed to come with a host of emotional benefits and healings. The Apostle John boasts, “See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are” (1 John 3:1). We are to experience vast emotional blessing from the wonderful reality that we have been adopted in Jesus through the Holy Spirit to become children of our Father.
- We parent out of the overflow of the work of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit to bring us to rest in their love for us. We are keenly aware of how we feel and experience God’s love and faithful provision for us in our daily lives.
- We do not parent needing our teenagers to love us.
Scripture teaches that Jesus was made like man in all things so that He could identify with our conditions (Hebrews 2:17-18). Because He was tempted just as we are, He is “merciful and faithful.” In the same way, parents can train their teenagers in emotional health when we identify our own struggles to walk in emotional health. Newsflash, emotional health is not easy for anyone. Your emotional struggles SHOULD make you a “merciful” parent as your teens battle emotional temptation themselves.
- You should be able to sit with your teens and share with them the struggle you have, TODAY, to live emotionally healthy.
- You should be able to sit with your teens and share with them the lifelong journey you have been on to live emotionally healthy.
- Letting your teenager know that struggling with feeling great about oneself is okay can be powerful. You are giving them permission to struggle without having to feel like no one understands or cares or that they are a failure.
Understanding the people and forces that actively work against our emotional well-being is huge. Scripture teaches that we have three enemies which war against our emotional well-being: sin, the world, and Satan (Ephesians 2:1-2 is one example of a Bible full of verses demonstrating the effects of these three enemies on our emotions.)
- Sin, internal rebellion, is a powerful force that regularly seeks to lead us away from resting in the emotional LIFE rivers of our Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. You can help your teen identify that what they are feeling may be the result of sin. The most effective way to do so is by describing how sin feels in you and what you do to deny those impulses (Matthew 15:11-14, 1 Peter 1:11).
- The world, collective rebellion, encompasses all the lies culture tells us about God, ourselves, and others. The messages of social media and peer pressure are powerful forces seeking to conform all of us, teenagers included, into an image contrary to that of our Father. How do you contend with the world’s pressure today? Help your teenagers see the lies and the power they have. PLEASE do NOT underestimate or understate the POWER of the world. “Just get off TikTok”, or fill in the blank social media, betrays the raw power of the draw. In the same that you have felt the world’s messages press in on you, so too do your teens (Romans 12:2).
- Satan, demonic rebellion, is ACTIVELY seeking to persuade your teens that they are everything LESS or MORE than what God our Father says they are. He, and his demonic army, are masterful at picking off people in places of vulnerability one at a time. While I understand that spiritual warfare can be an unfamiliar topic to many Christians, we desperately need to engage training for ourselves, the Kingdom, and, certainly, our teenagers. Just because your teenager is a Christian does not mean Satan, or a demon, cannot destroy their emotional well-being (John 10:10, 1 Peter 5:6-11).
When you taught your kid to tie their shoes, to make their beds, to ride a bike, to study, to cook, to drive a car, you did so intentionally. You took them through a step-by-step process that has been effective for you. When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray, He gave them a specific way to pray that we call the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13, Luke 11:1-4). Scripture is filled with intentional teachings. Similarly, we need an intentional way of healthy emotional processing. Just as we have confidence and clarity in training our kids in other areas of life, so too we need the same to train them to contend with their emotions. In our next OVERFLOW session, I will walk you through the steps Jesus used in the Garden of Gethsemane. For one like me, who was not emotionally trained, these steps have proved useful for me and my parenting.
Emotions are hard for all of us. Emotions can be particularly difficult for teens because teens are experiencing an explosion of new feelings. The feelings are real and very, very powerful. As Jesus followers, we must demonstrate the emotional impact our faith has on us. God our Father has green pastures and quiet waters for our souls. Out of the overflow of supernatural blessing, we are positioned to empathize with our teens and equip them with tools that work. Whether they use them is up to them!
In all our parenting we pray.
Our Father wants us to be better parents than we ever could be on our own. We surrender our children to Him. We surrender our parenting to Him. We ask the Holy Spirit to give us wisdom for specific conversations, to deal with specific issues, in how to heal separation, and everything else we need. When you accepted Christ, you were adopted in our Father’s family. Through Christ you became a beneficiary of LIFE. One of the great benefits is the indwelling presence and leading of the Holy Spirit. Do not forsake His leading in you as you parent. He knows you, and your kids, better than you do. And He loves you, and your kids, deeply.
Parenting in the OVERFLOW is vastly different than parenting on our own.