Navigating the Teen Years
The teenage years have always been fraught with an emotional roller coaster brought on by the unbridled spreading of youthful wings and the darkness of uninvited self-doubt and depression. Parents pray as they hand over the car keys and remind their teen to be careful as they take watch over the clock until their teen returns safely. Navigating those years as a Christian family has special challenges in 2022.
“By 2021 more than a quarter of U.S. parents reported their adolescent had seen a mental health specialist. Suicide is now the second leading cause of death among children 10-14.”[i] Mental health facilities are crowded and understaffed. Parents report they must travel great distances to find space to hospitalize their suicidal teen. Mental health is no joke and when a teen uses drugs and alcohol to relieve stress, suicide becomes even more of a possibility.
Many believe this acceleration in mental health illness was brought on by the effects of the COVID-19 shutdown. Teens are coming out of trauma. Youth Pastors and teachers recognize the behavioral patterns. Depression and aggressive behavior are signs of distress. Thousands of teens lost parents and grandparents to the pandemic and are in the stages of grief.[ii]
Where does the Christian parent turn in such a time as this? A survey connected with several well-known Christian organizations reveals there is hope. The survey, which included 26 countries, found many teens have a positive view of Christ. Attributes they describe Jesus as are generous, wise, peaceful, and trustworthy. “A report from the Barna Group reads “Most teenagers around the world have a positive perception of Him. About half of all teens, across faith groups, describe Jesus as ‘loving’ (49%) and believe He offers hope to (46%) and cares about people (43%).”[iii]
Recognizing the complexities of teenagers navigating challenges of self-doubt, eating disorders, grief, suicidal ideation, Rooted Ministry has published a book entitled “The Jesus I Wish I Knew in High School.” Thirty chapters, each written by a different Youth leader, offers insights about Jesus and how to make Christ the center of life. The authors bring insight to present day teens by relating stories of their teen lives. “The honesty and vulnerability of these chapters make The Jesus I Wish I Knew In High School something more than a gospel-saturated resource for teenagers…honest accounts of racism, abuse, insecurity, fear, and anxiety carries significant potential to foster meaningful conversations.”[iv]
Christian parents should allow some struggles to emerge for their teens. Struggle causes growth and perseverance and on the other side of the struggle is developing strength through accomplishment. Just as the first time behind the wheel of a car, present your teen with the keys to steer their journey with Christ. Pray that the Holy Spirit will pilot and guide and protect. Joshua 1:9 allows us the confidence to “be strong and courageous; not frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you.” (NIV)
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[i] https://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/blogs/stateline/2022/04/18/as-teen-mental-health-worsens-schools-learn-how-to-help [ii] https://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/COVID-19/Pages/Signs-your-Teen-May-Need-More-Support.aspx [iii] https://www1.cbn.com/cbnnews/cwn/2022/october/what-do-teens-think-of-jesus-in-age-of-chaos-and-lostness-massive-study-unveils-fascinating-answers [iv] https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2022/february-web-only/jesus-wish-knew-high-school-teenagers-faith.html