If you only knew the number of times, I hear this on a weekly basis, you may experience some depressed feelings. Friends text me, potential clients email me, my family calls me, and I consult with colleagues as my own children have their moments, etc. The amount has increased exponentially in the past several years.
There are many factors I believe (from what I’ve seen and heard) that have contributed to the increase: increase use of technology for social purposes, 24/7 access to anything and everything, decrease in time spent in person with others, decrease emphasis on spiritual families (church, youth group, godly mentors), unhealthy spiritual families, increase focus on talent/intellect/abilities OVER focus on development of character, increase in divorce and family splits that are much more volatile, a push for medicating problems over uncovering the root of issues, the push of social/cultural agendas, and more but these are the biggest factors.
You may or may not be shocked by the “factors” I’ve identified, but the truth is teens are experiencing depression at higher rates than ever before. So how can we respond as parents:
1-Monitor your teens’ social media. Tell them why and explain that you are trying to help them manage their mental health by having time off. Gradually, allow them to have social media as they mature, but regularly monitor and talk to them about it. My personal recommendation is 30-60 minutes a day max on social media.
2-Take time off. Help your kids take time off too not just from technology but from everything. Prioritize family time again. Rest and reset often. Model this for your teens. While you are “off” spend time with your kids. Maybe you have 3, 4, or more kids and you think it is impossible. Make it happen no matter what. This is a life-or-death issue. Your kids need your one-on-one attention more than anyone or anything else, period. Weekly is preferred with each child in the home (at least an hour uninterrupted or split up over days).
3-Make sure your family spends time in person together regularly. Eat dinner as often as possible together. Have your teens invite their friends over. Encourage and require in-person activities.
4-Find a spiritual family/church to be a part of. I prefer the term spiritual family because this is what it should be. You and your family should be making healthy attachments to godly people. If you do, the chances of drug/alcohol addiction and all types of other unhealthy behaviors will decrease.
5-Make sure your spiritual family is a healthy one. Know the people teaching your kids at youth group. Make sure your pastor is preaching the truth of God from the Bible, which requires you to know the Bible…so read it daily, study it, meditate on it. This is the only truth and one that promises to set us free.
6-Place more attention on the development of character by fostering growth of the fruit of the spirit: love, gentleness, patience, kindness, love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control OVER grades, sports, music lessons, etc. These things can be used to help foster character but often we (yes me included) focus more on how well they perform over their attitudes.
7-Fight to keep your family together. If this isn’t possible, make every effort to get along. Kids ALWAYS interpret parents who do not get along as their fault in divorce situations. So stop it!
8-If your child needs medication (should be a last resort), couple this with counseling so that they learn to deal with the root of the problem and prayerfully overcome it OR learn tools to cope with it that make them stronger.
9-Do not allow society or culture to tell your children WHO or WHAT they are. Teach them and show them that they are who God (their creator) says they are. They are designed perfectly as his creation. They are fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of God. (Psalm 139:14). Others are trying to teach your children something counter to God’s truth so make sure they know and do not assume. They are precious in the sight of the Almighty.
Finally, remember you are NOT alone. Pray for your children. Invite the Holy Spirit to fill you and your child to do the work that only He can do. Seek Godly counsel. Spend time with your children as often as possible. Get help from godly counselors as needed. Find good physicians who will listen first and not just prescribe after a few minutes.
There is a supernatural fight for our children, but remember that the weapons of our warfare are righteousness, peace, truth, God’s word, salvation through Jesus, and faith. Do you know why David in the battle against Goliath picked up FIVE stones? I believe it is because Goliath had four brothers. So pick up all the stones you need to fight the battle against your teen. We will take down every giant in this world if we fight the right way and remember that HE who is within us is greater than he who is in the world.
Slaying giants for your children and mine,