Counseling can help your teen deal with life as it happens. The teenage years can be very difficult and even traumatizing. Teenagers often have underdeveloped coping skills, making it easy for them to look for unhealthy ways to deal with the struggles and obstacles that life throws at them.
It can be so easy to overlook the things that a teen is going through. However, it is important to invest in their mental, emotional, and spiritual health now as it is setting a foundation for their future. It would be beneficial to seek counseling before your teen is completely withdrawn or defeated if they are already displaying red flags.
Obstacles that Teens Face
Teens can deal with a plethora of obstacles, such as the following:
- Death of a loved one
- Natural disasters
- Eating disorders/body dysphoria
- Parental divorce/separation
- Moving to a new house/changing schools
- The rise of self-harm
- Physical or sexual abuse
- Peer pressure
- Drug & alcohol abuse
- First dating relationships/first heartbreak
- Talk or threats of suicide
- Mood disorders
- Learning disorders
If your teen is struggling in any of these areas, you can encourage them to seek counseling for practical help and affirmation.
Stressful Situations Teens Face
Teens deal with stress from many different angles. Consider these fictional scenarios:
Faith is a 16-year-old who has recently begun to withdraw from her family, friends, and after-school activities. She has been struggling with feelings of sadness and low self-esteem. She has been bullied at school for years, but it didn’t bother her until this year.
She is embarrassed at how much her peers’ comments are affecting her. Her parents raised her to be her own person and not to let the opinion of others bog her down, so she doesn’t feel like talking to them about the bullying would change anything.
Sam is a junior in high school and is the star of the baseball team. He presents that baseball is life, but he really wants to quit baseball and pursue his artistic endeavors. His parents have always told him that baseball is the key to college scholarships, so he is afraid to discuss his future with them because it is different than the path they have in mind for him.
Sandy is a 15-year-old whose best friends are trying to push her to try alcohol. She has stood firm and resisted temptation, but is starting to feel like her friends won’t hang out with her if she doesn’t start doing more of what they are doing. She is starting to reach a tipping point and doesn’t know how to resist and deal with peer pressure, but she’s afraid that if she asks for her parents’ advice, they will tell her she can’t hang out with her friends anymore.
Teens are dealing with a variety of issues and might withdraw for a variety of reasons. Therefore, the biggest thing a parent can do for their child is to give them a safe place to go. They need someone to talk to, give sound advice, and avoid overreacting as soon as they begin a conversation.
Signs Your Teen May Need CounselingIt can be difficult to determine whether your teen needs counseling. However, you can look for these warning signs that could indicate your teen might need counseling:
- Constantly feeling sad, anxious, angry
- Restless, unable to sleep
- Turning to drugs and alcohol
- Talking about self-harm
- Talking about death or saying they are having suicidal thoughts
- Finding it difficult to make decisions or having trouble concentrating
If you see any of these signs, don’t hesitate to call a qualified Christian counselor for help.
If Your Teen Resists Counseling
Many teens will initially resist counseling. But there are ways you can convince your teen to try counseling. Here are ways to try to get a reluctant teen to attend counseling:
- Pray for your child daily. The best thing we can do for our children is to pray for them. Pray for their salvation. Pray for their relationships. Pray for their struggles. Praise the Lord for their victories. Pray for guidance on how to parent and nurture them.
- Get ahead of the game by introducing your teen to a counselor before things escalate. Early recognition and action are key to helping your teenager now and in the days to come.
- Ask them questions and try to approach them in a non-threatening way. Try to open the channels of communication by talking to them daily.
- When you ask how things are going, be specific, or you might just receive a “things are fine” response to your questions.
- Let them know you are there for them. Like really there for them – in the messy, through the tears, in the confusion, during the heartbreak, in their times of feeling completely depleted. Admit that you don’t always know what to say, but your heart is always ready to listen.
- Try to be authentic and real about things with which you have struggled. Perhaps approaching things from an “I struggled and I’m not perfect” standpoint will help them realize that we are all human and all deal with trauma of our own. While parents want to always seem like they have it all together, sometimes being vulnerable and raw is the best thing you can do to cultivate a stronger and healthier relationship.
- Set an example and attend counseling first. If you are struggling and avoiding your own issues, your teen is not going to follow suit. Start by setting an example and pursuing your own healing. This will also help you in your parenting journey.
- Try family therapy. Family therapy is a great way to pursue emotional health for everyone under your roof and allow the opportunity to have conversations that are difficult to have. Counselors can offer insight into everyone’s struggles and how you can all come together and support one another.
- Give your teen ownership over their struggles and victories. Ask them hard questions and ask how they would/should handle it. Ask them how they should handle a bully or peer pressure first instead of beginning every conversation with your own opinion.
- Encourage your teenager to find and be a good friend. Inspire your teen to be the friend they wish they had. Teach them to be the change and do the right thing, even when it’s hard. Sit with the person who others are making fun of. Check-in on their friends who are struggling.
- Be aware of and limit social media and other outlets. One of the best things parents can do is to be a part of their children’s lives. Teach them how to use different outlets for good. Limit phone/social media time. Help them find creative outlets and to find activities that help them through their anxiety rather than add fuel to the fire.
Trying these methods can help your teen warm up to the idea of receiving counseling when it’s needed.
25 Questions to Engage Your Teen in Conversation
As parents, it is important to work at communication and relationship with your teen. Meet them where they are. Try
to understand their world and their struggles rather than constantly compare life to how it was for you growing up. Here are 25 questions to ask your teen on a regular basis.
1. What is the coolest app that I don’t have on my phone?
2. What is the most embarrassing thing that I do?
3. Who do you eat lunch with at school?
4. How would you describe our parenting style?
5. What bands are you listening to these days?
6. What is your biggest dream that you hope to achieve?
7. Who would you say is your best friend right now? Tell me more.
8. Which shows are you watching right now?
9. Is bullying a problem at your school?
10. Is drug and alcohol use a big thing at your school?
11. What is the one thing you don’t know about me that you want to know?
12. What do you wish you were more motivated to do?
13. Are there any quotes from movies, songs, or books that you’ve heard and really like?
14. Are there parts of your body that you really like or dislike?
15. Do you know anyone who you would say has an ideal marriage or relationship? Why?
16. Do you think we treat you and your siblings fairly?
17. What are the best and worst things about having a smartphone?
18. What do you like to watch on YouTube?
19. Are you looking forward to being an adult?
20. What’s one thing adults don’t get about teenagers?
21. What was the best part of your day today?
22. What was the worst part of your day today?
23. Where’s the first place you would want to go after getting your driver’s license?
24. What do you think has been the hardest thing you have ever done?
25. What can we do to help you feel more supported?
Parenting teens is a journey that is unique to each parent and child. Never fear or hesitate in asking for support in your journey, especially from a Christian counselor. Your child matters and with you walking alongside them in their unique journey, God can use any of your struggles for good. Remember the principle of Proverbs 22:6 (ESV), “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”
“Pensive”, Courtesy of Raphael Nast, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Teen Boy”, Courtesy of Talen de St. Croix, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Rainbow Hair”, Courtesy of Malte, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Curly Haired Boy”, Courtesy of Creative Christians, Unsplash.com, CC0 License