Jump Start # 2368
Psalms 37:25 “I have been young and now I am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his descendants begging bread.”
I was in a store the other day buying some allergy tablets and the automatic checkout warning buzzed. A store clerk came over to verify that I was over 40 years old. She looked at me and said, “Yep, you’re over 40.” I thought, she didn’t even ask to see my I.D. or ask what year I was born in. That was a great way to start the day!
Yesterday we talked about Paul being depressed. There is another aspect that we need to mention and that is anxiety among young people. This is huge. Depression among teens is off the charts. Now, I chose our verse today for a reason. I’ve been young, it says. I can say that. Now I am old, the verse says. And, I can say that, whether I want to or not. And that can be part of the problem with the problem of teen anxiety.
First, we can be so much into our world that we no longer understand the world of the teens. It’s been a long time since I was a teen. The world has changed. Adults can look at their teens and wonder, “What do you have to be stressed about? I have the mortgage to pay. I have a job to keep. I have to take care of the house, the cars, the family. There are taxes. There are doctor visits. One needs glasses. One needs braces. The car needs new tires. Mama wants to take a vacation. Stress? Live in my world.” Adults would love to be teens. Go to school, come home and play video games. Food is provided. Laundry is done. What is expected and required isn’t much. Love to be a teen, we say.
Second, although the teen doesn’t have the responsibilities that adults do, by making light of what they go through doesn’t help them. To them, their pressures and anxieties are as great as the adults. This is one reason teen drug abuse is so high and teen suicide is a real problem.
There are some things we learn in the maturing stages of life that we adults get, but teens are not there. Adults really do not care what you think of the outfits we wear. Guys can wear clothes with stains on them or holes in them and we really don’t care. We don’t really care what co-workers think about us. We go and do our jobs and we understand that the job is only a job. It is not our life. As long as the co-workers do their jobs, it doesn’t matter how off the wall they are, how strange they are, or how dumb they are. It doesn’t bother us. It’s not that way for teens. Fitting into the social scene IS their world. While adults worry about job performance, the teen worries about being trashed talked, or ridiculed on social media. While the adult may enjoy eating alone, for the teen, that’s about one step away from death.
Third, today’s teens are stretched like a rubber band. They have friends telling them what to do. They have parents telling them what to do. They have Bible class teachers telling them what to do. They just want to be normal, but when you are a teen, no one knows what normal is. Issues of transgender, bi-sexual, homosexual—are racing through the hallways. Some kids are going down those paths just to be accepted, to be one of a kind, to have a name. In my days, it was length of hair. The hippies grew long hair. The rock ‘n rollers had long hair. To have long hair was it. Those things seem like nothing compared to these sexual gender issues that teens face today.
Here are a few suggestions:
- Make your home a place of comfort. It needs to be an oasis. They should want to be there. Home, sweet home, where a person gets three meals a day and a thousand hugs.
- Parents, don’t expect your child to be perfect, because you certainly weren’t. They will make poor decisions. They will run on impulse and not think things out. They will side with peer pressure. But help them. Don’t always be on them about every little thing they do. If you are, in time they won’t talk to you and worse, they won’t want to be around you.
- Your teens need to know that you are in their corner, on their side and love them. They need to hear that. They need to feel that. They need that. They, in their own world, come home beat up from all the pressures at school and among friends. Their minds are swirling. They are hearing some of the worst things. There are kids who are on the edge of doing some very wrong things. Sadly, sometimes it is the kids at church who are talking this way. Allow your teen to talk without interrupting, jumping to conclusions, running past Jerusalem, or hitting the panic button. They will know kids at school who are doing drugs. They will know kids who got arrested. They will hear some talk about suicide. Again, sometimes, it’s the kids at church who are saying these things. There comes a time and a place for lectures, but not in every conversation. You are leading their minds and their hearts. You are trying to get them to see through the smoke of temptation and false things. You praise them as much as you can.
- Remember the steps of the prodigal’s father. Healing the broken begins at home. One mistake does not have to be a lifetime. You are trying to get them to follow Christ. You want them to be able, like Daniel and his three friends, to make the right moral and spiritual choices without you being there. Don’t leave all the instructions to the church.
- The cell phone is a real source of trouble for teens. A recent report revealed that teen anxiety reaches the highest at night. The same report made a connection between teens, their phones and social media while in bed at night. Maybe it would be good to have a conversation about these things. Maybe it would be good to have the whole family park the phones on the kitchen table before everyone went to bed. Have some times together where the entire family is unplugged. We’d tell our kids, long ago, that we were going Amish for a day. If it plugged in, turned on, or used a battery, it was off limits. This works well, if parents are doing the same thing. No phones. No tablets. Just you and the family.
- Don’t be afraid, as parents, to seek professional help if you child needs it. We, especially as people of faith, feel like we have failed as parents when our child is anxious and we are out of options. We are embarrassed to admit that our child has some issues. But, it is better to get over those feelings and get help rather than sticking your head in the sand until there is a real addiction problem or you have to make funeral arrangements because your child took their life.
- Linking our Jump Start from yesterday to today, we need to invite God into our lives to help as well. Pray about these situations. Try to be open and transparent with your teen. Don’t sugar coat things. Life can be raw and life can be ugly. The teen that is trying to do what is right faces so many things today. Connect your teen with great quality people you know.
When we lived in Kansas City, my youngest two would take out one of the elders to get root beer. The elder talked about his experiences in Korea. They did this over and over, and I was never invited. In fact, one time they said, “You can’t come, dad. It’s our thing.” To this day, they have fond memories of a spiritual giant that made time for them when they were teens. They honor him and respect him and love him.
Anxious teens—their only worry ought to be about getting good grades on a test. But we know there’s more. There is dating. There is making the team. There is the pressures to fit in. There is a world that is not nice, fair or kind to them. Your teen needs you. They need all of us.
I hope these thoughts help…