If you are a parent of middle or high school aged children, we highly recommend that you sign up for the weekly Cultural Translator newsletter by Axis, an online Christian resource for cultural/worldview conversations. Here’s a snippet from their most recent edition. A timely resource for those experiencing or working with those dealing with Depression and Anxiety.
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Michigan State point guard Cassius Winston lost his younger brother to an apparent suicide this week, he was only 19. The story highlights the growing concern over teen suicide and depression as upwards of 3.1 million young adults experience at least one major depressive episode per year. Worse, 60% of children struggling with suicidal ideation, anxiety, or depression never receive treatment. As parents, it’s often hard to know how to equip your child to cope with their very real and treatable mental health issues. To help, here are ten practical suggestions to practice starting today to help your teen manage their emotional well-being.
- Get counseling: Thankfully, the stigma surrounding mental health issues is slowly subsiding among evangelicals. If you are concerned about your child’s mental state, see an expert, receive a diagnosis, and start treatment for on-going issues.
- Go outside: Sure it might sound overly simplistic, but research proves that connecting with God’s good creation reduces stress and helps regulate emotions. Encourage your teen to take a walk, notice the beauty of a butterfly, sit under an ageless oak tree, or gaze up at the stars made by the same hands that hold them in His loving arms.
- Exercise: Jogging, walking, or working out for 30 minutes a day can help your teen produce endorphins that fight and eliminate stress.
- Social media fast: San Diego State University professor Jean Twenge already connected social media use with anxiety, so it’s no surprise that resisting the temptation to tweet, share, heart, or post on social media has a direct impact on higher self-esteem. Encourage your kids to pick at least one day per week to fast from social media and then monitor how it impacts their mood, hopefully for the better!
- Prayerful meditation: Carving out ten minutes to sit in prayerful silence before God and let go of our ceaseless striving, habitual thoughts, and nagging doubts retrains the heart and mind to know and accept that we are loved unconditionally by our creator and sustainer. Have them try it first thing in the morning by creating a sacred space in your home that is quiet and free of distractions.
- Get some sleep: Teenagers need over nine hours of sleep, but studies show they only get roughly seven hours per night which leads to mood swings, cognitive difficulties, and poor academic performance, further exacerbating their stress and anxiety. Here’s a simple fix: If your child insists on sleeping with their phone, be the parent and tell them no! 🙂 Read this article with them on how technology hinders quality sleep.
- Bibliotherapy: Stories aren’t just a means of escaping the real world, they help us identify with and connect to something bigger than ourselves. A great novel can build empathy and combat isolation. Here are 20 books every teen should read before they turn 18.
- Serve: There’s nothing quite like helping someone in need to remind yourself how good you really have it. With Thanksgiving coming up, volunteer at a homeless shelter or food kitchen. It’s amazing how great it feels to honor and serve the least of these.
- Consider medication: If your child is being treated for depression or anxiety, proper medication can be an integral part of their recovery. Talk with a doctor about the pros and cons of prescription meds.
- IRL connection: Nothing is more transformative than human connection and intimate relationships. Every child wants to belong, be known, and believe someone loves them unconditionally. Connect them with a mentor, teacher, pastor, or friend who can come alongside them and offer love, support, and a listening ear.