I’m not going to pretend that I’m an expert at parenting teens, but I’m certainly in the thick of it. Right now I’ve got three teenage daughters. I also work with teens at church, so helping teens is on my mind daily.
I’ve been so worried about my teens during the last couple years of the pandemic. I’ve been doing mental health check-ins frequently, which resulted in anxiety and depression workbooks and counseling for some of our kids that needed it. After my own struggles and struggles of family members, I’m probably a little hyper-aware of mental health issues. While I don’t feel comfortable sharing specific details about my kids in this area, I’ll just say that I know the pain of watching a child suffer.
I can’t help but notice almost every teen I see looks like they’re carrying around too much heaviness. You see that mix of sadness and anxiety it in the moments when they don’t think people are watching, or in some cases, all the time.
When I hear of teen suicides, I always wonder what could’ve been done, if anything. What can we do to make sure more families do not have to suffer such a loss?! A thought came to me a while back: kids need to hear some obvious thoughts. Like, the common sense things that we intuitively think but don’t always remember to say out loud. As I’ve been doing this, I really do believe this is helping my kids. Let’s say these loudly and often!
- You are loved. Not because of what you do or achieve, you are loved because you exist and my world wouldn’t be complete without you in it.
- I will always forgive you. There is no mistake you could make that would cause me to withhold my love. I’m not going anywhere, no matter what.
- You are not your mistakes. You are a person who is learning and growing, which involves making mistakes. Your mistakes don’t define you.
- You will survive failing. If you fail the test today or don’t make the team or whatever, it’s okay. I promise. It feels SO big right now, because it’s consuming you, but in time it won’t hurt so bad. The pain will ease. There are so many good moments ahead, whether or not you failed today.
- High school is a blip. It feels so long because it might be the hardest 4 years of your life. I call it the boot camp of life. Most of these people you will never see again … ever.
- Average is normal. I will be here for you if you are working hard to make your dreams come true and I will be here for you if you’re still figuring out your dreams. You are special to me because you exist and my life is better with you in it. Your strength is _______. You’re good at ________.
These are just a few of the important ones. I might come back later and add more, but really it isn’t about these specific phrases. It’s about saying what your teen needs to hear and saying it often. Those thoughts you assume they already know? They may not know.
Say these so often that it annoys them and they roll their eyes at you. Because at least they’ll know you mean it. And whether or not they believe these things at first, these messages will still be playing through their mind.
You don’t know when one of these thoughts could save a life.
From my home to yours,