What are the general principles to bear in mind as you begin to work with your teen through anxiety and depression?
Getting an understanding of these disorders is half the battle. Knowledge and understanding is 50 percent of your task. If teens sense that you get it and get them, that itself will be tremendously healing for them and encourage them to work with you. This knowledge develops in you an instinct about what to say and do in various situations. Be confident when you know more that you are much better equipped for this challenge.
“Why is my son/daughter feeling like this?” “What can I do to help?” Maybe these questions are in mind. There are practical things you can do to help. This itself should make you feel more hope and optimism. Yes, there are many things you can do to help your hurting teen.
There is a danger of trying too much or using too many keys to begin with. You don’t want to overwhelm your teen—or yourself. It’s far better to choose a couple of strategies that you think would give most return first, establish them as habits and practices, and then add another, then another. You will probably eventually settle on half a dozen or so solutions that will become a common part of their lives. Although you should see improvements in two to three weeks, you have to commit to six months of focused effort and then regular check-ins going forward.
Because it takes so long to see change, it’s easy to get discouraged. That’s why it’s important to keep a journal of progress and record any improvements in any areas so that you can look back after each week or so and see how the Lord has helped you to make forward movement. Talk about these changes for the better to encourage further effort.
It’s hard to do this on your own. Ideally, both parents should be involved in this recovery, although you may take different roles and focus on different areas. I also recommend involving your pastor if he has demonstrated interest in and support for people with mental health challenges. The same goes for a biblical counselor. There is a great advantage in consulting with a mental health professional.
It may be that progress is the best that’s achieved. In other words, it’s possible that our teens will carry a degree of anxiety or depression with them for a significant period of time and even the rest of their lives. I cannot promise total healing for everyone. But I can promise progress if the right means are used. We need to submit to whatever level of restoration God gives and also accept that we and our teens may just have to live with an element of this in their lives. God ordains everything for good for his children who are teens and parents. Your teen’s affliction is probably for your sanctification too.
It’s possible that our teens will make a full recovery, but there’s always the danger of falling back into the bad habits that were there before. If they have had an episode of anxiety or depression, they are vulnerable to another if they don’t make the changes permanent. And if they do lapse, remember the lessons learned from the past and implement them again. At least now you will know what works, and the recovery is usually quicker.
A Christian with anxiety will often feel even more anxious or depressed because he or she thinks that Christians should never have these emotions. As we have seen, however, there are nonspiritual causes of anxiety. Indeed, some Christians with anxiety have more faith than those who temperamentally are more confident people. That’s where God has an opportunity to show his strength in our weakness and that his grace is sufficient for us (2 Cor. 12:9). Also, people with anxiety and depression are often very sensitive to the feelings of others and can be wonderful comforters of suffering people.
Without God, we can do nothing. Therefore, let’s call upon his name for wisdom, courage, hope, and healing. Let’s remember that he cares for us and our teens more than we do and is more than willing and able to help. Pray for your teen and with your teen. Pray that the Lord would rebuke the devil who always takes advantage of any mental or emotional disorder. Pray for the Holy Spirit of peace and joy in your teen’s life.