It can be difficult to find help for parents who are supporting teens with mental health issues. As the person who is carrying the weight of guiding and caring for your child, you need support too. Join Alicia on this week’s episode of the Christian Mindset Coach as she discusses experiencing grief and disappointment, the importance of our attitude and responses in moments where our children are struggling, as well as mental health resources and other parenting support for those walking alongside their children through mental health issues.
WHAT YOU’LL LEARN:
- [03:57] Help for parents struggling with grief and disappointment
- [07:25] How our attitude and response affects our teens with mental health issues
- [11:09] Parenting support for defining boundaries and leaning on unconditional love
- [15:43] A prayer for our kids and for parents
- [17:48] Mental health resources for parenting teens with mental health issues
If you or someone you know is struggling with depression, you are not alone. If you are in crisis, please call or text the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988, or dial 911.
[03:57] Help for parents struggling with grief and disappointment
As I walk through my personal journey with my own 15 year old, I’m learning how to deal with the emotional baggage we experience as parents. I found myself asking questions like, “How did she get here?” and “Is it my fault?” Talking about these feelings can be a great help for parents supporting teens with mental health issues.
When we experience these feelings of guilt, shame, grief, or disappointment, we have to let them come out so we can process them. Most of the time these feelings arise because we’ve set these expectations on our parenting and on our children, thinking that if we do things a certain way that it will guarantee a specific result, but deep down we know that’s not the truth of parenting. We can do X,Y, and Z and it doesn’t necessarily always equal the outcome we’re expecting. We have to not let these moments disappoint us, but rather use them as insight and opportunities for reflection. We can ask ourselves what we were expecting and dive into the realistic or unrealistic sides of those expectations. We can uncover that what we’re grieving is the idea of what we wanted for our children versus what is actually happening. This is real grief that we experience as parents, and in these moments we must remember that when there is grief, this is when the great comforter is there for us.
In Episode 194, I shared a list of five Bible verses on love to use for meditation when you need comfort from God. I believe that meditating on these verses is so important. As we accept His comfort through His word, we are reminded of the promises and the dreams that He's given us in our heart. We are reminded that we live in a fallen world, and if our dreams don't work out exactly the way that we expected, that God can still reconcile and heal those wounds. He can still make those stories happen, or He can make them turn out a little different and maybe even better than what we imagined. Remember, His ways are better than our ways. His ways are greater than beyond what we can see
Questions for reflection:
- What was I expecting?
- Are my expectations unrealistic?
- What is it that I'm grieving?
[07:25] How our attitude and response affects our teens with mental health issues
When we’re going through these seasons of mental health struggles with our children, two things we really need support with are our attitudes and responses.
We see our children struggling with identity, self-image, eating disorders or other difficult topics, and we just want to sit them down and say, “You are beautiful. There's nothing wrong with you. Why don't you just believe that God loves you, and go and have big dreams and go and fight for them?” The trouble is, they aren’t just going to believe what we say and get up and live a joyful lift. There’s something happening on an emotional level that’s keeping them from the truth. What we can do in times like this is show up with love.
Some of the questions I had to ask myself, that may be helpful for you as well, were: What does love look like? What does it mean to be loving when there are choices being made that I don't agree with or I know God doesn't agree with? I’m continuously sorting these questions out with God, but I’ve found balance in the midst of the chaos by doing my (imperfect) best to communicate to my kids that I love them.
I love you, I support you, I'm there for you, I'm here for you. And you cannot lose my love. You cannot lose any sort of connection between me. There can be things that you choose to do that I don't agree with, but I still support and love you.
Yes, we’re upset about their choices or their experience, but what we can do in these moments is communicate what is really in our heart, which is that we will always love this child, and there's nothing that any of our kids can do to make us stop loving them. We need to give them room to figure out themselves, within that firm foundation of we're here for you, we love you, and we're not going anywhere. That's what we all want, isn’t it?
We want room to explore and to get answers for our questions, but we have to have that safe anchor, that comfort, and that's what God gives us. He allows us to explore this world, while giving us boundaries about what's right and wrong. When we explore, no matter what we experience, we know that we can come back to the truth of His love, that He isn’t going anywhere. This is what gives us the bravery to ask the hard questions and to figure things out, and this is what we can strive to do for our children as well.
Questions for reflection:
- What does love look like?
- What does it mean to be loving when there are choices being made that I don't agree with or I know God doesn't agree with?
[11:09] Parenting support for defining boundaries and leaning on unconditional love
When we’re trying to set loving boundaries for our children, there are a few things we have to figure out, like what is okay and what is not okay. For example, we're not going to call evil things good, that's just the way it is. A book that really helped me in this area was Boundaries for Teens by Dr. Townsend. It provided great insight and reflections that helped us figure out how to tell our children we love them, but also set the boundary of what will and will not be accepted in our house.
Something else that is still a strong support for me is a song by Sara Groves called You Cannot Lose My Love. It beautifully encapsulates a message that we have to be sending to our children, especially our kids who are walking through a mental health crisis. It’s a reflection of the love that we want from God, the love He gives us, and the love we want to pass on to them. It’s a reminder that as you walk through this season, you cannot lose Him, you're going to be okay.
If you're walking through this personally or with your own child, I just want to tell you, you're going to be okay. You're not alone. There are a lot of us who are walking through this. God is faithful.
[15:43] A prayer for our kids and for parents
Father, what a gift it is to always have you at our side, through every season, even when we don't understand or we don't know why things would happen a certain way. We don't understand why a child would choose to do something, why they would be stuck in a place where we feel like we can't help them. It's very scary, and they could do things to hurt themselves. I thank you, God, that we can hold on to you, ask you for help, and grow in you. I thank you that we can be an encouragement to other people through this season.
I thank you that our kids don't just have us to share Jesus with them, they have a whole world. I have seen so many times how you have brought people to my kids' lives that I didn't even know were ministering to them behind the scenes. Jesus, you do so much. How dare I underestimate the ways you may interact with my kids and bring them to Christ. Lord, we pray for our kids to know Jesus, we pray for those who are suffering, and who need to know the light of God to be able to get through what they're walking in right now.
There are big ways that you are working behind the scenes that we can't even know about or fathom. So Lord, help us to trust in those things. Help us to know how to love our kids, help us to know how to support ourselves in you as we walk through this hard, scary season if we are called to walk through it. We know that you are stronger and you are wiser, and you are able to carry us and to show us how to walk it with grace and with dignity and strength. So I pray for myself and I pray for my friends now who are listening and walking this journey as well. Thank you, Lord, Amen.
[17:48] Mental health resources for parenting teens with mental health issues
It was very important for me to highlight specific mental health resources that you could use to support you on your journey with your teen or loved one, so here are some insights, tips, personal experiences, and books that I found helpful while walking through this season with my own child.
One of the very first insights I can share is don’t wait. If you sense that your child is in danger, that they're going to hurt themselves or someone else, please get help immediately. Reach out to the local authorities or call 911 to access someone who is trained to help in the event of a mental health crisis. You can take them to the emergency room or get them into a counseling office, but don't wait, delay, or put it off.
Get support from other people. This was really helpful for me. Ideally, you’ll want to find a group of Christian women who are walking through a similar season. Honestly, I know this isn't offered for all people, but at our church we have different themed life groups, and there’s a group for parents of teens. We meet with our parents of teens life group every week and it has been such a blessing.
Surround yourself with prayer warriors. If you are walking through a really tough season like this, get some prayer warriors around you. When my daughter was in those really critical days and weeks, I put together a prayer thread on my phone. I literally asked a group of about 10 of my friends, whom I trusted immensely, to intercede for her on our behalf. I shared that it was going to be a very pivotal moment in her life and asked them to join us in holding her up before God. These ladies were so faithful. I would send them prayer requests every couple of days and it meant so much to me to have that support because I knew I wasn't battling alone.
If you’re someone who feels supported through reading, I have a list for you. Not all of these books are directly related to the topic of how to keep yourself strong as a parent, but they somewhat relate and definitely provide wisdom in the area of parenting teens: It's Not Supposed to Be This Way by Lysa Terkeurst, Behind Closed Doors by Jessica L. Peck, Love Her Well by Kari Kampakis, and Boundaries with Teens by John Townsend were all books that I have felt supported by throughout our personal journey.
Lastly, but still very important to note, if you need to process what you're walking through more than just a friend, if it's maybe triggering some stuff inside of you from when you were a teen or making you feel guilty about choices you made in the past as a parent, connect with a counselor. You need to take care of yourself. Your son or daughter needs you to take care of yourself, and you need to show up well for them. In order to do that, you may need to process some of the stuff that's getting in the way. I always recommend Faithful Counseling, a worldwide resource that anyone can access.
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