Guiding Your Child Through Life's Challenges
Recently, the US Surgeon General released a report on the mental health of adolescence in America. According to the report, 1 in 5 adolescents will experience a mental health issue during their school years. More concerning is the finding that death by suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death in students ages 10-14 and the 2nd leading cause of death in students ages 15-18. This is an important topic that we know some of our students may be dealing with, either in experience themselves, or as they relate to their peers.
As a school, we are becoming more aware and are taking steps to better care for our community and students in regards to this growing epidemic.
Already this week, we have met with a trained professional to better equip us with the tools we need to recognize, assess and support at-risk students in the classroom. This week, we have asked School Chaplain, Jake Tassy, to provide some additional tips for parents in talking with children and teens about anxiety, depression and suicide.
Let’s face it. Life is sometimes hard. As a parent, the statistics we shared above are frightening, aren’t they? It’s important to know that though we do everything we can to love, protect, and guide our children, not one of them are immune to the struggles of this world. The devil continues his business to “kill, steal, and destroy” wherever he can (John 10:10). But, you know what? We still have HOPE. We serve a God who makes it HIS business to restore and heal, and because HE is on our side, we do not have to walk in fear, “but in love, power, and a sound mind” (2 Tim. 1:7). How we bridge the gap between research and the Gospel helps us in each challenge we face in parenting, and with the Holy Spirit, ALL things are possible. Below are some tips and resources that we have shared with teachers in approaching this topic with students that we feel are even more applicable for parents at home. I encourage you to have a conversation with your student, even if you believe they are “ok”.
Tips for Talking With Your Child About Their Mental Health
Listen: Does the mood of your home make it a safe place for your child to open up to you? Do they have the freedom to express themselves emotionally (within reason)? When your child comes to you with a struggle they are facing, LISTEN…and really listen. Avoid the temptation to immediately try to fix the problem or offer a solution. Most of the teens I talk with say that they wish their parents would just listen sometimes without trying to offer immediate advice. Realize there may not be a “quick fix”, and that’s ok.
Empathize: Take a minute and empathize with the challenges your student is facing. Put yourself in their shoes, and remember your own “growing up” years. Maybe you went through a similar struggle. This may be the door of entry for you to start the conversation, and let the Lord use the truths you learned from past experiences.
Affirm: It’s important to remind your student that God’s Word is full of practical wisdom for any and all of life’s situations. The world defines success contrary to the Truth. Sometimes our teens need help in remembering where there value comes from (or more importantly, WHO their value comes from). Point them to Scripture. Commit to helping them discover who God uniquely created them to be and do for this world.
Direct: What lies from Satan need to be kicked to the curb? Pinpoint them and replace them with corresponding Scripture to refill the gaps.
Enlist: How can they participate in their own healing? Have them give some suggestions and take action.
Refer: Keep the circle small, but encourage them to reach out to a Sunday school teacher, WCCS mentor, coach, teacher, or other adult.
Pray: Pray continuously for your child. Sounds so simple, but it’s the single most important step you can take as a parent.
Some of these resources are geared for educators that are teaching students about these topics, but they are also extremely helpful to you as parents as you seek to guide your child.
Teen Health & Emotions
Information on various topics
Speaking to a student with depression (or anxiety). It has a section of what to say and, equally as important, what not to say.
Interaction with someone that is suicidal
National Alliance on Mental Illness
As you use these resources, I encourage you to go back to Jesus as you talk with your child. Only HE can give them the hope they need to face the challenges of this world. He has come to give life, and to give it more abundantly (John 10:10).
Also, please know that there are WCCS faculty and staff available to partner with you in whatever ways your family may need support. At the heart of our school mission is the desire to help each one of our students reach their full, God-given potential, to thrive, and to be able to bless our world in HIS name and for HIS glory.