Parents, as their primary supporters, have more opportunities to interact with their adolescents and of course more influence and love to give. Parenting is of course a complex responsibility and includes many emotions and avenues. Scripture tells us to “Train up a child in the way they should go and when they are old they will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6 We also see in Ephesians 6 that Parents are not to “exasperate” their children. These two verses specifically give instruction to parents. Many other verses tell us how to interact in a godly way with others, which does include our children; expressing love, patience, forgiveness, kindness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22). Youth Leaders, or anyone who is in a modeling role for young people, are to take that role seriously and recognize the importance of letting Christ’s love shine through to others. Keep in mind that the family is the primary support group, yet you are the Shepherd for your flock of students. As a Shepherd looks after the needs of the sheep, you have taken on the responsibility of praying, teaching, sharing and demonstrating God’s love to those you meet with. Youth leaders are to assist Parents also (another blog….)
From the National Center for Poverty: “Existing mental health problems become increasingly complex and intense as children transition into adolescence. Untreated mental health problems among adolescents often result in negative outcomes. Mental health problems may lead to poor school performance, school dropout, strained family relationships, involvement with the child welfare or juvenile justice systems, substance abuse, and engaging in risky sexual behaviors.”
In a group setting, you have an opportunity to see the students’ interactions with others their age, and can recognize some of the behaviors outside of the norm. With this perspective, if you identify any behaviors or statements as being troubling, follow-up is part of your responsibility. This can include talking one-on-one with the teen to confirm struggles and to give them emotional support. Resources can be suggested and when necessary, speaking with their parents or providing additional resources.
Here are two scriptures which will help Teens in their emotional and spiritual health; of course there are many throughout the Bible that you can use and share. Matthew 11:28 “Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart and you will find rest for your souls.” Philippians 4:6-7 “Don’t worry about anything, instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”
As Christians we have access to the power and peace of Jesus. Reading His word and praying in His name gives us a different perspective, a holy perspective which allows us to be calm in the middle of the storm. This same peace is available to our teens; we can show them the way and remind them to slow down, focus on the positive elements around them and in Jesus. You can even give them a challenge; read a passage a day or a Psalm a day, or listen to the Bible audibly on their phone. Two widely used scripture phone apps available are YouVersion and BibleGateway. YouVersion has many topical studies that you can suggest to teens, or you can even do one at the same and follow up with a discussion or text. Let them know you are praying for them and pray with them as you are able. Teens want to know they have a safe place to share their feelings and still be accepted. They may be slow to respond openly, but over time, as their trust in you develops, they will feel safer and permit you to ask harder and deeper questions. Pray for opportunities and wait for the door to open, be willing to wait on God’s timing.