“It’s the most wonderful time of the year!”
Holly-days and holy-days…lazy days and crazy days…memory-making days and thoughts of days gone by day. Hearing the word holidays paints a different mental image for each of us. This celebratory season of our Savior’s birth often turns into a frantic frenzy of shopping, cooking, partying, and busy-ness. The reason for the season easily gets lost amid the hustle and bustle. For children and teens it is a respite from routine, as they eagerly anticipate opening their long-awaited gifts. As parents we look forward to the hope, harmony, happiness and holiness of the family being together. However, sometimes those visions dancing in our heads are not of sugar plums but are sometimes images of life’s painful realities.
Teenagers often experience a plethora of emotions and feelings at the same time. However, most are not equipped to effectively manage those emotions. Often the reaction to those feelings are misdirected in anger or sadness. Having so much extra “down time” over the holidays can, in fact, create a monster in the closet for teens rather than be a reprieve. Unfortunately the ramifications of such emotions and reactions can be a tension in the home that affects everyone.
So how, as parents, can we best prepare for such possibilities? Are there things we can do to help prevent our teens from emotionally crashing during this season? How do we effectively cope should this occur? There IS hope and help IF you will be proactive and prepared:
Anticipate the possibility of such behavior, and formulate a strategy as a couple (if you are married) to handle it. Be united as parents! Please DO NOT ALLOW your teen to manipulate you and to play one parent against the other!
Be willing to accept his mood and feelings, even if you don’t understand them! Seek not to change those feelings but to acknowledge them; then offer to be a soft place for him to fall. Encourage him to talk with you openly and honestly, and assure him that your role is not to judge him for his feelings; rather it is to help him process through those feelings.
Ask how you can best serve him or her, but be ready and willing to respond when asked. Look for ways to encourage him or her, by capitalizing on their gifts and talents, and on any and all good qualities you notice in them! Remind them that nothing is impossible to overcome, and that you are standing beside them all the way! All our kids truly want to know is that home is a safe place and that you will be a constant in their life!
Find ways to include your kids in activities with you. For example, ask them to help with purchasing and wrapping gifts for others or to help assemble items that may require it. Invite him or her out to dinner or to a movie, or to play putt-putt. In other words, find fun ways to share time with them, and laugh often, letting them know that you enjoy being in their presence (even if you have to fake it ‘til you make it!).
Respect their need for time alone! Teenagers enjoy their sleep! Encourage together time but also respect the need for down time.
If you sense that your teen is in a desperate place; if he is not willing to share his feelings and emotions with you at all; if he becomes reclusive for long periods of time; if he is extremely moody, angry, or sad…it may be best to seek professional help. However, be prepared for him to adamantly refuse to go! THIS IS A NORMAL RESPONSE! Yet, as his parent, it is not prudent to avoid seeking professional help should you deem it necessary, as your teen might truly be crying out for help! Periodically for a year or so I would ask my son if he would like to seek counseling and he refused. However, he eventually came and asked us to schedule him with a counselor at Daystar Ministries, as he was feeling “down, confused and desperate” and wanted a neutral party to talk to. It has been one of the best decisions we have ever made, and he is on the road to recovery!
IF counseling is sought, please prayerfully seek the right person. Talk to others you know and trust for recommendations. If possible, seek a Christian counselor, who will not be quick to simply prescribe medication.
Disclaimer: There are times when medication is recommended, even necessary, so do not discount that recommendation. However, please do your own research before starting your child on any medication! You know your child best; you are responsible for her well being; so do not rush into anything you are uncertain of. Likewise, please do not delay either. The main objective is to help your child find relief from the pain and confusion, and to feel more “normal” again.
Above all else, PRAY! PRAY! PRAY! This is a season of life that you and your teen WILL get through, hopefully stronger and closer than ever before. My prayer for you is that this Christmas season will give you pause for reflection of our blessed Savior ‘s birth and the joyous Resurrection that followed! HE is with you every step of the way!