The holidays are around the corner and for many parents with teens in crisis it is often overwhelming to think about. Celebrating times with family and friends is not something we can even think about when living in a bubble with a struggling and hurting teen.
In years past I had often dreaded the holidays. It would always start out good but somehow and in some way it would just fall apart, leaving sadness, discouragement and feeling depressed. This is a hard thing to admit. You love your child so much and want them to get better but at the same time you want to run away from the crises that are happening around you.
I can truly emphasize as a parent the inner struggle that other parents deal with. You want to enjoy those precious holidays but how can you when your teen is feeling suicidal or they sit in their room and cry most of the night. Maybe you’re a parent who has a teen that tries to do self-harm, does drugs, has a mental illness or gets bullied and is anxious.
For one day, you just want to be able to have laughter and silliness with your kids and do fun things to create great memories. Instead, you are sitting up all night comforting them or trying to figure out if you need to take them to the emergency room.
Yes, I loved the holidays but wouldn’t allow myself to have that privilege. It just didn’t seem fair or right to enjoy myself while my teen was hurting inside. It was in those times that my hope was like a candle with most of the wax gone and the flame barely burning. Where was my strength? Where was my peace? Where was my hope? It was there, but slowing getting dimmer.
I think that if I didn’t have the Lord in my life, that strength, peace and hope would have been snuffed out completely. It was God who was the only one that lifted me up in the times I truly needed it and helped me to keep going, to never let the fire die.
What I learned throughout this period of uncertainty was not to focus on the sad, the negative, and the long-suffering of it all. Instead, I chose to replace it with prayer and reading God’s word. I also chose to unload my heart to God, my husband, and a trusted friend. Knowing that I didn’t have to carry this burden alone gave me support and our joy back. I was able to release a lot of my stress and find a lighter side to some very serious issues, because honestly, it is tiring to do it on your own.
When the holidays came, we tried hard to keep busy and took less time on the negative. Focusing on others was also a tremendous help. By donating our time, it took our eyes off of our situation and reminded us of what we should be thankful for and how to help others.
Giving or helping a shelter where many families lived was one way. Shopping for a family who had nothing on their table or surprising someone with a gift you knew they desperately needed was another. These were great ways to help my teens see that others are suffering too and that we were the ones to offer them hope in their despair. It made them realize how truly blessed they were.
So what do you do when the holidays are just around the corner and you have a teen at home that is hurting? Here a few ideas not just to help your teen but to help you too.
• Have a family member take your teen for a few hours or day so you can get time to relax your head and your body or meet a good friend that makes you laugh.
• Find a place that your teen can volunteer – most specifically a place that your teen would like such as an animal shelter. They can spend valuable time playing and making an animal happy which will lighten up their spirits.
• Take a field trip – museum, ranch, concert, car race/bumper car racing, mini-golf, sports game, nail salon, a farm to feed the animals and take a hayride or farmer’s market and get the best delicious pies and cider.
• Pick a mentor that your teen really enjoys spending time with and have them do something special with them. Sometimes teens need someone to be around with that are not their parents.
• Seek your teen’s help by asking them to write a list of fun things to do. If they don’t have any, you write down a list and let them choose.
• Bring some relatives over or good friends of the same age and let them hang out and do video games or watch movies and eat popcorn.
• Ask them to help you with the holiday meals (planning) and decorating.
If your teen likes any of the above, don’t let it stop after the holidays are over. Find ways to keep that encouragement going. Build on the things that they like. It just might start them in a career that they never thought of and help them realize that they are of great value and have a positive future.
There will be times in between activities that your teen will either have a meltdown or be overly stressed or anxious. Just take it more slowly if needed, but by all means don’t stop the activities. It’s important to keep going. You would be surprised how much they can handle.
In the end, you will find that the holidays haven’t been ruined and your stress level hasn’t gotten worse. In fact, you will find that your teen might actually have some good days in all of this and learn something powerful too.
When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all. Psalm 34:17-19
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28
Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved. Psalm 55:22