I recall a time when a teacher in high school ridiculed my Christian beliefs in front of thirty other students.
An algebra teacher mocked my inability to understand variable equations in front of his entire homeroom. I still remember his name and I have forgiven him.
Today I read the obituary of a fifteen-year-old girl whose family explained that their beloved daughter had hung herself after she had been bullied.
A couple of months ago a friends’ thirteen-year-old tried to commit suicide after she had been taunted by peers.
Today it’s called ‘bullying’, but forty years ago it was called ‘teasing’. Although I knew I was loved and wanted inside my own home, as a child and then a teen, school was often a place of torture for me to the point that I wanted to kill myself. It was normal to have loaded guns in our house, and several times I stood in front of the gun case staring at the rifles, wondering if I could figure out which one was loaded so I could shoot myself. I never did reach into the case and pull out a gun because I didn’t have the courage. I know God was the One who kept me from doing that.
I’m sure my parents had no idea how forlorn I was, desperate for acceptance from my peers. Although I did not attempt suicide, I do understand that desire. Satan wanted me to believe that no one would miss me if I ended it all, and I almost believed it.
If you have teens in your house, never think they won’t attempt suicide. Most parents of suicide victims say they never saw it coming.
Here are some suggestions to help your child through the troubling teen years:
*Offer praise and affirmation at every opportunity. Say please and thank you to them, and notice the little contributions they make around the house. Hug and kiss your children several times a day. My parents always hugged and kissed me, and I found great comfort in it. Don’t let your children leave the house without hugs and kisses.
Read the book called “The 5 Love Languages of Children” and apply its’ principles liberally.
*You’ll notice more positive things about your teen if you look up from your phone. A Yiddish Proverb says the eyes are the mirror of the soul, and I believe it’s true. You won’t know what lies in the depths of your teens’ soul if you don’t often look into their eyes.
*Make an effort to take them to healthy activities, such as youth group or other church gatherings. Don’t be jealous of positive role models such as youth group leaders or local athletic coaches. Teens often feel the need to find someone other than Mom or Dad to emulate. Point them in the right direction to find the right influence. When I was fourteen God brought a lovely Christian woman into my life who talked with me respectfully and loved my chunky, awkward self just the way I was. She was an important outside influence that kept my soul afloat through a time in my life when I felt overwhelmingly rejected.
*Do family jobs with your teen. Clean the garage or wash the car together while the phones are shut off. Play fun music and do a little jig around the room. Sing into the broom handle and have your own little karaoke while working in the kitchen. They might act embarrassed, or they might challenge you to a sing-off. Either way, you’re spending time with them, and that’s a critical investment in their future. There is also great satisfaction to be found in a job well done.
*Offer quality family time where all screens are shut off, including the TV. Play family board games or go on hikes. Fix meals together, and then sit down at the table to enjoy them as a family. Challenge everyone (including yourself) to shut the phones off and pile them in the middle of the table. When your teen finally starts talking it might surprise you what comes out of their mouth. Think and pray before you react.
Above all: PRAY. Pray daily and specifically for your children. I know my Mom prayed for me, and that’s probably why I’m still here today. If you don’t know what to say, open the Psalms and pray scripture over their life. Ask God for direction and wisdom as a parent. He has promised He will give wisdom if only we ask.
Be mentally and emotionally present in your child’s life. Shut off your phone, get off Facebook, shut off the TV, and pay attention to your child. Do it now while you still can.