I’m a Parent Who Struggles with Depression

** The following article was copied from theparentcue.org.

Hi, My Name is Brandon O’Dell.

I am a husband and a father of three young children.
I am a writer, an actor, and a Christian.
And I suffer from clinical depression.

Let me give you some background. I was a happy kid, raised in a Christian home by two loving parents. I did well in school. I made many friends, some I still have to this day. When I was going into college, my guidance counselor asked where my greatest area of stress was, and I replied that I didn’t have any stress. I was carefree.

In 1993, my sophomore year at Shorter College in Rome, Georgia, my mother died of a brain tumor. And yet, I immediately accepted her death as part of God’s grand plan. I did not mourn. I did not let it stress me out.

And then, a year and a half later, the proverbial poop hit the fan.

A friend of mine invited me to hear her sing in an on-campus recital, which I agreed to attend. I did not attend. She confronted me in the school’s dining hall that evening, and wracked with guilt, I broke down and cried. I cried all the way back to my dorm room. I cried because I had let my friend down, but not only that. I cried because people in the world let people down all the time. I cried for the state of humankind. I cried for what seemed like that entire year.

I had no idea what was going on. I thought I was going crazy. And I knew that I was the only one who felt the way I did, so I had no one to talk to. No one who would understand. It wasn’t until I had an emotional breakdown in front of my father, that he encouraged me to get some help.

Seeing a psychiatrist for the first time helped me put a name to what I was going through—major depressive disorder. I realized then that not only was I not alone, depression was fairly common. People just didn’t talk about it. Because they were ashamed for some reason. Or embarrassed. But for me, learning I wasn’t crazy was the first step to understanding my illness, and that was a good thing.

Time has passed. Depression comes in waves, like the flu season, though without the predictable change in the weather. Sometimes it lasts for a few weeks, sometimes months, and currently I’m in a season that has lasted two and a half years.

Everything I do is hard. Work is hard. Being a dad is hard. Getting out of bed is hard. Writing this blog has been hard. I have to force myself to do everything, even things I might normally enjoy. In fact, I desire nothing. Sometimes I feel embarrassed when I hand in work late or when my wife has to pick up a lot of the slack around the house. But even so, I refuse to be ashamed to talk about my depression.

I decided a while back to be open and honest about what was happening to me. You see, I still believe there’s a purpose in this. That God has a plan to use my depression somehow for His glory. There’s meaning, even if I never discover what the meaning is.

As far as my children are concerned, I don’t lie to them and pretend everything’s okay. They know that Daddy has depression and that sometimes he’s too tired to play. I want them to see me weak and broken. Then they can see God at work in me. And if my children ever go through something like this later in life, I want them to be able to recognize it, talk to me (or someone else) about it, and deal with it without shame.

I’ve been reaching out on Facebook to friends and acquaintances who have had a similar experience. I’ve had several lunches, texts, and phone conversations with people who I barely know but who KNOW me because of depression. This is how I can love others. It’s a small thing, but in depression the small things often seem insurmountable.

If you’re a parent struggling with depression, I don’t really have answers for you. But I can tell you that you’re not alone. And I can tell you that you are created by a God who loves you. And no matter how messy it gets, I believe God is at work in your life telling a story of restoration for you and for your family.

For me, the past few weeks have seen some brighter moments. I’m on some medicine that seems to work for me. It may not work forever, but today, right now, this moment, I’m doing fine. And that’s enough.

A Word to Strengthen Parents of Disabled Children

** The following is the transcript of an audio message from www.desiringgod.org.   Click on the link to hear the message.

Happy Friday, everyone. Today, we’re going to do something a little different. Instead of a question, we’re going to attempt to encourage one particular listener, and many like her, in the form of a letter.

This is a letter from Pastor John to a mother he knows personally — a mother who wrote him because she needed strength in the great calling she carries. She’s been caring for a disabled son for over twenty years, a son who cannot talk, cannot dress himself, cannot feed himself. He just turned twenty.

Most of us can only imagine the enormity of the burden this mom carries as his primary caregiver for now over two decades. So, Pastor John, what did you say to this amazing mom in your letter? Share your thoughts with us here on the podcast.

I’m sure this mom would not want me to lift her up as a hero, make her name public, or her situation known, so I won’t. But I know that she wouldn’t mind if I took this public occasion to share with others the kind of encouragement I wanted her to feel. There are thousands of moms — and not just moms, of course — who quietly carry huge burdens for their disabled children and for other relatives.

I am sure that they often feel like this is one of the loneliest jobs in the world, with little or no public recognition or reward. How do you laugh? How do you keep on, so quietly and out of the way, bearing so much weight? How do you press on?

I’m going to make enough changes in this letter that I wrote to this mom, to encourage her on the birthday of her disabled son, so that she won’t be given away. I’m going to call her son John. That’s not his real name. I chose my name because it’s what I would want somebody to pray for me. So I’ll stick my name in there. I hope the basic message comes through and that all those who have the relentless job of caregiving will take heart.

Letter to a Mom of a Disabled Son

Noël and I remember being at your dining-room table, talking about this new little one who had just been born. You were just beginning to come to terms with his disabled situation, and you were wondering about how to think about healing and prayer. Now, here we are over two decades later, and your world has been forever changed.

My birthday wish and my prayer is that John will be able, in some way, to show you love, and that you will be strengthened in the depths of your soul. Or as Paul says, “that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith — that you [may be] rooted and grounded in love” (Ephesians 3:16–17).

Prosperity Is Coming

I would love to share with you my most recent effort to grasp the psalmist’s meaning when he says in Psalm 1 that the man — or let’s say the mom — who delights in the law of the Lord, and meditates on it day and night, will prosper in all that she does.

Really? I mean, I know and the psalmist knew that there are dozens of things believers experience that do not make them feel like they are prospering. We know he knew it because he said so in Psalm 44:20–22.

I can imagine you feel this day in and day out. But here is what I think he meant, since he knew as well as we do that there are horrible days for the worshipers of the true God. When he said, “Everything you do prospers if you delight in the law of the Lord and meditate on it day and night,” I think what he meant that there is a day coming when our Redeemer will arrive, and he will snatch futility and death out of the hands of Satan.

As it says, “He will bear all our iniquity” (see Isaiah 53:6). So he’ll cover all our sins, and we’ll obtain grace that is so powerful and so pervasive that it turns every disappointment and every frustration and every pain in the path of obedience to Jesus into a final triumph.

In other words, he will pay the price — this Redeemer who will come. He will pay the price to purchase for us the reality that it will all work for good (Romans 8:28). Everything is going to work for our good, and he’s going to make that come true because he bought it for us.

Repaid by God

Here’s why I think that’s what the psalmist is getting at when he says that in everything you do, you prosper in caring for your son. Paul said, “Whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord” (Ephesians 6:8).

In other words, not one expenditure of effort in the service of your son will go unrewarded. This was spoken to slaves who probably were only rewarded in this life with pain for doing good things.

In other words, in this life, it regularly does not look like the things we are doing are prospering; they’re not being rewarded with good. It doesn’t look like all the expenditure, energy, effort, and care is prospering. But Paul says, “In the end, every good deed will come back with great reward from the Lord.” In other words, in the long run you will prosper in all of it.

Paul makes it even clearer. I love this text. I had never seen this in this light before. Paul says, “Be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58). Now that’s a negative way of saying something. What’s the positive way of saying, “Your work is not in vain”? Isn’t the positive way of saying “not in vain” to say that your work will prosper? It will.

The therefore at the front of verse 58 makes this promise the outcome of the resurrection. In other words, the sting of death is sin, the power of sin is the law, but thanks be to God who gives us the victory — yes, victory through Jesus Christ, risen from the dead. Therefore, everything you do will prosper.

So when Psalm 1 says, “You will prosper in all that you do,” I don’t think the psalmist is naïve. He was prophetic. Jesus came; he paid our debt; he defeated Satan and death. He secured our future. He takes note of every good deed, writes them in a book, and he will make them prosper. He will reward us in due time.

Resurrection Security

Let’s just put one more promise on the table to make this crystal clear. Jesus said, “When you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just” (Luke 14:13–14).

Your son cannot repay you. Even if there’s some wonderful, deep longing in his heart that he could do it, he can’t. His disability is too profound. You spread a feast of love for him every day, and he cannot repay you. Yet you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just. I don’t think I’m going too far beyond Scripture to say that your son himself will join the Lord on that day in active, joyful repayment.

Happy birthday to you both — to John, who cannot respond, and to you, who makes his life possible. May you and he know, deeply and sweetly, the love of Christ. May you be strengthened with the promises of your merciful high priest, who is always there with mercy and grace to help in time of need.

Parenting Through the Tough Questions

** The following article was copied from www.desiringgod.org.

The other day, our family was out for an evening stroll along our usual route. We went down the sidewalk from our home, past a few shops, across a street, and over to the local college.

On our return, we walked past the large cemetery next to our neighborhood, where a couple of men were preparing a gravesite. As we walked by, my 5-year-old son asked one of those questions parents often dread: “Dad, what are they doing?”

What should I do? Was he too young to hear the truth? I could shrug the question off — perhaps by redirecting his attention to the sunset or a passing car. But I decided that my inquisitive little guy deserved an answer.

Gospel at the Graveyard

I stopped and sat on the cemetery wall, stood him in front of me, and began my best attempt at an explanation: “Buddy, at the end of each person’s life, they die. When someone dies, they put the person’s body in a box, they dig a hole in the ground, and they put the box inside the hole.”

He responded, “Do we have clothes on when we go inside the box?”

I said, “Well, they put clothes on the person’s body when they put them in the box. . . . Did you know that Jesus died? They put his body in the ground, but three days later he came out of the ground because God raised him back to life. If we believe in Jesus, we will go to be with Jesus when we die. And one day, when Jesus comes back, our bodies will come out of those holes all brand new, and we will live with Jesus forever and never die again.”

“I hope I still get to wear my clothes. And I’m going to keep my eyes open inside that box.”

“Okay, buddy.”

Patterns of Honesty

Obviously, my son was pretty lost on the whole dying-and-being-buried thing. But I was trying to establish an important precedent with him. When he comes to me with honest questions, I am going to give him honest answers. He may not fully understand the answer, and I may fumble through an awkward reply, but one thing is certain: I’m not going to ignore his earnest inquiries.

“When my son comes to me with honest questions, I want to give him honest answers.”

My hope is that the patterns of communication my wife and I are establishing early on with our children will continue to equip us as parents. With God’s help, each question we choose not to punt on gives us more wisdom to handle the next. If I feed my kids little falsehoods now, thinking, “They’re too young for the truth,” I’m not only hindering their growth in wisdom and stature, but also my own. They may be too young for certain details, but there’s a way to lovingly answer their specific question truthfully. If I can’t give my 5-year-old the truth, what makes me think I’ll be ready to do it when he’s fifteen?

These years — when the kids are young and the questions are of little consequence — are practice for later. Right now, we’re learning to field basic queries like “Is Santa real?” or “How big is God?” But one day the questions might become “My best friend just told me he’s gay — what should I do?” or “Why would a good God let them die like that?” As we step up to the plate now, while they’re young, we trust that God will teach us how to handle the questions that will be more difficult to answer later.

Children will satisfy their curiosity one way or another. If we do not give them the truth, they will find it elsewhere. Establishing an early pattern of open communication will hopefully help to avoid heartache later on. No parent wants to discover too late that their kids have been going online, to their peers, or to even worse places with questions they don’t trust us to answer to their satisfaction.

On top of all this, it’s important that we treat our kids according to their God-given dignity. They are little people made in the image of God. They deserve the truth.

Every Conversation Captive

My son’s question, which threw me off guard at first, turned out to be a great doorway for the gospel. That evening in front of the cemetery, I could have shuffled the family along, avoided the topic, and given some vague answer like, “They’re just digging a hole.” But when your child asks you pointedly about a graveyard, is it really to his benefit to avoid the issue of death altogether?

“If I can’t give my 5-year-old the truth, what makes me think I’ll be ready to do it when he’s fifteen?”

Surely God envisioned these exact conversations when he commanded us, “You shall teach [these words] diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise” (Deuteronomy 6:7). At the breakfast table, on the summer walk, and from the bedtime pillow, our children probe us for the truth spurred on by their own curiosity about the world around them. These are the perfect times to teach our kids about God and his gospel.

Be on the lookout. Many of our children’s toughest or most embarrassing questions can turn out to be perfect opportunities to talk about the good news of Jesus. Take those conversations captive. Sit and talk intentionally and honestly with your children. Are we going to bumble through our answers, have awkward transitions, and make absolutely no sense sometimes? Of course. But my kids are young — they won’t know any better! Maybe yours are older. They will likely still appreciate your candor, and God will help you grow over time. It’s never too late to start telling the truth.

The Truth Our Kids Need

If you have been in the habit of dodging your kids’ hard questions, you may need to ask for their forgiveness. Children become exasperated when Mom and Dad fail to be the primary truth-tellers in their lives. Paul tells us the solution is to “bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).

As we grow in faithfulness to instruct our children in the truth, we trust the Spirit to grant us more wisdom to point them to Jesus Christ, who is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6).

Why Kids Need the Sufficiency of Christ

** The following article was copied from www.gospelatcenter.com.

One of the greatest lies we believe is that something we own, can gain or obtain will make us happy. We confuse the gifts with the giver of the gifts. This starts early for us. We chase after many things, often good things. But we often do it in a way that can lead us from Christ rather than to Christ. Someone once said that we don’t know that Christ is all we need until Christ is all we have. The sufficiency of Christ is the understanding of the reality that all things come from Christ that he is our single pursuit in life. That every good and perfect thing come from him. That we can rejoice in times good and times bad because we have our prize already we have Jesus. That He gives us what we need when we need it not what we want when we want it. Our kids need to know this.

Our kids need to know that Christianity is the only religion that gives material things their proper place. We can enjoy them as gifts from a God who is a good father and loves us with an unending love. We don’t think things are evil, although they can be. The best way for us as parents and family ministers to convey this to our kids is to remind them over and over that Christ is enough that His sacrifice for us was enough. We have to point our kids to the sufficiency of Christ because it is the truth that will hold them when life fails them.

Throughout life, we can come to see the sufficiency of Christ by accident or on purpose. There are so many things in this media-saturated, social media frenzied life we live that lie to us and our kids. We hear “if you only had me you would be enough.” “If you only had this or that then you would be enough.” The sad reality is far too often we spend the best years of our lives chasing that lie. What we need and our kids need is a life that is lived enjoying the substance of life rather than languishing in the shadows pretending that we are satisfied with them. At some point, the things we put our hope in will let us down and we will be confronted with the sufficiency of Christ that we will have to embrace or reject. I came to my understanding of Christ’s sufficiency on accident. I want my kids to see the sufficiency of Christ on purpose. I want them to see Christ as enough as kids.

How we demonstrate the sufficiency of Christ to our kids

  1. Don’t mask your pain – Kids don’t need to know and shouldn’t know everything their parents face, but they should know enough to know How God met the needs that your family has.
  2. Regularly worship together – It can look however it looks for your family. Regularly seeking God when there are no major problems in your family show your kids God is not a panic button we push but a sovereign God who is enough in every season of life.
  3. Practice the discipline of thankfulness – When God comes through for you do not pat yourself on the back, thank God in front of your kids. That they will know that it was God who rescues. It is God who provides. It is God in whom we find all that we need.
  4. Talk often about the cross of Christ – It is at the cross that Christ supplied for us the solution to the graves condition of mankind our separation from Christ. When we talk about the price that Jesus paid. We love him more. When we see Him as ALL sufficient rather than sometimes helpful He takes his proper place on the throne of our hearts.

Our kids need to see Christ as ALL sufficient rather than sometimes helpful.

An Unexpected Gift: Raising a Child With a Learning Disability

** The following article was copied from www.familylife.com.

As parents, we never want to see our children struggle in school or in life. When we send our children to school we have hopes and dreams for them that we don’t often verbalize. We want them to “fit in”, get good grades, behave, pay attention, have good friends, and enjoy school. Our expectations grow as our children pass through elementary, middle and high school. But what happens when your child begins to struggle academically, socially, or behaviorally at school or in the home?

Last November, our family went through the process of determining what was going on with our youngest son, Matthew. He began grade 2 with enthusiasm and energy, but that quickly faded as October rolled around and the work became more demanding. We began to notice that he had a tummy ache every morning and that he was complaining of headaches. His reading and math skills were not progressing. His teacher and I became concerned and we began talking regularly. Referrals for Learning Assistance and Speech and Language Assessments were sent out, but Matthew was not considered “low enough” to enter our school’s Learning Assistance program. Yet, Matthew continued to struggle in class.

The symptoms persisted: can’t follow directions, has a hard time focusing in class, works slowly, reads slowly, is easily distracted, and on and on. We knew something was wrong but we couldn’t put the pieces together. We had a giant jigsaw puzzle dumped on the floor with no box top to follow. We just didn’t know what we were looking at. How could we help him if we didn’t know what was wrong?

As a mom and dad, we were aching for Matthew. We felt helpless because we didn’t know where to start. Being trained as an elementary school teacher, I felt frustrated that we would have to go outside the school system to have Matthew assessed. What I was not prepared for was how God turned this whole situation into a beautiful gift.

At first, both Ken and I struggled with a million questions. Would Matthew succeed in school? What does all of this mean for his future? How can we help him? Did we do something to cause this problem? How is he going to feel? Why does it have to be Matthew that struggles? However, after extensive testing through an educational psychologist, a speech and language pathologist, and an audiologist, a wonderful picture of our son began to develop.

It was as if we were unwrapping an incredibly precious and rare gift. Each testing day brought new insights into how Matthew learns, how he takes in and processes information, and how his amazing brain is able to compensate for weaknesses in one area by developing other areas. Through much dialogue with the professionals involved and his teachers at school, we were able to bring to the school some concrete ideas that when implemented would make a world of difference for Matthew, and probably other children in the class. As a teacher, I have always looked for different ways to engage students in the learning process. I recognized that each child brings to the classroom differing learning styles, but through this process, I was blown away by the incredible detail God designs into each of our children.

Our children are a wonderful gift from the Lord, and it is in His infinite wisdom that he creates our children uniquely. I will never read Proverbs 22:6 the same way again. “Train a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not turn from it.” Every child can succeed if he/she is trained with their unique style in mind. They can succeed in school, in relationships, in their spiritual life and in their family life.

10 Ways to Support Your Child Who Is Struggling in School…

  1. Remember: God has specially chosen you as your child’s most important teacher.
    You are their first and most important advocate in the school system they are in. You are capable of communicating vital information with those who will teach and interact with your child. You know your child the best.
  2. Build a great relationship with your child.
    Take the time to talk to your child regularly about what is happening in school. When you have an open line of communication, concerns, struggles and stress can be identified early. When an area of concern becomes known, you have a natural forum to begin to process it with your child. A great relationship takes BOTH quality and quantity time.
  3. Become a student of your child.
    Take a front row seat in the life of your child and learn about their personality, their learning style, how they deal with stress, their strengths, and their preferences.
  4. Build good communication with your child’s teacher.
    Do not wait to bring concerns to the teacher. Early intervention into learning issues is to your child’s advantage. There are many amazing teachers in the system, who are more than willing to partner with you in helping your child succeed. Excellent communication between home and the school can alleviate a lot of your child’s stress.
  5. Listen to your instincts.
    If you feel your child is struggling, gently but firmly pursue assistance for your child. (Remember, honey catches more flies than vinegar.)
  6. Make sure your child understands and knows their strengths.
    You continue to help your child build confidence and the ability to take risks when they are encouraged and supported in something they are good at. Consider things like team or individual sports, music, art, etc.
  7. Build a network of people around you who can provide information, strategies, and support for you and your child.
    It is amazing the connections you will make once you start asking questions and talking about your concerns. Many professional services are covered by extended health plans.
  8. Pray, pray, and pray some more.
    Pray that God will give you the necessary insight and wisdom to help your child succeed. Believe me, some days prayer was the only way I could hold it together. Pray that God will bring the right people into your child’s life.
  9. Communicate regularly with your spouse.
    It is critical that you are both on the same page when it comes to your child’s development. You both need to know what is working, and what is not.
  10. Learn from your child.
    Learn to see life from their perspective. Matthew has taught us how to look at the simplest of things and to be able to admire the color, the shape, or an interesting detail.

There were so many blessings wrapped up in this unexpected gift that God gave us. The first was the recognition of Matthew as a unique individual. Through the reports we got, the individuals involved in testing and assisting Matthew, and his teachers, we were given specific and vital clues to tap into the way that Matthew learned and processed information. Now that we are using strategies that match Matthew’s strengths, he is flourishing. He has found new wings and is once again taking risks in learning and in social situations.

The second gift is that Matthew’s stress level has come way down. The first day he went back to school after the results of the testing came in, he did not want to go. He was worried, he was feeling stupid and he was frustrated. I explained that what was happening to him was not his fault – he was not dumb. I expressed to him his strengths and explained that there was part of his brain that needed to catch up to the rest of him. I told him that his teachers knew what the problem was and that they wanted to help him. He looked at me with tears in his eyes and said “Mom that’s perfect; I don’t have to worry any more.” (My eyes were not dry either.) He walked out the door and I have not heard another word about him wanting to miss school.

Lastly, God has brought so many people into our lives with whom we’ve been able to share our journey and suggest some good resources to. Matthew’s teachers have been absolutely amazing as well. I have called one of them Matthew’s personal angel for the past year. I am convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that God places people into the lives of our children at critical moments.

It has been a year of both challenge and blessing and I don’t believe our journey is over yet. We will keep unwrapping this precious gift that God has given to us. Some days it seems like Matthew has to work harder than any of our other children to accomplish normal school work, and other days his imagination and creativity just shine. I can hardly wait to see what God has in store for him in the future. I’m sure I will be amazed at how God is able to use all of this for His glory.

Building a Healthy Family System Seminar – Managing Conflict and Anger

“Great evening!  Thanks to everyone. Pat Nolan was knowledgable and approachable; we left with “at least one thing” (and so much more).  Mr. Sasser was helpful and fun.  Attendees were honest and open. Snacks were perfect.  Great night!  Much appreciated!”

 

On Sunday, April 8th Pat Nolan encouraged a group of parents in the area of managing conflict and anger in your home.  Below are several resources on this topic.

Seminar Notes – Building a Healthy Family System ~ on Anger

Audio of the Seminar

Parent Network Podcast Episode 11 with Pat Nolan – follow up to the seminar

 

     

 

 

 

 

 

5 Simple Ways to Help Teens Cope with Anxiety

** The following article was copied form www.theparentcue.org.

Spring can be a tough time in the world of a teenager. Yes, the flowers are blooming, the trees are getting greener and the air is filled with the sweet scent of spring flowers. But many high schoolers are experiencing the stress of finals, sitting for AP exams, taking or re-taking the SAT or ACT, navigating the college application process, and of course, preparing for prom. And if those tasks aren’t already anxiety provoking, let’s not underestimate the power of peer approval. School has become somewhat of a social minefield for teens, and acceptance from their peers is imperative.

And those are just a fraction of the stuff that concern teens this time of year.

Rising academic standards, increased competition for colleges, extracurricular activities, and bourgeoning romantic interests are all aspects of being a teen that can lead to feelings of failure and rejection… which can then open the doorway for anxiety.

Anxiety is a normal and unavoidable part of life, especially when experiencing something new or transitioning to a new stage in life. For teens, anxiety can show up in a number of ways: shortness of breath, picking of skin, feeling overwhelmed, or feelings of sudden panic are just a few. Anxiety can even show up in one’s thinking patterns such as in “what-if” thoughts about being judged or criticized, and persistent worries about the future.

The way you acknowledge and respond to a teen showing signs of anxiety is critical in helping them to foster a sense of competence. What can parents do to help teens manage high anxiety periods? Here are five simple strategies to consider:

1. SPENDING QUALITY TIME.

Adolescence is often characterized as a stage of waning parental influence as children begin to slowly distance themselves from the values of their parents. While there is truth to that theory, it does not tell the full story. Years of experience in education and mental health has taught me that while parent-teen relationships are not always peaceful, they can be pivotal. Teenagers need their parents and other loving adults to guide them as they develop and mature. There are studies that even suggest that teenagers need more quality time from parents than toddlers! Open communication and support can buffer some of the turbulence of adolescence. Making yourself available physically and emotionally—even when you feel pushed away—during stressful periods outweighs any previous conflicts. Impromptu conversations during family meals and while driving to the soccer field really matter. Over time, both parents and teens will balance the need for independence and closeness.

2. ENCOURAGING A TECH BREAK.

Due to the pervasiveness of technology in our society, teens—and adults—find it difficult to unplug. A student recently shared her experience with a one week “Social Media Detox” challenge posed by her English teacher. While the thought of giving up Instagram and Snapchat was initially terrifying, she observed how immensely freeing it eventually became. Most teens are connected to technology each day and more so for social reasons rather than academic ones. The challenge for parents is that it is nearly impossible to limit access to most forms of technology, and you may not even desire to. However, guidance and supervision is still important, even in the teen years. Focus on moderation rather than prevention. Participating in a self-imposed break can help to reduce the feelings of pressure in an already overwhelmed teen. For those reluctant to detox completely, offer up a compromise of deleting saved bookmarks from their internet browser, or turning off email notifications on their smart phones . . . at least for a weekend.

3. SHARING YOUR EXPERIENCES.

Adolescence is a time for identity formation. With the increasing pressures of academic achievement and fixations around appearance, it is no wonder that teen anxiety is on the rise. Despite mounting pressures, one comforting fact is that teens respond favorably to, and learn from anyone to whom they feel a personal connection. One parenting tip that I frequently offer is to reflect about a time when you faced a similar challenge as your teen is facing or experienced debilitating anxiety. Aim for a 10-15-minute conversation with your teen while in the car or when taking the dog for a walk. Before doing so, ask yourself the following: What did you wish your parents had done to help you? What would you have wanted to hear? What did they do that you valued and respected? Respond to your teen with empathy and share how you successfully managed the issue. Or, how maybe you weren’t so successful initially. Then allow your teen to explore his or her own thoughts and feelings related to what you’ve shared.

4. OFFERING PERSPECTIVES.

Journeying from childhood to adulthood is difficult. In just a few short years, teens go through a significant number of physical and emotional changes. Also, decisions such as where to apply to college or who to ask out for prom may seem exciting to onlookers but may trigger feelings of dread for a teenager. The reality of independence can be terrifying. Teens often feel the pressure to be all things to all people. Remind your teen that who they are is much more important than their SAT score or who they date. Encourage your teen to view their worries about their future as a normal and natural part of growing up. Parents can take concrete steps to help their teen better understand their unique experiences through journaling, reading short stories, and watching films that celebrate the adolescent journey. Yes, some choices about the future need to be made now, but it is okay to not know everything and to continue to explore. Offering perspective and repeatedly reminding your teen that they are fully accepted just for who they are, goes a long way towards enhancing self-esteem and decreasing anxiety.

5. GETTING PHYSICAL.

Teens need both challenge and involvement. The teens that I work with often describe anxiety as “. . . wanting to jump out of my skin.” Anxiety can be both mentally and physically draining. Teens are often short on energy because of too little physical activity. Balancing the pressure of a rigorous academic load with aerobic activity can alleviate stress and anxiety which can be stored in the body. Even if your teen isn’t particularly athletic, help him or her to find ways to slow down, have more fun, and seek a more balanced lifestyle. Bowling, skating, or simply reading a good book are great ways to decompress. Engaging in fun and relaxing activities such as art, dance, and music can elicit positive emotions and social bonding.

The emotional, mental, and physiological symptoms of anxiety can be very frightening and confusing for teens. The good news? Anxiety is very common and quite treatable. And, yes, it can also be overwhelming. If your teen is struggling, it may be helpful to speak with a family physician, school counselor, or a licensed therapist. Finding the right strategies for your teen, along with a healthy dose of patience and compassion can work wonders.

Parenting in the Power of the Gospel

** The following article was copied from core christianity.com.

All Christian parents desire the spiritual well-being of their children. We want our children to be Christians, to get saved, to know God; however we express it, we want our children to be part of the company of the redeemed. We yearn for the blessing of God’s covenant grace to be on our children. This longing to see one generation follow another in knowing God motivates the training and instruction of our children. Psalm 78:3-7 (ESV) captures it:

Things that we have heard and known, that our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done. He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children, that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and teach to their children, so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments.

We declare God’s mighty acts to the next generation (Ps. 145) because we long for our children to know the grace we have known. We teach God’s ways so that our sons and our son’s sons will follow God (Deut. 6).

Moved by this passion, Christian parents also long for assurance that their children will grow up Christian. I have been asked hundreds of times all over the globe, “If I do all the things you teach in Shepherding a Child’s Heart, will my children grow up to be Christians? Doesn’t the Bible teach that if we raise them right, our children will walk in God’s ways? Doesn’t God’s covenant guarantee they will be saved?”

How can we think about these things? Why do some children raised in Christian homes grow up loving God, while others, sometimes from the same home, turn away? In answering this question, we must identify two issues that have an impact on the persons our children become: the shaping influences of their lives and the Godward orientation of their hearts.

Shaping Influences

Shaping influences are those events and circumstances in a child’s developmental years that prove to be catalysts for making him the person he is. There is a clear biblical warrant for acknowledging the lifelong implications of early childhood experience. The major passages dealing with family (Deut. 6, Eph. 6, and Col. 3) presuppose the importance of shaping influences they include your faithfulness as a parent, the consistency of correction and discipline in your home, your nurture, your teaching of Christian truth, your family times in God’s word, even the ways you demonstrate spiritual vitality before your children.

Your children interact with every shaping influence you provide on the basis of the Godward orientation of their hearts. Here is what I mean: your children are covenantal beings. Humanity is essentially religious; no one is truly neutral even our children worship either Jehovah or idols. All of us filter the experiences of life through a religious grid.

In the book of Romans, the Apostle Paul reminds us that the truth of God revealed in creation leaves all mankind without excuse. All human beings respond to this revelation in creation; they either worship God or, in the words of Romans 1, they “exchange the truth for a lie and worship and serve created things.” Fallen humans refuse to acknowledge and submit to the things God has made plain in the creation. Paul further observes that when people know God in the creation and do not glorify him, they fall into futile thinking that leads to idolatry.

The Godward orientation of the heart ultimately determines how your children will respond to the truth you teach them. If they bow before idols rather than God, they will reject your best efforts at training them in his ways.

Proverbs 9:7-10 shows us that there are two different ways children respond to correction, rebuke, instruction, and teaching. One is the response of the wise or righteous child. He loves his instructor; he grows wiser; he increases in his learning. The other fellow the mocker, the wicked child responds with hatred, insults, and abuse. What accounts for the difference? “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” Wisdom determines how a child responds to correction. Your children are never neutral in response to your parenting but always active. Whatever they do with God, whatever they determine to worship and serve, will determine how they respond to your parenting efforts. Two children from the same home may respond in very different ways to the same parenting style. That’s why it is not possible to provide a guarantee that if you get it right, children will respond with faith.

The desire for such assurances is easily understood. From the time your first child is born, you realize you will never have a happy day if your child is unhappy. The parents’ love creates a longing for their child to thrive and flourish. That desire takes on eternal significance when we think of our children’s immortality. The idea that they could go into eternity without God is unbearable for any believing parent. So we long for assurance that there is something we can do that will guarantee their everlasting joy and happiness in the presence of God.

I recall how sobering these thoughts were to me as a young father. I realized that as a fallen man I had passed on to my young children a nature that is fallen and corrupt, but I could not pass on to them the grace of forgiveness and new life in Christ. I remember thinking that each day as I taught my children the Scriptures I gave them the truth that would either be their salvation or increase their accountability before God, for to whom much is given much will be expected.

Child Salvation by (Parental) Works?

We cannot save our children. We don’t like to face that. We long for some guarantee, some assurance that if we do the right things they will turn out all right. But in some ways, it is a relief to face that reality. If you think of it, the idea that we must save them through our good works is a pressure no parent can bear. It hinges our children’s eternal destiny on our ability to perform.

We have to be able to represent God in all his glory, teach them adequately, be a vibrant example of true spirituality, and we have to do it all flawlessly or our children will be forever lost. The fact is that I failed as a parent. Too often my pride and self-righteousness got in the way. I personalized my children’s sins as if they were sins against me and not against God. I was inconsistent, sometimes capricious, too busy, too concerned about me, too blind to the idols of my heart.

What Are We to Do?

Then why bother? If I cannot be assured that good biblical parenting will produce saved children, why bother? Why work so hard at the parenting task? Why read books on parenting, why work so hard on the ways we structure family life and the effort we put into things like family worship, faithfulness in church, and careful, timely, appropriate discipline?

We do these things because it is our calling as God’s redeemed people. Ephesians 6:4 says we should bring up our children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Deuteronomy 6 says that God’s words are to be upon our hearts and impressed diligently upon our children. We do these things out of love for God. It is our delight to obey God and to teach his ways to our children. His grace makes us delight in him and his law in our inmost being (Rom. 7:22).

Parents often ask, “What hope then is there for my kids, if I cannot get them into the Kingdom by my faithful parenting? What’s my hope?” Our hope is not our fidelity to the law of good parenting but to the power of the gospel. Our hope is the wonder of grace. Our hope is that God has placed our children in our home and has given us the one true answer for our kids’ most profound needs.

God has put them in a family where they are confronted with their sin and the goodness of the One who came into the world to save sinners. Every day I am bringing grace to my children. I have the opportunity to model the grace of the gospel by honestly confessing my own failures and responding to their failures with gracious discipline and discipling. They daily hear the word of God. We know that faith comes by hearing.

Each week we gather where the church sings God’s praises, and they hear God’s people pray and listen to the word of God preached. They are confronted with the vibrant reality of the worshiping church, interpreting life through the lens of Scripture. Historically, God has used these means to bring people to faith, and so I pray week by week that God will, through these means, shine his light into their hearts, giving them the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 4:6).

There was a mother whom I was privileged to serve in the church. She prayed for her son’s salvation. She prayed for fifty-eight years without giving way to unbelief, but she died without seeing him come to faith. Within several years of her death, however, God brought her son to see his need for grace and to embrace Christ and his saving grace. Her prayers were answered even though she did not live to see the answer.

This hope will seem insufficient to the one who is looking for performance guarantees. But this is a realistic hope that keeps me on my knees before God, beseeching him to do in and for my children what I cannot do myself. It keeps me humble in prayer, asking God to use the means he has appointed. It keeps me casting myself on his grace and mercy. It makes me a humble supplicant before the sovereign God of grace. My encouragement is not that I can get it right but that God is a willing, able, powerful Savior of sinners.

Avoid Arguing With Your Kids

** The following article was copied from theparentcue.org.

You can’t effectively discipline your teenager if you continually find yourself in the middle of an argument with him. When disciplining, conversations may become heated, so use good communication skills and agree to walk away until you’ve both calmed down. The best way to avoid an argument is by refusing to engage in one.

When she was younger, one of our daughters could win most arguments in our home. She was dynamic and articulate and could argue either side of an issue. Sometimes I think she would argue simply for the sake of arguing. There were times when she was just exhausting. One day a counselor friend of mine gave me two words of advice: quit arguing. He encouraged me to hold my ground and refuse to argue with my daughter.

Learning to resist arguing with a child who is pushing your buttons isn’t easy, but here are three sayings I’ve found are helpful to diffuse potential arguments with teens:

“I FEEL YOUR PAIN.”

If your child knows your expectations and they break them, or if they suffer consequences from their poor decisions, let them know you care and that you feel their pain. You have empowered your child to make healthy decisions, but when he doesn’t do that, you can show him empathy while holding him accountable. In a HomeWord parent podcast, John Rosemond shared what he told his own kids: “If I was your age, I’d feel the same way. The answer is still no, but you are doing a great job expressing yourself.”

“NEVERTHELESS.”

This might be the most important word in the English language to show our kids who really is the leader in your home. Yes, we do feel their pain and we are listening; nevertheless, the consequences are going to stay. Adapting John’s words to his kids, a parent might say, “I can understand how you feel, and I might have felt the same way when I was your age. Nevertheless…”

“LIFE ISN’T FAIR.”

The sooner your child understands that life isn’t fair, and that whining and complaining won’t get her what she wants, she will quit trying to play the ‘make-it-fair’ game. Whenever you can, let reality be the teacher for your kids. If whining and manipulating works for a child even some of the time, it is the parent who has to live with the consequences.

Here are some more wise words John Rosemond shared in one of our parent podcasts: “Parents should not agonize over what a child fails to do or does if the child is perfectly capable of agonizing over it himself.” [i]Whatever your teen’s age, it’s about time he learns the truth that life isn’t always fair, but it sure can be good.”

Overcoming Prodigal Paralysis

** The following article was copied from ncbaptist.org

Luke records the well-known parable of a father and his two sons. Jesus tells the story of the younger son asking his father for his share of the estate. Without hesitation, the father divided his property between the two boys. With his pockets full of money, the younger son leaves home to live a life consumed with selfish independence (Luke 15:11-13).

In his commentary on this passage, pastor and author David Guzik describes the family drama by saying, “The father clearly illustrates God’s love. His love allowed rebellion and in some sense respected human will. The father knew that the son made a foolish and greedy request, yet allowed him to go his course nonetheless.”

Unfortunately, far too many families are experiencing this parable firsthand in their own homes. Countless Christian parents suffer with emotions ranging from hurt and confusion to disbelief and shame. Thankfully, helpless, hopeless and disgrace are not words our Heavenly Father uses when it comes to prodigals. Here are a few thoughts to consider.

God understands prodigals
The Lord has had experience with prodigals for thousands of years. Prodigals like Adam and Eve, King David, the entire nation of Israel, and a host of others head up a long list. However, the prodigal lifestyle is no match for God’s grace. A prodigal has never stopped Him from loving and waiting on those who truly belong to Him. We can rest assured that the Lord cares deeply for every prodigal.

Practice tough love
Sometimes the prodigal lifestyle is messy. You may have to practice tough love and let your child sleep in the bed they have made. When their lifestyle has produced less than ideal fruit, you have to allow them to struggle or perhaps suffer the consequences of their choices. Their suffering may be what awakens them and brings them to their senses (Luke 15:17).

Leave the door open
The Bible is clear when it comes to our relationship with others. “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18, NIV). Let your prodigal know that although you will not compromise your biblical beliefs or enable their lifestyle, your door is always open to them (Luke 15:20).

Be transparent
Do not allow Satan to deceive you into thinking that you are the only family dealing with a prodigal child. You are not alone! In your church, there are most likely several families agonizing over a similar situation. Therefore, share with fellow believers, trusted friends, extended family and church staff what is happening with your child. The Lord never wants us to live in isolation. You need the encouragement, wisdom and prayer of others.

With the increasing darkness overshadowing our world, many parents feel hopeless. They desperately want to know the answer to this most pressing question but are almost afraid to ask: “Is there any hope for my prodigal?”

Even in our growing anti-Christian culture, I will be the first to answer with a resounding, “Yes! There is hope!”

As long as the Godhead is in place, there is always hope for a prodigal and their family.