Helping Your Teen Experience Peace!
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
Does this sound like the way a writer would begin a religious blog back in the first century? It definitely is not the way we talk to one another nowadays, but it is the way Paul began every letter he wrote that is found in the New Testament. Those two words, grace and peace, must have great significance. Yet if we take a look around the world, our cities, our social media, the lives of our kids, and even our own lives, those two words would most likely not hit the top 10 list of words to describe the world in which we live.
As a matter of fact, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, 31.9% of adolescents have an anxiety disorder – that’s nearly 1 in 3 teens. Teens are faced with many stressors. Academic pressures and the demand to succeed are on the rise. In an attempt to get into colleges and universities that continue to become more and more competitive, high school students are, in turn, taking more and more college-level classes and committing to numerous extracurricular activities in an attempt to make themselves stand out among their peers as they apply to college.
Studies show that social media can also be a contributing factor in the rise of anxiety in teens today. The constant comparison, only seeing everyone’s “best life,” and feeling excluded from what friends are doing, among other negative factors, are not helpful to a student’s mental health.
This is not how God wants our teens to experience life. Even in the midst of the growing pains of adolescence, God wants our teens to experience grace and peace, just as Paul reminded his readers centuries ago.
Consider what Jesus himself said in regard to his followers experiencing peace.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not be afraid. – John 14:27
I have told you these things, so that you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. – John 16:33
Note that Jesus did not define peace as an absence of anxiety-producing circumstances. No, instead, He clearly states we will have trouble. It is evident that Jesus believes we can have peace despite our circumstances.
Paul tells us in Philippians that we can have peace that transcends understanding – a peace we cannot conjure up on our own or gain by mitigating our circumstances but one that comes from supernatural power.
So as parents, what role can we play in helping our teenagers experience peace?
1. Evaluate the atmosphere in your home.
Take a moment and put yourself in your child’s shoes. What do you think they experience or feel when they walk in the door when they return home from being out? How do they feel when they are greeted by you in the morning?
Do they feel comfortable talking to you about what is going on in their lives? Are they fearful of the reaction they will receive if they share a failure or mistake? Do they feel added pressure to perform, to not only DO their best but to be THE best?
Do they know without a shadow of a doubt that you are for them and love them unconditionally? Is home their safe place? There are so many things going on in the lives of our teens that are out of our control, but we can do our best to have a home in which they know they are loved, where pressure is reduced instead of ramped up, and where discipline is accompanied by grace.
2. Help them develop their relationship with Jesus.
Jesus alone is the author and source of true peace. Truly encourage them to set their screens aside and spend quiet time with God. The best way for them to experience peace is to receive it. 2 Thessalonians 3:16 says, “Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way.” This is more than a lofty goal that isn’t actually possible to attain. However, it is when we are still and quiet without distractions that we can listen, hear and discern the voice of God.
What we give our attention to most is what is going to form us the most. Our teens need to balance the voices of culture, social media, and peers with the voice of God, which will point them to truth in order to experience the abundant life He promises and only He can give. Give your teenager every opportunity to grow in their relationship with Jesus, including encouraging them to take the time and make the space to spend time alone with God reading the Bible, praying, and listening.
3. Have a conversation with your teen about their current level of anxiety.
Ask them to share what causes them the most stress and if there are ways you can help. Try not to belittle things that seem trivial to you, but also help them reframe their mindset based on biblical truths. Be open to getting them outside help if needed. As much as possible, try to model peace in your own life.
Lastly, 2 Thessalonians 3:16 is an excellent prayer to pray over them and bears repeating: “Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way.”