New Series: Deal with it!

©2016 The reThink Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

We’re Teaching This…

So what’s trending on Netflix this week? Maybe TV isn’t your thing, but I’ll bet you’ve got a time vortex. Maybe yours is a gaming system.

You log on for just a few minutes and then, somehow it’s midnight.

Maybe you throw on headphones and just space out listening to Spotify, or maybe you stare at your phone and scroll without even really looking at what people post. We all have a favorite distraction—something we get lost in. And while there’s nothing wrong with taking a break, you’ve probably also discovered that it’s more tempting to reach for something fun when you’re facing something that isn’t.

We all have a tendency to avoid something difficult by doing something easy.

Or we escape something painful by running toward something that feels good. Or we hide something that hurts by pretending it isn’t there. But maybe you’ve also noticed that none of these strategies really work. In fact, sometimes our favorite escapes can leave us feeling more stuck than before.

In this series we’ll look at three ways we’re all tempted to skip out on the real life that God has for us. As we do, you may just find God’s inviting you to stop avoiding it, escaping it, or hiding it and just . . . deal with it!

Think About This…

B y  D r .  C h i n w é  W i l l i a m s

We’ve all been there. We’ve all encountered struggles that felt bigger than us. And we all develop our own ways of managing emotional pain, shame, and regret. When faced with difficult circumstances, it’s very normal to look for ways to cope. Over the years, parents have verbalized their uncertainty regarding how best to assist their teen as they navigate the ups and downs of life. But there’s no simple response. Quite frankly, as a therapist who frequently works with adolescents, I get it.

Being a teen today is tough.

Teens face increasing expectations: managing multiple schedules, demanding academic loads, and competitive extracurricular activities. And above all, discovering who they are and how they fit in with their peer group and the larger world. And all of these expectations can and do cause internal pressure. Some teens are able to successfully navigate these waters. Others may flail or buckle under the pressure.

It’s a normal human experience to want to escape reality.

It’s actually a great idea to take a break and decompress for a few hours in order to allow your brain to reboot and refocus. Attending a concert with friends, listening to music, going for a hike, and laughing at a hilarious video are examples of healthy ways to take your mind off of a stressful day.

But what happens when these distractions morph into things that are not so healthy? Or are, perhaps, even destructive?

Harmless distractions often lead to prolonged engagement with those things, like video gaming, online shopping, hours on Instagram or Snapchat, and Netflix binge-watching. These escapes wouldn’t be so bad if they didn’t coincide with finals week. And then there are the more dangerous situations, like when a teen begins experimenting with drugs, alcohol, and sex to numb complicated feelings. When any of these behaviors become a way to DISTRACT, NUMB, or AVOID facing hard circumstances or prevent others from seeing our real selves, it can lead to feeling stuck and disconnected, which can cause us to spiral into more destructive behavior.

What’s the remedy when our teens feel stuck or disconnected?

Engagement. As a therapist, I love introducing my teenage clients to creative strategies that will help them address the problems that seem insurmountable. Yes, that sometimes means embracing a new challenge or doing something they dislike—like confronting the real issues. But the more we can teach our children to deal with (and not run away from) life’s challenges, the better they will realize their own unique capabilities, which fosters resilience and a sense of autonomy.

A parent’s task in helping avoidant teens is further complicated by the contradictory impulses of teens. They want us around, and at the same time, want us to go far away. The research is, however, clear. Parents are powerful pillars of influence in their teens’ lives!

Below are five ways that will help you recognize when your teen may be feeling stuck, as well as ways you can help them get unstuck.

  1. Watch for warning signs. Some “stuck” teens will display difficulty concentrating and low motivation. They may be irritable, negative, easily frustrated, or prone to outbursts. Some overachieving “stuck” teens may be highly sensitive to criticism and begin to withdraw from family and friends. Since some of these signs are a part of normal adolescent development, it’s important to note what appears to be a departure from your teen’s typical pattern of behavior.
  2. Initiate the conversation. Demonstrate casual interest by asking questions and reflecting on what you’ve heard. Teens can tell the difference between questions that show interest and ones that simply appear nosy. Be present but not intrusive. One conversation starter could be: “It’s normal to feel overwhelmed. I know that you want to do well (in school/sports/making friends), so I’m sure that you might feel some pressure at times. You’re not alone. I’m here if you ever want to talk about it.” Your teen may not open up initially. The key, though, is making yourself available for when they’re ready.
  3. Be open. Sharing your own struggles with distractions and avoidance may help your teen better cope with their own situations. For many parents the thought of disclosing their own teenage antics is a nightmarish proposition. However, research suggests that parents who have an open, warm, and nurturing relationship with their children can help them buffer stresses that can otherwise be destructive. Your teen may not show deep interest or ask many questions. Don’t worry . . . they are listening.
  4. Stay tuned in. As a therapist, I can’t emphasize how important it is to plug in to your teen. What does that mean? Get to know their musical tastes, favorite artists, and even purchases. Know the names of their friends and their enemies. Regarding social media, I’m an advocate of intermittent parental monitoring. This one is tricky—teens also need some degree of privacy—but it’s a parent’s responsibility to know what’s going on. The content you discover may clue you in to ways to better connect with your child, or it may alert you to signs of stress. As parents, we must plug in to this important aspect of teen social life. Don’t tell my teens I said that.
  5. Seek Professional help. Part of our job as parents is to help our children find resources to be successful. Those could include a school counselor, therapist, or trusted church leader. Remember that there are many avoidant behaviors that are simply a part of adolescence. It’s helpful to consult with a professional who can assess the severity and offer assistance. One technique that I like to teach is “mindfulness”—it’s is ideal for decreasing distressful thoughts. The ability to disrupt a cycle of negative thinking is crucial for optimal mental health and can help teens to plug in, to get “unstuck.” Whether or not they tell you or show you, your teen values your engagement. What are some ways that you can engage with your teen this week?

Dr. Chinwé Williams is a licensed counselor in Roswell, GA. For more from Dr. Williams and other resources for parents of teenagers, visit TheParentCue.

Try This…

Whether your teenager is facing a challenge right now or whether you just know they will in the future, one thing we can all do to help our students cope with challenges is to model the way.

We can show them what it looks like to face a challenge instead of avoiding it.

Think about one area where you’re tempted to avoid or escape instead of “dealing” with it. Maybe you’d rather shop online than think about work. Or maybe work is the escape for a complicated situation at home. Maybe it’s easier to scroll through the news than to look at your budget. It doesn’t have to be something serious or dangerous—just one way you are personally tempted to put off dealing with real life. This week, share that with your teenager.

Maybe in the car you say . . .

  • Hey, you’re not going to believe this, but I just deleted the Facebook app from my phone. I would catch myself scrolling every time I was mad just to avoid having a conversation.
  • Hey, I know this probably sounds crazy to you, but I just realized I’ve been staying late at work because it means I won’t have time to go to the gym. Today I’m setting an alarm to leave on time so I can work out.
  • Hey, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I have a bad habit of _______ to avoid dealing with _______. So I’ve decided to start working on that by setting up an appointment with a mentor/counselor/doctor/coach.

It may feel a little awkward to admit feeling stuck in front of your teenager, but when you do, you’re giving them the tools and the courage to move forward in whatever they’re facing.

Advertisements

Snow Day eRefuel!

Peace and comfort are the prescriptions for a stress filled life.

People today spend lots of money on exotic vacations, trips to the spa, and any number of things for the home to help them relax. All these things are good and they all can help out with stress. But God provided His children with the ultimate stress buster. God sent His son Jesus to the earth to minister to people and to take away our sin at the cross. Jesus was a great comfort to people, but He could only be in so many places at any given time. When God sent the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, He provided a 24/7 source of comfort and peace for every believer. You will help remind your students of this wonderful gift that’s inside of them and ready to help at any time.

Jesus replied, “All who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and we will come and make our home with each of them. Anyone who doesn’t love me will not obey me. And remember, my words are not my own. What I am telling you is from the Father who sent me.” John 14:23-24

Consider these questions:

  • What connection does Jesus say exists between loving Jesus and obeying Him?
  • Does this mean that because we sin we don’t love God? Why or why not?
  • What is the result of loving and obeying Jesus?

I am telling you these things now while I am still with you. But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you. John 14:25-26

This passage takes place at the end of Jesus’ three-year ministry on the earth. As He prepares to go to the cross, He is desperately trying to make sure His final words are important words. Once Jesus established the importance of living the life He lived, He went on to again say He wouldn’t be around much longer but God will send something to help them day-by-day.

The Holy Spirit has different names in different versions of the Bible. He is also call the Advocate, the Comforter, the Helper, and the Counselor.

  • ADVOCATE: One who pleads and defends the cause of another or speaks for another.
  • COMFORTER: One who brings peace through the knowledge of God and the presence of God.
  • HELPER: One who assists others through guidance and understanding.
  • COUNSELOR: One who gives advice or in this case confirms the teachings of Jesus as being from God.

Jesus knew the disciple’s faith might be shaken by His crucifixion and that they would continue to suffer persecution. Jesus also knew the responsibility for spreading the Gospel throughout the world would be in the hands of these twelve men.

“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” John 14:27

Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. John 14:1

Don’t allow yourself to be intimidated by the (or any) situation.

This speaks right to where they are today. To make a stand for Christ is to sometimes be in intimidating situations. People love to poke fun at Christians and downplay the importance of Christ. Christians are still being persecuted around the world today.

Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would come and He did not wait long after Jesus ascended into Heaven. You don’t have to beg God for the gift of the Holy Spirit because it comes in your life when you place your faith in God through Jesus. The Holy Spirit is readily available to guide you and comfort you through all of life’s situations, many of which will be stressful. And don’t be intimidated by the situations you face in life.

The power of God is greater than your stress and that power lives in you today through the Holy Spirit.

Here are some more great verses on the work of the Holy Spirit:

Matthew 28:19-20                            Acts 1:8                                                      Acts 2:38

Romans 5:5                                      Romans 15:13                                            2 Timothy 1:14

Galatians 5:22-23 (memory verse!!)                                                                     Ephesians 4:3

Philippians 4:6-7 (another memory verse!!!)

So consider these things as you face stress tomorrow, next week, and going forward…

  • Remember God is bigger than your stress.
  • Do what you can and leave the rest up to God.
  • Stay focused on Christ.
  • Surrender to God’s direction in your life.
  • Ask the Holy Spirit to comfort during this time in your life.

Have a GREAT night and see you at basketball, on Sunday, or at our next ReFuel!