It Takes A Whole Community To Grow Healthy Youth
Aug 04, 2020 by Sylvia Thompson
Updated: Sep 23, 2023
You are not alone when you have a Circle of Support
I remember when my teenage son spent more time in our garage than inside our home. Hours of raunchy reverb came from his electric guitar - very loudly, echoing through the yard. Thankfully, we lived out in the country. He wore all black clothing, died his brown hair jet black and only spoke when necessary. His head down at the dinner table and no opportunity for engagement unless he needed something, like salt or pepper. He would point, grunt and become angered if he was challenged to be polite.
We were a family of faith. A Christian family who prayed at the dinner table and went to church on Sundays - twice, youth group and Christian school too. Still, I questioned, did my son know that Jesus loved him? That we loved him?
He seemed to go deeper into depression as the months went on.
We worried. We prayed. I reached out to a counsellor, to my extended family, to our pastor and youth pastor, to his guidance counsellor, and to our doctor. I was desperate to help my son. There had to be something I could do.
Everyone gave me good advice. Some even gave me hope.
Those four years were the darkest, scariest years of my parenting experience. I watched my son change from a funny, adventurous and vibrant boy into a withdrawn, miserable and cynical young man. Darkness hovered over our home and we could not do anything about it. It was just there, surrounding us and invading our sons thoughts and feelings, changing his beliefs.
But we were not just spectators. We spoke the truth. We told him we loved him no matter what. We told him we would be there for him, regardless of his attitude. We made sure he was cared for and we included him in our family events. We did not let him hide in his pain – we acknowledged it and told him that we wanted to help. We told him we believed in him – that we saw him.
We prayed and prayed and prayed. Every. Single. Day. We trusted God to move in his life.
Then one day, our son asked me for help. He said he was depressed and wondered if the doctor could give him something for it. The doctor gave him medication. He agreed to see a counsellor. The darkness began to lift. We saw small, positive changes.
Hope began to rise.
Eventually, our son began to rise above his depression. He began to fight for his own life. He argued a lot, but it was better than not talking at all. He questioned everything, challenging our beliefs and our lifestyle. He was searching, examining and discovering what he believed about life, God and himself.
He came through with a few scars and a whole lot of faith. God never let go of him, instead, He met him in his pain and adopted him as his own son. Romans 12 is my son’s favourite chapter in the Bible now, and he lives it as best he can. He is a thriving healthy adult.
We were more than relieved, we were grateful beyond words. Our prayers had been answered!
Looking back to those challenging years, I realize now I wanted an immediate answer. A miracle. In my waiting, I learned about the power of community. We unknowingly built a circle of support around our family, with our son in the centre, so that not one person had to carry the weight alone. I believe that is what God wants us to do as His body. Be in each other’s lives in whatever capacity we can, supporting each other through the difficult times and celebrating through the good.
If you have a teenager in your home, or in your life, then you need to know you are not expected to have all the answers. All teens struggle. It’s part of growing up. But some teens need more support than others. Reach out to professionals for help, ask friends and family to pray, and stay engaged with your teenager. Allowing him/her to be isolated for extended periods will only add to their feelings of being alone. Remind them of their value and be specific. “I am glad you are here” or “I can see you are having a hard time,” acknowledges their struggle without putting pressure on them.
If you have concerns about your teen, download this PDF titled Anxiety and Depression. If your child suffers from these symptoms, please seek help from your family doctor, a professional counsellor and/or your pastor. The Canadian Youth Network (CYN) has many wonderful resources for teens, parents and youth leaders to support you through these years. This video with Peter VanVolkingburgh, Youth Director and Counsellor, is very insightful for anyone interested in learning more about the issues our youth face every day.
This year, the CYN is opening up their annual CHANGE CONFERENCE to the entire country – and it is FREE!
Sadie Robertson, Lecrae, Chad Veach, Matt Tapley, Brooke Nicholls and Wande (and a few surprise guests) will be there! These amazing artists and teachers will share the message, “Take Heart” on Friday, October 16th 2020. It will be the first-ever, interactive-online-virtual conference for youth, leaders and even parents can join! This will be an encouraging time to celebrate God’s goodness together. Register now - there are a limited number of spots available.