“We all know we can’t make our teenagers do anything. It can be hard enough to get them out of bed or to get off their phones to have a conversation. Right now, with children out of school, families are by far the biggest influence. So how can we influence intentionally?”

Erica Payne shows us how to support the teenagers around us.

Missing friends, low mood, lack of motivation

I have been speaking to parents, teachers and youth workers about the biggest challenge teenagers are facing at the moment. What comes up time and time again is missing friends, low mood and lack of motivation. The whole world is facing stress in a new way, and – statistically – the most disadvantaged areas are struggling the most.

We all know we can’t make our teenagers do anything. It can be hard enough to get them out of bed or to get off their phones to have a conversation. Right now with children out of school, families are by far the biggest influence. So how can you influence intentionally? The best thing we can do for them is to model resilience.

Building resilience

Resilience is the ability to bounce back from difficulties, like the spring of an elastic band. The more we are stretched, the longer it may take to bounce back, but if we understand ourselves well and have tools to use in times of trouble, the journey back will be easier. Remember, it is important to be stretched: this is how we grow. But we want to avoid breaking. This happens when we are stretched further than we have the tools or awareness to cope with.

Parents (and youth workers from afar): now is the time to work on yourselves, and invite the teenagers in your life to join you in self-exploration. My top tip for building resilience is to take notice.

Taking notice

How do you feel physically?
How you have felt through the day?
What was your reaction to various events?
What do you like and dislike?
What drains you, and what gives you energy?
If you make time each day to take notice of these things, you will become more and more in tune with who you are and what you need. Then you’ll be better equipped to support your teenagers.

Daily check-ins at meal times or during a family walk are particularly helpful. Encouraging the whole family to go through this daily ritual will help teenagers open up. Even if at first they reject it, parents can model honesty and healthy ways of dealing with emotions. Encourage your teenagers to ask questions or offer advice. Talk about the stress you feel and how you are going to deal with it – even if it is to do with a colleague at work. Take turns going around the table asking questions in creative ways.

On a scale of 1-10 how angry, sad, happy… have you felt today?
What were the best and worst things about your day?
What do you want to do differently tomorrow to make it even better?

This may feel odd at the start, but keep the end goal in sight: you are taking steps to build resilience in yourself and in your children which will help them cope with a lifetime of struggles.

Self-reflection

Self-reflection will help you be more in control of how you react the next time your teenager does something that would normally wind you up. When you are more in tune and responsive to your own emotions, you are less likely to negatively respond to the emotions of others.Take some time to reflect now:

1. What is my preferred way of reflection? Is it journaling, prayer, talking to a partner or friend?
2. When is the best time to do this daily, and what do I need to make this happen? Do I need to go on a walk by myself, arrange a phone call with a friend, or sit in my bedroom with headphones, a bible and a notebook?
3. How can I intentionally influence the teenagers in my life to ‘take notice’?
4. Why is it important that I make this a priority and what are the long term benefits of this?

Erica Payne leads Innovista’s Youth Ministry Training, and is married to Sam, Thrive Teams leader in Barton.