Four ways to care for your teens’ mental health during the holidays

Written by Laura Smith
Published on December 23, 2022

Christmastime. It’s the most wonderful time of the year—unless it’s not. Then the holidays can be really hard. Whether it’s missing a loved one, the stress of exams for high school and middle schoolers in the middle of December, or the pressure of too much hustle and bustle, mental health flare-ups often happen during the holidays.

As parents, there are some things we can do to help our teenagers struggling with their mental health.

1. Check in 

Those high school hallways can be rough. It seems like everyone is watching and evaluating what you’re wearing, what your hair looks like, how you answered that question in class, or who you sat with at lunch. There’s so much pressure to get it all right. Not to mention the pressure our teens put on themselves and the added comparison of social media. So we need to check in on our kids every day, even when schedules are crazy busy. Especially then. 

Let’s not just ask, “How was your day?” although that’s a good place to start. We can dig a little deeper. We can ask:

“How are you doing with so much homework this week?” 

“Which test is going to be the hardest?” 

“I miss them, too. How are you holding up? Feeling a little sad?”

 “Are you excited about the recital/performance/game/competition? Or a little nervous?” 

“Does _____ have you stressed out at all?” 

“Is there something I can do to help reduce your stress?” 

“How can I help you find a moment of peace today?” 

“How can I pray for you today?”

Letting our kiddos know we see them in their struggle and we care holds so much power. Even if they seem disinterested or don’t want to talk. When we check in on them, we remind our kids someone is on their side.

2. Get creative

Doing something creative can reduce stress, decrease symptoms of both depression and anxiety and increase positive emotions, according to the Journal of Positive Psychology. And there are so many ways to get our creative juices flowing during Christmastime. Invite your teens to help you decorate, string lights, bake cookies, and make homemade cards for grandparents or neighbors. Invite them to get out all kinds of paper and bows and ask them to help you wrap presents. You’ll find these creative outlets can improve your mental health, too.

3. Help others

Jesus has been telling us to help others for centuries. I’m guessing He knew it would help us.. Psychology Today tells us helping others increases our happiness, reduces our depression, and improves our overall well-being. While we’re often buried in our own to-dos and emotions during the holidays, pausing to help others breaks stressful thought cycles and gets us thinking about how much we have. It reminds us we have purpose, and we can make a difference. We witness God’s goodness. So grab your teenagers and go caroling at a nursing home, deliver gifts for a giving tree, or bake and take cookies to an after-school program for underprivileged kids. There are so many opportunities! Once again, this will also boost your own mental wellness.

4. Pray

Prayer is by no means our last resort. We can always pray for our kiddos’ mental health. We can pray before we check in with our kids and before we suggest ways for them to engage creatively or through service. We can pray for the right words, opportunities, and for our kids’ receptiveness. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 instructs us to “pray without ceasing.” This includes praying for our teens and their mental health. There’s nothing as powerful as prayer. 

We can also pray on the days when it feels like nothing we’re doing is working, when we tried to check in with our teen, but got a one-word answer or maybe just a grunt. When we tried to motivate our kids to be creative or help someone else, but they refused or acted like we forced them to scrub toilets the entire time. Even when our efforts seem to fail, we can remember it doesn’t all fall on us. Whew. Christ’s grace is sufficient. His power is made perfect in our weakness (1 Corinthians 12:9). We can pray and give the situation to Jesus.

Jesus loves our kids even more than we do, which is hard to imagine, but so very true. When we pray for our kids, Jesus always hears us. Jesus wants what’s best for our teens, including positive mental health. 

Parents, we aren’t helpless. There is help. His name is Jesus. Try the four ideas above and if you’re worried about your teens’ (or your own) mental health, seek professional help. There are fabulous Christian counselors out there trained to aid our teens (and us) with struggles. How wonderful that we have a Savior who loves our kids (and us), and who cares about our mental health at Christmas and always.


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Laura Smith

Laura L. Smith is the author of multiple books including the best-selling How Sweet the Sound: the Power and Promise of 30 Beloved Hymns. Smith speaks around the country sharing the love of Christ at conferences and events. She lives in the picturesque college town of Oxford, Ohio, with her husband and four kids. There you’ll find her running the wooded trails, strolling the brick streets, teaching Bible study, shopping at the Saturday morning farmer’s market, or going on a sunset walk with her family. You can pre-order Laura’s new book Restore My Soul: The Power and Promise of 30 Psalms here. Learn more about her at her www.laurasmithauthor.com  and https://www.instagram.com/laurasmithauthor/

 

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