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#487 – Teens and Suicide

by Mark Gregston

I’ve always pushed people away and love is kind of the issue for me.  I don’t believe that I’m a person who could be loved.  I think it has to do with how I grew up and the people that surrounded me and different negative things that really me brought me down.  And I think it’s kinda been drilled into my head a bit and so I’ve told myself that ever since and made myself believe it

~ Mackenzie, recorded one year before she took her own life 

Don’t Think Your Family Will Never Be Affected 

The sad reality is that suicide is unpredictable and we never know who it will seduce. 

Suicide doesn’t discriminate and any family can be affected.  If you have high school aged children, chances are suicide has touched their lives in some way. 

Current statistics tell us that 14-15-year-old boys are at the highest risk for suicide.  But 15-year-old girls are catching up.  This uptick in “death by suicide” for girls in this age category is at an all-time high for the first time in 75 years. 

The reasons behind a teen’s suicide or suicide attempt are complex.  And sadly, in today’s current society, suicide has simply become another viable option for teens as they navigate the world around them.  In previous years, suicide was viewed as something taboo, along with tattoos and children born out of wedlock, but if you were to poll any 18-year-old today, I’m sure they could tell you how they would kill themselves and what tattoo they’d like to get without much effort. 

Suicide used to be something that an outsider kid did in order to be rid of the pain he was feeling in his life.  But with our culture’s obsession with the occult and death, suicide no longer strikes only the loner.  It’s come to the heart of our culture and demands for teens to take the easy way out.  As long as there is uninhibited access to social media and programs that encourage and glamorize suicide, the call for teens to end their lives will increase. 

Watch for the Signs 

At Heartlight, we work with children and families from all backgrounds and from all walks of life, so we are not immune to the trials and struggles these families face.  To date, there have been thirty-six kids we’ve known personally who have taken their own lives. 

The phone calls are never easy.  Suicide is emotionally draining and devastating to everyone in the teen’s life.  No one walks away from their decision unscathed.  Moms, dads, brothers, sisters, friends, neighbors, classmates, and anyone else who might be wondering what they could have done to prevent it. 

Some families are caught unaware by their child’s decision, but for most other families, there are warning signs.  So, if you know a teenager exhibiting any of these signs, seek help right away.  Some of things to be on the lookout for are: 

  1. A change in personality. 
  1. Isolation. 
  1. No longer participating in their favorite activities. 
  1. Changes in eating or sleeping habits. 
  1. Talking about death or suicide. 
  1. Self-destructive behaviors. 
  1. Displaying anxiety related problems such as headaches, hives, and fatigue. 

These are a handful of warning signs, but they are not the only signs.  So, what are you supposed to do?  What do you do with a child who is bent on making a permanent choice regarding temporary situations? 

So, Now What? 

This is where it’s important for parents to know the difference between I want to die and I am going to die.  If your child is struggling, and finding themselves in a deep, dark hole, this is where you crawl in with them, so that you can help them navigate their way out together. 

Here at Heartlight, if a child has suicidal thoughts or tendencies, we don’t leave them alone—ever.  They should not be in a position where they are by themselves.  Then we take steps to seek treatment.  If there’s one time in your child’s life that you need to be diligent, it’s now.  Let your child know that you’re not leaving them.  If they run, you run.  And make sure you have on good shoes, it’ll be easier to navigate the rough road ahead. 

As a parent of a suicidal child, you cannot go to sleep or ignore the situation and hope that things will be better in the morning.  They won’t be.  And that’s okay, for now.  There’s no magical cure for depression or suicidal tendencies.  Once you come to grips with this fact, you can begin the work of healing and helping your child climb out of the darkness and into the light. 

Once the intensive treatment is completed and they’re back home, take steps to develop a relationship with your son or daughter.  Be open and attentive, giving them love, support, and encouragement.  Your teens need a place of rest and relaxation—a respite from the realities of a cruel, harsh world, so give it to them.  Be there for them in their time of need. 

And, then finally, be encouraged.  You don’t have to walk this road alone.  Psalm 34:18 tells us, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted.”  And God means every word He says. 

Conclusion 

Mom, Dad … I don’t think I’ll ever understand why someone would want to cut their life short.  And that’s because I’ve never been in that dark place, but I have seen many people from all walks of life with all sort of issues take their own life.  I’ve spent countless hours with many families who spend years trying to process something which just can’t be processed.  These families I know who have lost their kids, never saw it coming and most never had the discussion with their teen about how painful life would be without them in it.  So, what is a parent to do?  Have discussions and talk about the dark feelings that your teen may occasionally feel.  And let them know what a blessing they are in and to your family. 


#486 – What Your Teen Needs From You

by Mark Gregston

All relationships are motivated by a goal or a desire.  A desire to be seen and to be heard.  A desire to be loved and appreciated.  A desire to be happy and safe.  So, when a teen begins to look for love, support, friendships, happiness, and safety in all the wrong places, parents need to step back and reevaluate the relationships inside their home.  Why, might you ask?  Well, because people don’t typically seek out something they already possess. 

I’ve often wondered if relationship problems at home aren’t simply the result of a parent’s inability to understand the changing needs of their teenage child.  It makes sense—and here’s why.  If you don’t understand what someone needs, then you’re not going to be able to meet the need or to effectively provide for it.  And if you can’t give an immediate answer to what your teen’s currents needs are or if you’re curious about the heart motivator behind your child’s action, then keep reading for some practical information on what your teen needs most from you right now. 

What Your Teen Needs 

It’s important to realize what the needs of your teens are so that you can address them appropriately and quickly.  Think about the world today.  Kids live in a constantly negative culture.  Social media is filled with self-proclaimed authorities and bullying is on the rise.  The internet has made it easy to gossip about anything and everything.  And today’s teen is often bombarded by know-it-alls who had one life experience, but is now, suddenly an expert on the topic.  Your teen doesn’t need another bully or another know-it-all, they need someone in their life who will tell them the truth in a way that’s positive, trustworthy, and loving.  So, be that person who fills the gap between truth and our fabricated realities while conveying wisdom that’s authentic and practical. 

Teens also need to know that you’re going to be the person who has their back.  No matter what!  Especially on the days when everything that could go wrong, does.  Just like you and me, your teen will win some, and they’ll lose some, and while you may not agree with every decision they make, it’s important to let them know that you love them, and you’re supporting them, and you’re always going to be there for them—just as God is always there for us. 

What Your Teen Does NOT Need 

Teens need to feel cared about, comfortable, and loved.  They also need rest and a place to rest that’s a sanctuary from the outside world.  As a parent, it’s up to you to take inventory of how your family dynamics are working, or maybe not working.  As I mentioned earlier, the world has a lot to say and it’s saying it constantly, so one thing your teen doesn’t need from you is a lot of chatter.  Teen don’t need someone pushing information on them 24/7.  They have Google and lots of other information portals at their disposal for info.  What they need from you is wisdom

Which brings me to my next point.  The wisdom of the father in the story of the Prodigal Son.  Are you familiar with the story?  Scripture tells us that the dynamics of this family relationship changed when everyone stopped doing everything for the young man.  And also, that the father had wisdom to know that after his folly, the boy would return.  Parents, I know you want the best for your kids, but you can’t stifle them and expect to get great results.  So, stop doing everything for them all the time, and stop planning their lives every single second of the day!  Over-scheduling and micromanaging have yet to produce well-rounded people.  And you’re only delaying the process of your teen maturing into a responsible, healthy adult. 

And finally, your kids do not need perfection, so you gotta stop pretending that everything and everyone in your family has to be perfect.  This false idea will never benefit your family.  So, go against the grain!  As the parents of this generation of teens, it’s up to us, to remind them that in our appearance and performance-driven world, it’s okay to rest.  It’s okay to be imperfect and vulnerable.  Your imperfections are what make you authentic—and human.  And being authentic is what will allow peace and harmony to dwell within your family and in your home. 

One Teen’s Story 

Gabe, one of our Heartlight students, came to us recently because he was struggling with getting along with his family.  By the time he was in middle school, Gabe was already doing drugs and stealing from his little brother.  It all stemmed from him feeling like a disappointment at home and at school.  Those feelings, along with his desire to feel loved and accepted, in addition to his parents’ confusion about how to properly handle or understand the situation in its totality, caused Gabe to begin a two-year free fall that ended when he was arrested for bringing a firearm to court. 

At first, when he was sentenced to rehab at Heartlight, he was angry.  But after some time, Gabe realized he could have gone to jail for a very long time, and he has since learned to be grateful for the second chance he’s been given.  Being at Heartlight has allowed him and his parents to begin the hard work of repairing their relationship.  And Gabe tells us that it’s a challenge, but it’s one that he’s up for as he looks forward to the future. 

Conclusion 

Mom and Dad … your teens need you desperately.  They need your genuine and authentic lifestyle that displays the values and the biblical insights that you’ve gathered through all your years.  So, it’s important for them to see the value of a connection with you and for you to value them as they mature and learn to spread their wings.  I’m sure if you’re like me, you don’t want their preteen years to hold their greatest memories of your relationship.  You want your relationships to grow as they do.  And you want to maintain and deepen your relationship in the days ahead.  To do that, you’ve gotta know their needs and strive to meet their needs, just as God endeavors to meet yours. 


#485 – Five Ways to Connect with Your Teen Grandchild

by Mark Gregston

If you were to poll a group of adults today, do you know how many of them would say their fondest memory of childhood or adolescence involved a beloved grandparent?  If I were a betting man, I’d say the answer to that question is probably more than half of those who were asked. 

Grandparents are a big deal in the lives of their grandchildren and kids who grow up with grandparents who are active and relationally connected to them develop a higher self-esteem, perform better academically, and have better social standards and etiquette.  It’s been proven over and over again that the influence of positive adult interaction in the life of a teenager is so very important and grandparents are a vital part of that system. 

Grandparenting your young grand-teen doesn’t simply benefit the child, either.  Being involved in your grandchild’s life has many wonderful benefits for grandmas and grandpas, too!  The latest statics show that grandparents who have a relationship with their grandchildren live longer and have less battles with depression and other mental health issues.  So, read on to discover five fresh ways that will help you reap the rewards of bonding with your grandchild while leaving a legacy for future generations. 

Five Ways to Connect with Your Grandchild 

  1. Show Interest: Grandparenting should be about your grandchild, not you.  So, check your lonely-hearts card at the door.  Grandparents have lots of wisdom to share with grandchildren, so take an interest in their world and the current situations they are facing.  Apply your past experiences to their present situations to keep their attention, so that you can connect and transfer your wisdom to them. 
  2. Adapt to Their World: Don’t complain about today’s world and the “young people” in it.  A big buzz-word right now is “influencer.”  Every kid—no every person out there is looking for a social media influencer to help guide them and direct them.  So, learn more about the world your grandchild is living in so that you can meet them where they are.  Be an influence in their life by adapting your message so it includes an understanding of the world they are growing up in and the challenges they are facing. 
  3. Build a Relationship: Real relationships are the product of investing time, effort, and commitment.  Today’s teens are looking for someone to be authentic with them.  They are searching for someone who genuinely is concerned for them and the world they are navigating.  So, make sure the relationships you’re building aren’t simply based rules and conditions.  Be more to them than someone who corrects them when they mess up. 
  4. Create a Connection: This involves much more than merely making things happen.  Connections are created when there is mutual communication, effort, and a desire to spend time together.  With deep connections, you’re providing hope and direction in life that will in-turn develop into deep and mutual love.  When you decide to pour your life and love into your grandchild, you are building something that future generations will cherish and desire.  Proverbs 13:22 tells us a good person leaves an inheritance for their children’s children
  5. Invite Your Grandchild to Ask Questions: Another great way to take an interest in your grandchildren is by asking them questions about their lives, their thoughts, and what’s inside their hearts.  Learn why they believe what they believe or why they say what they say.  What’s the heart motivators behind their comments and actions?  This small act is something you can do that will build a mighty connection between you both which will lead to more questions and a greater connection. 

What Your Teenage Grandchild Needs from You 

Giving your teens your presence is the best present they can get from you, so don’t be shy with your time.  Grandparents have years of seeing how the world truly works and you have the opportunity to give your grandchild something no one else can—time’s perspective

Your grandchild’s parents haven’t been around long enough to have come out on the other side.  But you have, so don’t be afraid to share your point of view with wisdom and love.  So, convey your life lessons and wisdom through stories, not lectures, and they keep coming back for more.  Humans were made to give love and receive love in return.  It’s one of our most basic humans needs, so be sure to share your love freely with those nearest and dearest to your heart. 

Conclusion 

Grandparents … the best thing you can do with your time right now is spend it with your grandkids.  They need you to be a messenger of timeless truth in their ever-changing world.  And trust me when I say, they need you a lot more than you need them.  The legacy that you leave as inheritance is not simply what you have left in their bank account, but is measured by what you deposited into their hearts.  Help your grandchild see the world through eyes that have seen the wonder of this world and all that it has to offer.  Help your grandchild see a world of experience that gives them another perspective on life.  A big picture perspective that helps them see more than which is evident and beyond that which is right in before them.