Dealing With Troubled Youth

Dealing With Troubled Youth
By: Darrell W. Johns


Many young people experience stress and pressure that comes from growing up. Most of them struggle through normal youth problems and make the transition into adulthood. Today, we face a growing number of young people who lose their way in trying to cope with the stresses of our society.

Beneath the Symptoms (Depression)

Harmful adolescent behavior can usually be traced to an underlying emotion that seems to dominate the causes. That emotion or condition which lies beneath symptomatic behavior is depression.

Depression occurs when certain negative factors act on a person’s nervous system triggering sadness, hopelessness, and self-depreciating thinking and behavior. Depression has both causes and symptoms. First, we will look at some of the symptoms.

Reading the Signals (Symptoms)

Designed into the electronic system of most modern cars is a warning system. Lights will flash and alarms will sound to get our attention. The warning device is not the problem. It merely alerts us to the problem. Our human body works much the same way. An internal physiological problem will trigger a symptom. The warning signal or symptom is not the problem, only the result of one.

The following are symptoms to watch for in troubled teens. As you read this list, make a note if your child is exhibiting symptomatic behavior.

• Extreme Moodiness
• Changes in Eating and Sleeping Habits
• Social Isolation
• Sudden Change in Behavior
• Unruly Behavior
• Hyperactivity
• Excessive Self-Criticism
• School Problems
• Extreme Passivity
• Substance Abuse
• Sexual Acting Out
• Suicidal Talk or Behavior

Other symptoms may exist in a depressed teenager. When you see a constellation of symptoms, you are dealing with a troubled teen.

Possible Root Causes (Triggers of Depression)

Young people are typically idealistic. They dream of a perfect world, expect the perfect relationship, desire the perfect achievement. When life deals them less than best, they often become depressed, Here are seven possible root causes for teenage depression.

A Significant Loss

This includes the death of a parent, relative, good friend, or pet. The greatest fear for most teens is losing a parent. There is grief from the loss and a sense of rootlessness and hopelessness. For some teens there is also a feeling of guilt.

They regret the pain they inflicted on their parent while alive.

Separation from a Loved One

The divorce of parents may be worse than death in some ways. The wound is left open. For the child, there is a cycle of hope, disappointment, rejection, and despair. Some young people feel responsible for the divorce.

Trouble at Home

Being troubled at home is the most significant cause of concern. Many family disorders contribute to depression in teens. Parents who lack spiritual and moral values at home will trouble a teen. Colossians 3:21 says, “Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.” Trouble at home takes the zest of life out of young people.

One source of trouble at home is abuse, which comes in many forms including incest. It is never wise to conceal child abuse. Without confrontation and consequences an abuser will usually continue the cycle of abuse into the next generation.

Loss of Boundaries and Guidelines

Many teens lack an adult role model. With the increase of two-career families, family life and continuity are slipping. Young people need guidelines, guideposts, and a sense of discipline. Proper boundaries create security. The loss of boundaries causes depression.

A Broken Relationship

A serious cause of depression is a broken relationship. Fellowship and peace with God, ourselves, and others is essential to a fulfilled life. When a significant relationship is broken, depression can occur.

How to Help a Troubled Teen

Ministering to troubled teens is based on loving and caring for them. Here is some advice for parents.

A. Investigate Physiological Disorders

Physical problems are often the underlying cause of depression. A chemical imbalance needs treatment. Counseling and love alone will not suffice. Cases of severe depression are often caused by blood-sugar levels that are out of balance. Understanding puberty and its hormonal changes will assist you in dealing with teens who may be feeling the pains of adolescence.

B. Stay with the Principles

During adolescence, youth often experiment with boundaries and question values. A wise parent will not change principles in reaction to the questioning of youth. Your child needs to see the stability of your values as a foundation for your life. Be flexible in your opinions. Compromise on preferences, never on principles.

Turn to the Bible for answers. The Bible is relevant to the issues of raising children, offering advice to parents. It also teaches wisdom for young people who are dealing with the pains of growing up.

C. Create Involvement

Activity does not eliminate problems, but if young people are integrated into the life of a local church youth group they will have a system of support. The problems that cause depression for teens may not immediately disappear. For them to be involved in a cause greater than their own life will give them a reason to overcome. Keep young people tied closely to a loving church.

D. Build Them Up Spiritually

Prayer is a powerful tool for a parent. Your prayers can build a hedge of protection around the young person. Pray in faith, seeing that young person becoming victorious through the power of the Spirit.

E. Never Give Up

Even if your teen fails to respond, leave the door open for future help. Believe in him and express that confidence verbally as well as in action. At this point in time you are not going to see a finished product. The results of your efforts may take years.

Many times your commitment to young people will motivate them to make a commitment to God. Parenting is not a profession that comes with formal training. Your greatest advantage is a loving, patient relationship that never gives up.