Teenagers and Pain
Most youth workers learn quickly that they don’t have to look very far beneath the surface of a teenager’s life before they discover pain. Lurking below the surface is often an emotional pain that is debilitating and numbing.
This week we are going to cover some basic counseling tips that we believe are fundamental for ministering to teenagers. These articles won’t give you a degree in psychotherapy, nor keep you from referring to professions for significant issues, but they may help you with some of the pain that you uncover on a weekly basis.
PLEASE NOTE: Some of the pain you encounter may be too deep for you to handle alone (even with our tips). You’ll be in over your “pay grade” and need to ask for help from someone more experienced. Okay? Here we go!
When it’s clear that the teenager is in pain, one of the most powerful actions you can take is to simply show up and be present. That teenager won’t remember your words of wisdom during the painful time, but rather your gift of presence. Put distractions out of your mind, look him or her in the eyes, and simply be there to listen. We all know what it feels like to talk with someone who’s not really paying attention, and we never want any teenager (especially in their pain) to feel this way.
Avoid Giving Advice
Everyone needs good advice…but advice is typically best received on our timing (when we’re ready for it) and not the givers’ timeline. When the pain is fresh keep your advice quiet. Pray for wisdom and sensitivity: not just WHAT to say, but also WHEN to say it.
We realize this seems like a no-brainer, but some people have a difficult time expressing what they feel. When you minister to a kid in pain, let them see that you can actually feel their pain. You don’t have to cry if it’s not genuine, but your compassion will be limited if you don’t make a genuine connection to their pain. Pretending to listen and offering stock answers isn’t compassion. A student in pain has a wounded heart, genuine compassion means your heart gets wounded too.
Much of the pain you’ll encounter in your students’ lives will be self-inflicted. When the difficult trials they face are a result of their own poor decisions, it can be difficult to reserve judgment. You may be confused by this point, thinking, “DUH! Of course I’d show grace to a hurting student.” Good! We felt it was important enough to offer this basic reminder because we’ve seen too many youth workers respond with disapproval rather than grace. Confrontation and gentle correction can and should come at another time… at least wait till the “bleeding” stops.
This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”
This article “Teenagers and Pain” by Matt Klossen was excerpted from: www.youthministry.com web site. July 2010. It may be used for study & research purposes only.