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8 Ways to Help When Your Teen Is Having Trouble

  • Jessica Brodie Award-winning Christian Novelist and Journalist
  • 2022 27 May
8 Ways to Help When Your Teen Is Having Trouble

It’s common knowledge that the teenage years can be a hot mess for many families. These kids are a walking, talking whirlwind of chaos and change on so many levels. Their hormones are out of control, their biological instincts to procreate and seek independence are starting to kick in with a vengeance, they seem often hardwired to go to bed late and wake up even later, and that phrase teenage rebellion? It’s a cliché for a reason.

But the pandemic exacerbated troubles that have been brewing for a long time, and now we all have an increased awareness about mental health and young people. The number of suicides are up, and teens struggle with living their private lives in a very public sphere thanks to social media, something that can haunt them for years to come.

Often there is no easy solution when our teens are going through tremendously difficult times. 

Psychiatric medication doesn’t always work. Counselors are not always the best fit, and heavy-handed discipline — or it’s reverse, a too-permissive parenting style — can backfire

The important thing to know is that God is walking with you, your family, and your teen while you navigate this difficult season.

Here are eight things that can help when your teen is having trouble.

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small group Bible study

1. Lean on Your Church

This should be the easiest thing to do for many of us, but it can be the absolute hardest. Leaning on your church requires letting your church leaders and fellow church members know what’s going on in your life. It requires trusting and being vulnerable. 

But this is exactly what we are supposed to do. Being a Christian isn’t about faking it. It’s about believing in Jesus Christ, repenting of our sins, and following Him. 

To do this well, we must be authentic and real when it comes to loving each other. And Christians around us can’t possibly love us well if they have no idea what’s going on. 

So reach out to your church and let them know your family is having a struggle. Ask for prayer. Invite support. You might not know how to articulate what you need, but leaning on your church is something we are called to do. They are our brothers and sisters in Christ, our heavenly family, and this is their job. Don’t deprive them — or yourself — of it.

As the apostle Paul writes in his letter to the Corinthians, “Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. … If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it” (1 Corinthians 12, 26).

2. Pray for and over Your Teen

Speaking of prayer, prayer isn’t the least you can do — it is the absolute best thing you can do. Even if you don’t know what to pray, lift up your teen to the Lord who knows all things, sees the whole picture, and has the almighty power to do something about it. 

Every day, multiple times a day, pray fervently and with faith. Pray with your teen, also. Let them know you see what they’re going through and you just want to pray with them. Ask if you can pray together. Ask them to lead the prayer if they will. Even if you just ask them to pray for leadership in a tough season in their lives, God knows the real request, the heart, behind all of this. God knows how to solve the problem. 

But we must go to God and ask. We must humble ourselves before God, give Him our requests and our burdens, and show him that He is sovereign in our lives.

Also, you can quite literally pray over your teen. Put your hands on them, on their head or on their shoulders, and invite God to work His power in their life.

As Jesus said in Matthew 7:7-8, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”

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mom talking to teen girl on her bed

3. Listen Well

Sometimes it’s important to just spend time with your teen and listen to them. Just sit there and let them talk. You don’t have to give advice or offer sage words of wisdom. Just be there with them and hear what they are saying.

Sometimes in the talking they’re able to come to an understanding about what is going on in their minds and their hearts. It helps them make sense of the chaotic feelings and thoughts within them.

As we’re told in James 1:19, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.”

4. Read the Bible Together

Another thing that you can do to work the word of God into their heart is to read a bit of the Bible together once a day. In the morning, it’s hectic and busy with people getting up and ready for school and work. You’re making breakfast and packing lunches. People are grumpy because of lack of sleep (especially your teen, who probably stayed up too late). Take a minute and sit next to each other. Read a verse or a chapter together and take a moment of silence. Or do a short devotional or a Bible study together. Anything can help. 

As Psalm 119:9-14 reflects, “How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living according to your word. I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. Praise be to you, Lord; teach me your decrees. With my lips I recount all the laws that come from your mouth. I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches.”

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dad with arm around teen son

5. Set Boundaries

Many of us are not very good when it comes to boundaries. I’m usually really great at them — except when it comes to my kids. My Mama heart gets compassionate and it’s hard to say no when they want to talk during my work time or I’m doing some self-care. 

It will help you be a better parent, however, if you learn to keep some boundaries and listen to your own needs. Your patience and your own state of mind will benefit from this, and you’ll be able to parent them better. 

It’s also perfectly fine to set boundaries in their lives. There are ways that you can turn off the Internet after a certain hour. You can limit their usage of social media to certain times of the day, or you can take their phones from them if they are misbehaving.

Your teen might be taller than you are at this point and perhaps weigh more, but even if they’re no longer seven years old, you still deserve the respect and you still have the authority in the household. Remember that.

As Hebrews 12:11 reminds us, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”

6. Consider a Technology Break

Speaking of technology, so much of it is very good. But as with all things, there’s a lot of bad in there, too. Most schools today are using laptops and iPads and other devices to enable easier submission of schoolwork and test taking and quiz review. If your teen does sports, technology is often how the team communicates with each other about practices or encourages each other.

But technology can become an idol in your teen’s life. It enables them constant access to the outside world. And sometimes they need to focus on their family and themselves to reset.

Even if they might look like adults, they’re not there yet, and they have not learned all the self-discipline they need. Therefore, sometimes it’s good for us parents to come along and help them take a break.

As Proverbs 4:25-26 says, “Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways.”

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Teenage volunteer cleaning up a park

7. Volunteer Together

Other times, so much inward focus is not what they need. Therefore, consider setting aside a time once a week to volunteer with your teen. What you do is not important, whether you pick up trash on the roadway, pack food bags at your church, help in children’s ministry, or serve at a soup kitchen. What is important is that you model care and compassion for others by serving with your teen. 

If your relationship is strained, consider inviting some other friends along with their kids.

Thinking about others and serving them genuinely is a blessing, and teens benefit from understanding that, even if it’s something you’ve taught them long before. It doesn’t hurt to do it again in this older phase in their life.

As Jesus said, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).

8. Consider Schooling Alternatives

Finally, consider where they spend the bulk of their time: school. Sometimes, the trouble in your teen’s life is where they go to school. They might be surrounded by negative influences all day long and are feeling vulnerable. Maybe they are not performing academically or succumbing to temptation, or perhaps they simply so depressed they just insist they cannot go.

Thankfully, there are a lot of alternatives, from public school to private school to charter schools and homeschooling. Even if you work a full-time job, don’t rule out homeschooling if this seems to be the best option. There are programs that enable your child to do homeschool online. And keep in mind the hours they do school do not have to be during the typical school day. Sometimes it takes a little creativity in figuring out how this will work best for your family, but there are options.

For teens with severe mental illness issues, and we all know there are plenty these days, there are programs where they can do their schooling and also work on their mental health at the same time.

Remember: You are not alone, and you are not the only family experiencing trouble during the teenage years. Help is out there for you, for them, for us all.

More from this author
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I Finished Reading the Bible — Now What?

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Jessica Brodie author photo headshotJessica Brodie is an award-winning Christian novelist, journalist, editor, blogger, and writing coach and the recipient of the 2018 American Christian Fiction Writers Genesis Award for her novel, The Memory Garden. She is also the editor of the South Carolina United Methodist Advocate, the oldest newspaper in Methodism. Learn more about her fiction and read her faith blog at She has a weekly YouTube devotional, too. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and more. She’s also produced a free eBook, A God-Centered Life: 10 Faith-Based Practices When You’re Feeling Anxious, Grumpy, or Stressed.