Sometimes one of my daughters comes home from school or sports or a social event, and I see her face crumble in front of me. Her body is rigid and her eyes try not to meet mine. I feel the air’s weight grow heavy in my kitchen like a storm is coming off the ocean.
I may ask gently, “Hey, are you okay?” I may sidle up beside her and whisper, “Is something wrong?”
But I know I won’t get more than a shrug of a shoulder or a simple shake of her head.
And my heart cracks a little bit. I know the struggles all too well. Someone made her feel less worthy. Someone made her feel not understood. Someone made her feel like she’s not enough in this world, and there’s nothing I can say at that moment to change the sadness in her soul.
As I watch her trudge up to her room, every muscle aches to run after her, every instinct wants to hold her tight and protect her from the outside.
But instead, I try to wait. And when the time is right, when I can no longer stand it, I go into her room and put an arm around her shoulder, and even though she tries to shrug it off, I remain.
And I tell her, “Your now is not your forever. It will get better.”
Because our teenagers must understand that. It’s important we remind them that they might not meet their people in high school, they might not find their place, they may never fit in.
But there is life after high school, just as there is life after any challenging time. This now is not there forever. We can work to make it better.
Now, we sit in a time when our teenagers are struggling with the complexities of our day-to-day life. Old enough to understand the dangers but too immature to grasp the long-term consequences, they are often left to their own devices with the entire country judging each move.
And as we continue with a world that’s on fire with rage and hate and sick, when our kids’ routines are off kilter and their lives turned upside down, when they feel isolated and alone and have too much time to think, as parents, we won’t always be able to help.
But we can remind them that this now, these crazy times where nothing feels right, this will not be their forever.
No matter what is changed, no matter how alone they feel, no matter what they miss, it will get better.
It’s harder to see the signs right now when our hectic days have turned into long, boring reruns. It may be harder to see the signs when our own anxiety is getting the best of us.
Some kids will go through the day like nothing is wrong, others will act out, and still others will isolate in a great depression. All of these children are at risk; they all need us to watch over them.
Make loose plans for the future with your teens. Talk about what they want to do in the next phase of their life. Suggest things to occupy their minds and grow their hearts. Give them hope and something to hold onto.
Ensure they understand that this now that we are living in doesn’t have to be their forever.
It will get better.
*Teen suicides have grown exponentially the last decade, but the pandemic is putting them at increased risk. If you think you or someone you love is at risk for committing suicide, contact 1-800-273-8255.