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A Parent’s Role in Teen Anxiety

Is It My Fault?

If your teen ends up with anxiety or depression, it’s very common for you to feel that you’ve failed or you’ve done something wrong. You might feel embarrassed or ashamed. You might feel helpless and that you don’t know what to do. You feel guilty. So what do we do with these feelings and thoughts?

Outside of Your Control

The first thing to say is, you’re probably not responsible for what’s happened to your teen. So many things that are causing depression are independent of parents. For example, the cultural pressures and changes that have happened such as the technology explosion, social instability, and even the gender confusion—all of these things have cultural pressures and no matter how much we try to protect our kids, we will never protect them completely from that. Also, we’re not responsible for some of the events that can lead to depression.

Why Is My Teenager Feeling Like This?

David Murray

Adults play a vital role in helping teenagers through anxiety and depression, and this book gives spiritual encouragement and practical direction for parents and other adults who want to help but don’t know what to do. A companion volume to Murray’s Why Am I Feeling Like This?, written for teenagers.

We’re not responsible, for example, if we did all that we can, our kids can still be bullied. They can still suffer abuse and bereavement; disease and illness comes into their lives and our lives. Therefore, you’re not to blame for these cultural pressures or these events that are out of your control, but that can be huge contributors to teen anxiety and depression.

Within Your Control

The second thing to say is you maybe are responsible; and if so, confess it. You might feel as you talk to your teen, as you hear their story, Wow, I said things and did things I shouldn’t have said or done; or, I should have said things that I didn’t—encouragement and praise; or, I should have done more with them, and I haven’t done it. We have two gospel ways we can deal with that: first of all, confess it to God and get complete, total, and free forgiveness. There is no need for us to go on feeling guilty. Don’t suppress it. Bring it out and say, I failed. We all fail. There is no perfect parent. Ask God to forgive you.

Then, confess it to your child. Say, Look, I think I’ve contributed to this. I’m really sorry. And that’s a humbling time, but it can be a precious time as well. It can bring you closer together, it can make your kids see that you’re human too and you’re not perfect. I’ve seen relationships really strengthened over time by that. It’s a gospel remedy, and it produces gospel fruit. So, yes, confess it if, even partly, you’ve played a role. But then help them to get help. Let’s move forward. Mistakes have been made (or not) and regardless, let’s now work together to get help. Doctors, counselors, pastors, practical means to help them in their lives and work together constructively. This can be repaired, reconciliation can take place, and what seemed like something to feel really guilty, condemned, ashamed, and embarrassed about actually can produce a ton of fruit in individuals and relationships and ultimately, to serve the church in the future.

David Murray is the author of Why Is My Teenager Feeling Like This?.

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