The recent shooting at a Batman: Dark Knight Rises movie in Aurora, Colorado, has many wondering How and why a young man with such promise, could have taken such a left turn in life? James Holmes, an honor student at UC Riverside, then a graduate student in the neuroscience program at University of Colorado medical school, shot 50 and 12 died as he gunned them down at the midnight movie premiere. Just when did the wheels come off his bus? What would lead a bright young adult to carry out such a horrific deed?
Not many details are known yet, but one thing Bill and I do know is it can happen to the best kids, the best families, who live in the best of neighborhoods. Emotional trauma and mental illness levels the playing field in life, no one is out of its painful reach. Instead of judging what happened (or didn’t), let’s look at what any parent can do any time he or she senses their own child, teen or young adult is in emotional or mental anguish.
In our church, when Bill was the Senior Pastor and I was the Director of Women’s Ministry, when anyone was in pain we had a two pronged, two layered approach to move them out of pain back into the Promised Land of emotional and mental strength and health. If something in your gut is saying, “My kids is just not acting like his or herself”, trust your instincts and reach out for help early rather than later, it is better to err on the side of caution.
In my book, Got Teens? (co authored with Jill Savage) I lay out this twofold approach to dealing with “issues”. Get two plans in place: (1) The emergency plan and (2) the long term plan. Emotional pain and mental illness trauma and drama will need triage, just like if one were in an accident and needed to go to the emergency room. Then after things calm and some initial help is given, a long term plan to move a person to health can be established. For now, let’s just deal with the emergency plan.
If you got a call like the Holmes family did, or if you discover a teen or young adult trapped in depression, substance abuse,suicidal behavior or any of a host of unhealthy patterns, pull two teams together immediately. One to hold you up, so you can help hold your child up, and one to team with you to provide help for your child directly.
Select friends who are able to keep confidences, people of prayer, of the same gender, and willing to invest time
taking calls from you. They do not do all the legwork or make calls for you to gather information for your teen; those are healthy and necessary steps for you to take in staying emotionally strong and connected to your teen, but they can help with information gathering and they can be a sounding board as you talk through options. The support team is primarily there to pray and listen. They may offer alternative ideas or offer practical help with other errands or responsibilities. As they offer; you may accept help but keep your expectations realistic as these friends have their own lives and responsibilities too. But chances are, in the short term, you have people around you that if asked to
help in specific ways they will gladly rally to help. Get your team in place, those that will help support you, (two to
four friends is nice) and then work on your teen’s support team. You have to keep your head above water so you can in turn help your teen. One mom we were helping said, “Satan wants me to be ashamed and isolate, but my teen doesn’t have time for me to worry about my own self image, God wants me to help save her life—and I need your help and anyone else who might be willing!” Let people help you!
For Your Teen
His or her team should be composed of paid professionals: counselors, people in the world of law, juvenile justice
system, pastors, youth pastors, social workers etc. It should also include lay youth workers whom have a rapport with your teen, and trusted adult family friends who can keep confidences and can see the potential and the promise in your teen. A few older friends of your child might be included if they are mature enough spiritually and emotionally to offer strength and help to your teen. One mom of a teen struggling with mental illness said, “ Make a list of needs then go to the top professional in each field and ask for help. If they can’t help due to time restraints, or other reasons, their recommendations are usually very trustworthy.” The team approach will help you move from the emergency mode to a long team workable plan to help move your child forward to emotional, mental and spiritual health.
Our prayers are with all the families impacted, both James’ parents and every other family of his victims—and
they are also with all the parents who today are worried over a tween, teen or young adult child. One thing we do know is God promised to be near the broken hearted (Ps 147:3) and God has a plan of help (John 10:10, Jer 29:11) because God created your child/ teen or young adult, He has a way to help them. Begin praying and call for help and see how God answers.
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(More article by Pam Farrel are available at www.Love-Wise.com )