Updated: Nov 7, 2022
Don't be too hard on yourself, we learned it from our parents, and they probably read it on a coffee mug at the local Christian book store. (Remember those? Nearly every surface covered in a Bible verse, and someone's spouse talking loudly in the back of the store about "how much I love this song" because the headphones were too loud.) Either a coffee mug, a well-meaning Christian Quote of the Day calendar, or an edition of Chicken Soup for the Soul can be attributed to what has become a plethora of Christian tropes.
Here are some of the HELPFUL and NOT so HELPFUL phrases we often use:
"Have more faith."
"Just pray about it."
"God never gives you more than you can handle."
While many of these are true, we take for granted that they will understand their full context and meaning, and as I stated earlier, that they have the background in seeing these truths played out the way that we have.
Instead You Might Say:
"You are not alone. We will get through this together!"
"How can I support you? How can I pray for you?"
"I know things are difficult right now. How can you give your burdens to Jesus?"
These are statements that invite conversation and allow us to walk alongside of them rather than expecting them to "pick themselves up by their own bootstraps" the way that we were expected to. Any while we are on that subject, isn't that one of the major complaints that many of us have had from childhood, that we were expected to grow up so quickly? That we were expected to help financially when things were tight? Or that many of us felt so alone? (Remember the phrase "latchkey kids")
The problem with this generation is that we have almost over-parented and they have known nothing else than the hovering soccer mom and band dad that is literally at every event. So to throw out these phrases with little context or involvement is setting them up for failure.
Definitely NOT Helpful:
"Everything happens for a reason."
"God helps those who help themselves."
I am not going to dignify these with any sort of rather commentary...just...don't say them. Please. "Every thing DOES happen for a reason...but timing is everything and what we are doing is trying to minimize and to get them to shirk their feelings. Allow them to express their sorrow, frustration, anger etc and simply say: I am so sorry you are going through this. Save the everything happens for a wall hanging. (Oops, I gave commentary.)
Say This Instead:
"You matter to me and you matter to God."
"God uniquely created you and loves you and is always here for you."
These invite a conversation about God's purposes for struggle and pain. They also communicate that God wants to be a part of what they are going through. Even if they don't want to pray during these moments, pray for them..right then and there. Let them hear your prayer and your care through how you pray for them. It's an opportunity for them to hear what it sounds like to process these moments from someone who has the experience but is by no means perfect. (Sorry about that, I am POSITIVE you are a wonderful parent, but none of us are 'nailing it' 24/7.)
Check out more of our other blog posts for tips on communicating to teens by looking at the links below.