As school starts back up, so do high stress levels for many girls in our student ministries. Stress seems to be at an all-time high for teenagers, and it’s important we recognize the stress they deal with is a very real thing. These days, teens juggle academics, jobs, athletics, extra curriculars, college/career decisions, and more. If this all weren’t enough, social media is an all-consuming part of their lives. While it does have its benefits, it’s probably a huge factor to their stress. Social media isn’t going away any time soon, and neither are the other pressures the girls face. Therefore, how do we equip them to deal with it all? Since stress will most likely always be a part of their lives, these teen years are a vital time for us to equip them to deal with it in a biblical way.
Let’s Talk about It
One way we can deal with the back to school stress is by simply giving girls space to talk about it. Whenever I meet with my girls (small groups, coffee shops, etc.), I ask them to share one “Brownie” (a good thing) and “Frownie” (a negative thing) from their week. This is sometimes called “highs” and “lows”. This simple practice provides a great way to build relationships. What they share might give insight into a specific stressful situation, giving us a great opportunity to intentionally pray for them and to speak life into them. Sometimes, stress mounts when we feel like we’re alone in the struggle. As girls share their lows, they’ll realize they’re not alone in dealing with life’s difficulties. Simply the opportunity to voice their stress to trusted peers and leaders eases the burden too. Also, sharing highs reminds us to not only focus on the negative, which we’re easily tempted to do in stressful seasons. Sharing at least one positive from the week will open girls’ eyes to see the good things happening too.
Social media boundaries
Because of social media, we’re constantly connected. On top of the normal teenage stress, girls now scroll social media, constantly aware of being left out, their lack of the newest trend, and the world’s messages. The comparison temptation and pressure social media brings is almost unbearable. It’s important we teach healthy boundaries so that social media is a tool for good, instead of another thing causing stress in their lives. These boundaries will look different for each girl, but limiting time on social media apps would be so beneficial. Also, setting boundaries on who they follow is helpful. Personally, when I find myself comparing or coveting, I know it’s time for a social media clean up. Some questions to ask: Does this account point me to Christ? Does this account lead me to feel less about myself? Does this account cause unnecessary stress? Does this account tempt me to compare or covet for things I don’t actually need? When our girls assess who they follow, hopefully, their time spent on social media will become more uplifting instead of destructive.
Equip with the Sword of the Spirit
While icebreaker conversations and social media boundaries are helpful, there’s nothing better we can equip girls with than the Sword of the Spirit, that is, the Word of God (Eph. 6:17). The truth is, our girls will eventually graduate from our student ministries. We won’t have the chance for weekly brownies/frownies talks. Social media is constantly changing too, so today’s boundaries might not work in another season. However, the one thing that’s constant is God’s Word. When we arm our girls with Scripture to help them battle stress, we’re giving them an eternal weapon. Here are some verses I cling to in times of stress, along with thoughts we can share with our girls:
- Isaiah 26:3: Typically, our stress correlates with a lack of focus on God. Have your girls think through what they’re stressed about, and where their minds typically are when they’re worried about such things. In this verse, we learn God offers us peace, not stress! We experience this perfect peace of God when we keep our minds on him. Encourage girls to keep their minds on the Lord through daily Bible reading, Scripture memory, texting Scripture to one another, putting verses on their lockscreens, and more.
- Matthew 6:25-34: This passage is full of rich truth! First, “Do not worry,” is a command, so our aim at de-stressing is actually an aim at obedience to the Lord. Next, as we “Seek first the Kingdom,” we can trust God will take care of all the things we’re stressed about. Finally, “tomorrow will worry about itself.” Often, our stress is about future things we can actually do nothing about today. We must trust the Lord gives us enough grace to handle what he’s called us to today. When it comes to the future stuff, we can trust God will give us grace for those things as we need it.
- Philippians 4:6-9: Again, this a command to not be anxious. With this negative command, though, comes a positive one—we’re to present our requests to God with thanksgiving. Have your girls list everything, from big things to small, that cause stress and present these to God in prayer. As they do, teach them we can be thankful, because we can trust God with our worries. Next, this verse tells us the types of things we’re to think about. Usually, stress involves worrying about what-ifs, future situations, and other things that don’t match this list of praiseworthy things.
The stress our girls face is real. However, the God we serve is also real. Let’s point our girls to him as they head back to school. Let’s equip them with life-giving conversations, healthy boundaries, and of course, God’s Word so that they can live unto the glory of God.
Cassie Pattillo is a wife to Jack, and mama to Hunter (5), Isaac (3), and is in the process of adopting from India. Jack is a student pastor, so she loves serving alongside him and investing in teens’ lives. She is passionate about biblical literacy along with writing and teaching about Scripture. She is also a big fan of slow mornings with a cup of coffee, a good book on the beach, and Gamecock football. Connect with Cassie: Blog // Facebook // Instagram