Behind Closed Doors: Words of Wisdom to Parents With Troubled Teens, Tweens
“Without the hope of the Gospel, I [have] trouble finding hope in a troubled world.”
Christian nurse practitioner and author has Dr. Jessica Peck recently released her newest book, Behind Closed Doors. Peck wrote it as a tangible, practical resource to help parents communicate better with their tweens and teens. “As a pediatric nurse practitioner, I often meet families behind closed doors, and I see up front and close and personal that life isn’t perfect. I’m meeting families at a point of crisis that they never saw coming.”
Peck, who holds a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree, is alarmed by the current status of mental and physical health of teens. “I see [a] deeply anxious and depressed generation of teens who are disconnected from their parents, who want to help but aren’t sure what to do.” She’s a mom in the trenches with teens herself. She’s also a clinician on the front lines. “I realized I had the knowledge, skill set and experience to really engage, equip, encourage and empower parents.”
The Damage of COVID
COVID has exacerbated problems between teens and their parents. “I believe that COVID was a significant social, emotional and mental health injury to teens.” She believes that no matter where people are on the political spectrum, they can agree on that at least.
“We can all agree that we are very concerned about the impacts of teens. Things were challenging before COVID. COVID deeply increased that social disconnect, where people are connecting online, but it just doesn’t take the place of the … value of in-person interaction. And so I see skyrocketing … mental health presentations: disordered eating. Suicide rates are increasing at an alarming rate. … Other things that parents really aren’t talking about … they want to talk about, but just don’t know how. … That’s what I see in my clinical practice. I talk to teens by themselves. I talk to parents by themselves, and 9 times out of 10, they want to talk to each other, but they do not know how to initiate that conversation.”
Behind Closed Doors
Each chapter in Peck’s book includes three sections: Behind the Clinic Door, Behind the Home Door, and Behind the Heart Door.
“Behind the Clinic Door is really professional advice for parents on tough teenage issues through a health impact lens. So, how does a kid who is sexting, for example, end up in my clinic? It’s not like they walk in the door and say, ‘Oh, you know, we’re struggling with sexting at home and we’d like to talk to you about it.’ That’s not how it looks at all. So, I back it up and show, here’s how it started and here’s the progression of events that led you to this point of crisis.”
“I want to give parents practical tools,” such as Behind the Home Door. “How do they take that conversation, that health information that I have, and translate it at home? And that’s where I translated motivational interviewing, basically, which is a professional tool that I use to talk to teens. And I made that accessible for parents.
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“And then Behind the Heart Door, when you face these situations that our teens are facing, it’s heartbreaking. It’s really difficult and it’s deeply upsetting. And so I want to take really good care of the parents’ hearts and provide them hope and encouragement.”
Science shows clearly, said Peck, that teens who have strong family faith traditions are healthier and less likely to engage in risk-taking behaviors. “They’re more confident, they make better grades, they have lower risk for substance abuse, they have lower risk for self harm. … I think faith is the glue that holds all of this together.”
Peck says that if parents are going to have the right influence on their teens’ faith, their own faith must be strong. “I want to strengthen parents’ faith so that it resonates as authentic with [their] teens. Because … what teens value, very, very much is authenticity. Doesn’t matter if you’re awkward in conversation, they like that. That’s authentic.”
There is Hope
“The takeaway for parents is that there is hope for healthy relationships with your team that build so deep connections and adequately prepare them to face life’s challenges ahead. And it’s possible to lead with empathy and courage to pursue the heart of your teen.” But there’s no quick fix. It’s not a miracle cure. “This is something that takes blood, sweat, tears [and] courage. You’ll have mountaintops and valleys. You’ll have advances and setbacks. You’re going to have struggles and defeat and you’re going to have triumph. But it’s about parenting for the long game.”
“It takes your most valuable resource. And that’s what teens want, most of all. Not your money, not the select sports, not the nicest clothes. They want your time.”
Nancy Flory, Ph.D., is a senior editor at The Stream. You can follow her @NancyFlory3, and follow The Stream @Streamdotorg.