According to The American Medical Association, mental disorders have become the leading disability among children, and depression is at the top of the list. Why is this happening, you may wonder.
Dr. James Garbarino, Maude C. Clarke Chair in Humanistic Psychology at Loyola University in Chicago, stated, “I think it is because children today live in a socially toxic environment. What I mean by the term socially toxic environment is that the social world of children, the social context in which they grow up, has become poisonous to their development.
“The lack of adult supervision and time spent doing constructive, cooperative activities are important toxic aspects of the social environment today, and compound the effects of other negative influences in the social environment for kids. Kids home alone are more vulnerable to every cultural poison they encounter than they would be if backed up by adults.”
Dr. Ken Condrell, a clinical psychologist, counselor and author of “The Unhappy Child,” said in the introduction of his book that “Children should be happy, vibrant individuals who explore their world — learning, playing, and having fun. But no child can expect to enjoy a fulfilling life if his or her days are overwhelmed with feelings of fear, frustration, anger, resentment, or other powerful emotions that turn what should be a special time of life into one of gloomy sadness.”
Normal parents want their children to be happy. Why then are so many parents failing to raise children free from depression? Experts have given us a list of possibilities and ways to improve a child’s happiness. Valid as these are, I am drawn toward a more profound cause of lasting happiness for children. This happiness is linked to their appreciation of spiritual things.
During his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said at Matthew 5:3: “Happy are those conscious of their spiritual need, since the kingdom of the heavens belong to them.” — New World Translation.
Living without filling this “spiritual need” can make life feel meaningless. In ancient Israel, parents were encouraged to teach their children about God as often as possible. At Deuteronomy 6:6-7 Jehovah commanded parents, “Keep these words in your heart that I am telling you today. Do your best to teach them to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk on the road and when you lie down and when you get up.” — New Life Version.
This would contribute to their lasting happiness. As Psalm 1:1-3 says, “Happy is the man who does not walk in the way sinful men tell him to, or stand in the path of sinners, or sit with those who laugh at the truth. But he finds joy in the Law of the Lord and thinks about His Law day and night. This man is like a tree planted by rivers of water, which gives its fruit at the right time and its leaf never dries up. Whatever he does will work out well for him.” — New Life Version.
This Divine promise is proving true for millions of young Christians as it did for God’s faithful servants of old. Combined with a balanced lifestyle of wholesome work, enjoyable association and meaningful festivals, God’s people were outstanding examples of happiness as they applied what they learned. This can still work for youths today.
Ecclesiastes 12:1 says, “Don’t let the excitement of youth cause you to forget your Creator. Honor him in your youth before you grow old and say, ‘Life is not pleasant anymore.’” — New Living Translation.
Teach your child how to enjoy learning about God and Christ right now — that it brings blessings and eternal life, according to John 17:3. It also helps youths draw closer to God, who in turn, will draw closer to them, according to James 4:8. This will put them on the road to a happier, healthier life — satisfying their spiritual needs.
You don’t have to be an expert or read numerous books to have an immediate positive impact on your child’s happiness. Spend more time with them. Do things they want to do. Share your highs and lows in life and encourage them to do the same. Read the Bible together. Pray together. Inspire your children by making them feel they can do anything with God’s help. Discipline them with love when needed. Reassure them often that you love them.
“The surest way to promote your child’s lifelong emotional well-being is to help him feel connected — to you, other family members, friends, neighbors, daycare providers, even to pets,” says Parents Magazine.
Edward Hallowell, MD, child psychiatrist and author of “The Childhood Roots of Adult Happiness” said, “A connected childhood is the key to happiness.”
According to Parents Magazine, “Dr. Hallowell points as evidence to the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, involving some 90,000 teens, in which ‘connectedness’ — a feeling of being loved, understood, wanted, acknowledged — emerged as by far the biggest protector against emotional distress, suicidal thoughts, and risky behaviors including smoking, drinking, and using drugs.”
It is no secret that children need to feel loved and connected. But they cannot do this for themselves. Parents must do their part, keeping in mind the words of Psalm 127:3: “Children are a gift from the LORD; they are a reward from him.” — New Living Translation.
This Divine “gift” is also a huge responsibility. Children need to know that they are wanted, loved and appreciated. Who wouldn't feel depressed without love and appreciation? These are natural desires that must be met to be happy.
Most of all, remind them that God loves them and will take care of them in ways their parents cannot. Encourage them to build faith in a relationship with God.
Yes, there are many things that can be done to help children suffering from depression and mental disorders. If our children are our future, don’t we owe it to them to teach them how to be happy?
That means, with everything you choose to do to help your child, consider the time-tested method that has helped millions for centuries. Spend more time teaching them about the true God and to love His ways. You’ll never regret it.
Instilling in them a desire to serve the true God in spirit and truth may be your greatest gift to them. Why? Because their end result will be lasting happiness. As Psalm 128:1 says, “Happy are those who obey the Lord, who live by his commands.” — Good News Translation.