Helping Kids Overcome Anxiety
By Lydia Kaiser
Today I’ll be talking about helping kids combat anxiety. In October of 2019, the Centers for Disease Control put out a report that the suicide rate among 10-14 year old children had nearly tripled in the last decade while the rate for older teens increased by 76%. This was prior to major crises in 2020, so we can hardly hope for this rate to go down.
Among the unanticipated consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic and quarantine is the toll on mental health, and thus, emotional health. New studies since the beginning of the quarantine examine the psychological impact of confinement on children. Others measure anxiety due to social isolation, health fears and the uncertainty children observe, realizing their parents don’t know how to deal with things that are happening on this scale. All these can easily lead to depression. An article in the New York Times talks about the toll on young people and tells an example story of a talented, 14 year old athlete who died by suicide, her mother saying she was bored out of her mind.
A May 7th, 2020 article in Time Magazine showed a study where more than one in four Americans met the criteria that psychologists use to diagnose serious mental distress and illness. It’s a 700% increase from 2018. I noticed when studying the charts that the younger the demographic, the greater the distress.
There’s a lot of good advice out there regarding spending time outside, staying connected with people, being thankful, and managing negative thoughts. However, some advice recommends how to focus on things that make you feel strong, things that make you feel in control, and things that make you feel capable. I have to laugh at that, because the minute I start thinking I’m strong or I have any control in life, it seems like I get hit by the Reality Mac Truck.
Better than feeling in control myself is knowing deep down in my heart that God is in control. I’ve given Him my life, and it’s in His hands, to do with as my loving Father sees fit, and I’m okay with that. If the worst happens and I die, it’s actually the best, because I’ll be with him more fully. There is truly nothing in this world I can depend on, either materially, physically, or relationally. The only thing I can depend on is the truth in God’s Word, the Bible. His Word brings so much comfort that I can say with David in Psalm 131:2, “I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child I am content.”
In Hebrews 11:6 it says that without faith it is impossible to please God. And you know what? Our faith not only pleases Him, but it gives us peace that passes understanding. Philippians 4:6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard you hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Now that’s good mental health.
I want to challenge you to do two things for children to help them with anxiety. First, develop childlike faith in your Heavenly Father yourself, so they can emulate you. Talk about how you are doing it, so they don’t just think, “Mom is so chill” but they think, “Mom rests in God.”
Second, spend time with them in the Word, and in prayer, and teach them to spend time with God every day themselves, both focused time and practicing awareness of His presence all day. This practice will build and deepen their relationship with you as well as with God. CEF has wonderful devotionals for children. The Every Day with God series is for ages 6-8 and the Wonder Devotionals are from ages 9 and up. A well-known Bible teacher called these devotionals “systematic theology for children” because they start with the basics about who God is, then Jesus, and then the Holy Spirit and other important basics. You can find these devotionals at cefpress.com.
The world is a crazy and uncertain place, but God’s love for us is solid. Inform yourself about what’s going on, but don’t let the news on TV be your family’s steady diet. Feed on God’s Word like contented little children and trust your Heavenly Daddy.
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