RAISING MENTALLY HEALTHY KIDS
Today in America we are experiencing an unprecedented rise in mental health issues in our kids. In 2021, 1 in 3 teenage girls considered suicide, a 60% increase from 2011! The average teen spends 7.5 hours a day on their mobile devices! Can you even wrap your head around that number? We are medicating our children more than any generation in history.
Parents, we must treat this issue with the utmost seriousness as we raise our own children. Poor mental health does not have to be normal for our kids. We must be diligent and intentional to help our kids develop some vitally important habits and practices in their lives, that enable them to achieve and maintain strong mental health. If we don’t we are gambling with their mental health. Strong mental health doesn’t happen by accident!
Here are some very effective, practical things you can do that are proven to help build and maintain strong mental health.
Build their faith in God.
It is absolutely essential for their mental health to know there is a God who loves them, cares about them, who can help them handle all the difficulties life throws at them. Teach them Bible stories and your own faith stories, and explain how God came through for you. Share how God walked with you through the great trials and troubles of your life. Teach them the truths of the Bible.
Teach them to pray honestly, confidently, and daily.
You need to pray with your kids so they learn how to pray. Let them hear you pray honestly, and emotively about your troubles and difficulties. Let them hear the confidence in your voice that God is actually hearing you, God is listening. Then help them learn to pray. One of the first verses my mother ever taught me was this one: Casting all your cares upon him for he careth for you! Looking back on my life I’m amazed how that verse shaped my prayer life of dumping on God. Anxiety, worry, and despair would have destroyed my mental health had it not been for my prayer life, and pouring out my heart to God.
Teach them the promises and character of the God of the Bible.
The promises of God in the Bible are like anchors to our mental and emotional health. They are God’s guarantees to our mind, soul, and spirit. They anchor us through the raging storms of life. When we place our hope in them, and in the God who made them, they act as a protecting agent against the onslaught of worry, fear, and anxiety.
Teach them to practice gratitude and thanksgiving.
The default position of our human nature is to grumble, complain and see the negatives in everything. We must teach them to be grateful. To practice gratitude with their mind, mouth and emotions. Help them start their own gratitude journal. Help them cultivate a habit of gratitude for all their blessings. Help them learn to write a few down each day. Never forget this directive and promise of God: Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for what he has done. If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. Phil 4:6-7 NLT
Do you see this incredible truth? The power of prayer, of telling God everything, of bringing all our needs to him, AND thanking him!! Then and only then with the doing of this habit, will you ever experience God’s peace, and that peace will guard your heart/emotions and mind.
You can choose to obsessively worry, or you can choose to obsessively pray and give thanks. The choice is yours. I choose to obsessively pray and give thanks.
Get them to serve others.
Kids who volunteer and serve others are consistently mentally, emotionally, and physically healthier. God himself tells us – Those who refresh others will themself be refreshed. In another passage God tells us – The kind person nourishes their own soul. Jesus said – When we lose our lives we find life! Those who live in contradiction to these absolute truths will suffer great harm.
Keep them off social media. Seriously, I’m not joking!
It may be hard to believe, but really, social media is not essential for life. I have lived 67 years without it. I haven’t missed a thing, except the aggravation, vexation and anxiety that it brings.
Let me explain simply what social media does to your kids. It causes them to be very concerned about their image. They find this out right away. They want to look their best in photos, it makes them very self-conscious. It will even tend to get them to misrepresent their true reality, and not live an honest life. It causes them to compare themselves to others, whose life looks so much better or who are prettier, or have a more exciting life. It gets them addicted to the comments and praises of others with the built-in feedback loop. They become overly concerned about what others think of them. It’s a colossal waste of their time. Your teen will do so much better in life if you keep them off social media. The truth is social media is a plague and a scourge to our society. It has brought nothing but great harm. It is as addictive as hard drugs.
See to it they get good sleep, healthy food, physical exercise, and time outside whenever possible.
These are all essential to good mental health. The research has been done, the data is in. Neglect these and your kids will suffer. Help maintain a consistent sleep schedule that is age appropriate for your children. This is greatly helpful when you practice it yourself. Practice eating real food, rather than processed food, and sugary pops and fruit juices. You do not have to eat all organic to eat healthy. Truthfully most of you cannot possibly afford to feed your whole family all organic food. Eat lots of fruit, vegetables, grains, beans and nuts, and avoid all processed foods. Keep them properly hydrated with water. Find ways for them to be physically active. Could be a sport. Playing outside in the yard. Home exercise equipment that is inexpensive. Going on walks in green spaces is proven to greatly boost mental and emotional health. All of these things are not optional, nice things to do. They are essential for your children to thrive and be mentally healthy.
Teach them to walk in the righteous ways of God.
Nothing will destroy their lives more than walking in the ways of sin. Read Psalm 119. Over the next several weeks read this over a little bit at a time as a family to your kids. Read it from the NLT version and take note of the health benefits of walking in God’s ways. This Psalm comments on it often if you are alert and take notice. For example Ps 119:56 This is my happy way of life: obeying your commandments. v.92 If your law hadn’t sustained me with joy I would have died in my misery. v.93 I will never forget your commandments for you have used them to restore my joy and health.
Set the pace dads and moms. Be an example to your kids in all these matters.
Helping you become a Strong Disciple,
Because of Jesus,
Pastor Mark Darling