By Jaime Jo Wright, Crosswalk.com
The unfortunate part about today’s society is the increased mental health issues among children and teenagers. Theories and proven statistics abound as to the reason for this, not the least of which is the recent pandemic, the rise in access to social media and streaming services, increased academic and athletic pressures, and so on.
According to the Adolescent Wellness Academy, the second leading cause of death among teenagers ages fifteen to nineteen is suicide. This doesn’t include other startling statistics, such as approximately 40% of teens have used marijuana in the past year, and 56% of teens report using alcohol in the past year.
As of 2021, according to the CDC, nearly one in three teenage girls seriously considered attempting suicide—a 60% increase in the last ten years.
With numbers like these, it is bound to raise concerns—and should raise concerns—among parents. Being aware of your child’s—or specifically, in this case—your daughter’s mental health is an important first step in getting out ahead of worst-case scenarios.
As Christian parents, what steps can we take to help safeguard our daughters from anxiety and depression? Are there additional ways we can contribute to their mental health that we may not find on a medical site? I should clarify that this article is not intended to replace or be used in replacement of or in priority over professional medical advice and counsel. It is merely a tool to offer additional suggestions that may help to encourage, uplift, and help to keep your daughter with a healthy and positive outlook on life.
1. Prioritize positive faith-based social involvement.
As parents, we have the ability to seek out places for our daughters to invest their time that will also encourage their faith and their position in the eyes of their Heavenly Father. We prioritize education and athletics, but are you teaching your daughter to prioritize the community of the Body of Christ?
Many local churches provide outlets for children and youth. Consider looking into your local church youth groups to get your daughter involved. A good youth group will have grounded and Biblically-sound youth leaders and mentors. Many youth groups do their best to provide same-sex mentorships through Godly women taking younger women under their nurturing wing and helping impart Spiritual truths into their lives that reinforce who these young ladies are in Christ.
By prioritizing faith-based social involvement, you are not only getting your daughter involved with her peers in a safe environment but also investing in her spiritual future.
2. Teach your daughter Scripture.
I’m the first to admit that not all anxiety and panic can be assuaged through the simple cliché answer of faith and prayer. After you’ve been sure to identify that there are no physiological or serious mental health issues that may need medical attention, we cannot discount the power of using Scripture to remind our daughters of their security in the Lord. There is a place for Scripture alongside the medical field. Neither should be discounted.
There is a long list of Scripture that can go deep into your daughter’s heart during their time of need. Encourage your daughter to memorize Scripture. If memorization is an insurmountable mountain—which for many it can legitimately be—make Scripture cards or buy them. These are notecards with verses specifically meant to encourage, reassure, uplift, and remind us of our security in the strength and power of God. Your daughter can post them in her room, her locker, and the bathroom mirror—tokens and reminders of God’s promises that never fail.
3. Build music playlists intended to calm and reassure.
The music streaming services have a plethora of music to draw from. Building a playlist for your daughter—engaging her in making it with you—is a key way to help bring peace and calm into your daughter’s life. Be open to the idea of her playing the music even as she falls asleep. Consider how she will meditate on the Word of God written into song, the precepts and truths of the lyrics, and even the calming elements of the musical notes.
King Saul was ministered to by David as David played his harp. Music was a crucial tool in soothing King Saul’s anxieties and unsettled spirit. David—and other authors—created lyrics in the form of the Psalms—to communicate messages of hope and a choice to trust in the promises of God. Music cannot and should not be discounted as a tool to help calm anxieties in the hearts and minds of our daughters.
4. Encourage physical activity.
It is proven that physical activity helps increase oxygen flow throughout the body and has a litany of other physical benefits. Some of our daughters are already athletic and constantly moving, but others may not. Awareness of your daughter’s physical movement is important because if she is more sedentary, it will be important to provide opportunities and motivate them to move.
This can also be a chance for you to spend time with your daughter. Consider walks, hiking in the woods, kayaking, climbing, running, volleyball or tennis, etc. You can choose to do many things with your daughter that will get her moving and physically active and engage the two of you in time with each other.
5. Spend time with her and listen.
As parents, we often instinctively try to solve our children’s problems. But it is important to be available to listen. With daughters especially, being an available sounding board will help build their trust in you and relieve them from bottling up hard-felt emotions inside. It will be critical to building trust with her. Be conscientious not to have knee-jerk reactions, outbursts of surprised frustration or reprimand, and so on. There may be a place for parental intervention and discipline but look at building time into your every day to make your daughter and her thoughts and feelings your utmost priority.
Giving her a safe outlet to bear her heart will potentially allow you to help guide and steer her in her faith, but it will also be exampling to her that she is valued, that she has a place, and that her feelings and thoughts are important.
Being there and being involved in your daughter’s life is critical through the growing-up years anyway. But helping her filter through the barrage of messages that culture throws at her will be essential. Helping and teaching her to correctly identify truth versus opinion or lie, guiding her into a strong faith foundation that will not be shaken when things are thrown her way, and being a safe place for her to fall, will all be critical elements to shaping your daughter’s mental health.
Remember, if you’re not there to influence her, there is a big wide world of influencers just waiting for a click of the button to influence her themselves. Be aware, be involved, and be there for her. You are your daughter’s first line of defense in protecting her mental health.
Jaime Jo Wright is an ECPA and Publisher’s Weekly bestselling author. Her novel “The House on Foster Hill” won the prestigious Christy Award and she continues to publish Gothic thrillers for the inspirational market. Jaime Jo resides in the woods of Wisconsin, lives in dreamland, exists in reality, and invites you to join her adventures at jaimewrightbooks.com and at her podcast madlitmusings.com where she discusses the deeper issues of story and faith with fellow authors.