This second article in a series about Childhood Depression, focuses on the “I” factors of childhood depression. In total there will be 6 articles,highlighting the warning and guiding lights for each of the letters in the word “LIGHTS”.
Warning “I” – Inhibitors
Inhibitor 1 – Stress
The relationship between stress and depression is that increased stress leads to an increase in the development of depression or exacerbates it. The way to remove this inhibitor is by helping your child figure out their main stressors. Working through questions that pinpoint specific things in your child’s schedule, relationships, and recurring difficult situations facilitates understanding of stressors.
Identifying your child’s stressors gives you the ability to start talking through these things with them so you can work together. Thoughtful planning and preparation make these situations easier to navigate for your child.
Inhibitor 2 – Loneliness & Rejection
God made people for community, but sometimes community fails our special children. I know I am not alone when I share that some of the toughest places for my children to be loved and accepted have been in a church setting. Unfortunately, well-meaning people have made a place we desired to be our sanctuary a place where we met condemnation.
Finding friends who understand your child will be a difficult path, but if a parent is diligent to keep trying, the result will end in wonderful deep and meaningful relationships for your child. Keep praying, seeking, forgiving those who don’t understand, and seeking out those whom God has prepared to be a good friend for your child and who will accept them for who they are.
Inhibitor 3 – Fear
Teaching an adult that fear is only a mental conceptualization of the future, not a certain outcome is difficult. When working with a fearful child, it is best to help them recognize what they are thinking. Once the fear is identified, work with the child to rationalize their fears and determine how best to cope with them.
For many children who deal with depression, fears build in their minds to great exaggerations of what is real or even possible. By dissecting fears, allowing comfort items to be brought into places where your child needs physical reinforcement, and ensuring they know you are going to be there for them will help your child cope with their fears rather than allowing them to fester and grow.
Inhibitor 4 – Disappointment
It is hard to be let down by life, and even harder to work through failure. Most children view disappointment as a difficulty, but also an ordinary part of life. But for children with depression, disappointment is often internalized as personal failure which decreases their self-worth.
In my article Failing to Learn, I discuss how failure is one of the greatest ways we have been given to learn. Kids dealing with depression require additional support to see how failure can actually lead to greater success, not a downward spiral to defeat.
I remember helping my oldest son work on this concept when his Lego creations would never hold together as he imagined they would. Each time they broke, I would ask him: What was the weak spot that caused the break? How can you rebuild it to make that part stronger? What did you learn from the break? How is your creation better now that you have rebuilt it?
Guiding “I” – Increase in Character/Sanctification
Cyclical Perfection Wheel
One of the greatest illustrations you can give your child who is struggling with depression is this perfection wheel.
On this wheel, perfection is achieved by being at the top of the wheel. Once a person sins, they start moving down the wheel to the right. What determines how big or small this wheel becomes, is a person’s realization of their sin, and need for repentance of their sin. Once a person repents, and realizes their need for the blood of Jesus to cover their sins, then they are restored…made perfect. At this point, God does the work in completing the circle and bringing that person back up to the top again.
“Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:29-30 NKJV
This process is how God increases our character. We realize each time we sin that we are inadequate and need God. In turn, God shows us His adequacy and ability to work within our lives as long as we are submissive to His work.
Learning on the Wheel
Throughout this process, it is not God’s desire to shame us, but rather to teach us. God alone stays at the top of the wheel. Our human condition will always have us cycling from top to bottom and back to the top again. The goal is not to hang onto perfection, but to continually walk with God, learning and growing in our relationship with Him so He can restore us and teach us .
For children who struggle with depression, it is essential to help them see how life is a process which is molding them into the person God wants them to be through failure. Each struggle, fear, disappointment, and difficulty is an opportunity to learn and grow. And, it is God’s desire to make that process easy and light if they choose to walk with Him and trust His ability to work all things out for good.
The “I” Silver Lining
Throughout my childhood and into young adulthood, I pursued success only to be continually disappointed. Each time I felt success was achievable, I soon realized it was even further out of reach. Over the years the pursuit of success took me further away from who I had been created to be.
I put on masks to fool others that my life was going well. I heaped burdens upon myself that God never intended for me to carry. I had lost touch with who I was and what I had been created to be.
Not until I saw the beauty of God’s grace and forgiveness, and His ability to restore my broken life from the bottom of my pit, did I realize how wrong I had been in pursuing success over God. There is so much truth in what Charles Spurgeon says about how some things can only be discovered from the bottom of a deep well and how affliction is what leads to greater blossoms and fruit.
God does His greatest work when life gets its hardest. The factors which pull our children down, can also bring them closer to God and prepare for them an extremely fruitful future. Helping children to see this hope in the midst of the darkness is one of the best ways a parent can help their child see beyond their current circumstances and struggles and move forward to the hope that God is drawing them towards.
Links to All the Blogs in this Series