As we better understand how children with special needs, exhibit anxiety and depression differently from their typical functioning peers, the need to recognize and treat these disorders in our children increases. My prayer is that by giving you an inside view, of how I personally dealt with childhood depression, as well as being a parent of two children who struggled with depression, you will be equipped to more readily handle these issues if they appear in your home.
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Warning “T” – Thoughts
Thoughts Cause Emotions
Did you know that 10,000 thoughts pass through the human mind each day? And, per Neil Anderson in his book Overcoming Depression, “…emotions are essentially a product of our thoughts.” Thus, it is extremely important to consider how thinking and depression are linked.
When I was at the deepest places in my own struggle with depression, I could go for hours just sitting and cycling negative thoughts without even knowing what I was doing or how those thoughts were causing me to spiral even further down into a pit of despair.
Uncovering Harmful Thinking
If you have a child who is depressed, and seems to be daydreaming, try to gently confront their thinking. Instead of snapping them out of their thoughts, and getting upset about them wasting time or not doing what they are supposed to be doing, try to gain understanding by asking them to share what they were thinking about.
By confronting your child in love at these times, you will not only uncover their dominant cyclical thinking patterns, but you will also alert them to this habit. I suggest keeping a journal to write down what your child shares with you. You will come to see the significance of these documented insights in the next section of this article.
Guiding “T” – Truth
We must also look back one more step to realize where our thoughts establish their footing. Beliefs are the origin of many of our feelings. Every day we hold our experiences up to the lens of what we believe. From there, we determine how we should react, think, and thus feel about these things.
Truth determined relative to our understanding of the world is what the Bible refers to as “shifting sand”. Relative truth is not absolute, and thus it provides nothing firm to place your feet on or from which to gain an accurate understanding of the world. Relative thinking places a person, and their version of reality, at the center of a universe they did not design.
Absolute truth can only be found in one place, from the One who stated, “I Am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” Jesus is Truth. He is a firm foundation. Our rock and our ever-present help in danger. In trading in relative truth for absolute truth, lies have nowhere to hide and the enemy that uses depression and cyclical untrue thoughts can no longer deceive a person into believing, and thus feeling, anything different than what God’s word says.
Battling Relativity with Absolutes
Earlier, I made the recommendation to keep a journal to track your child’s thoughts. In the light of what I have shared in this section, here is how to use that journal to help your child convert relative thinking to absolute thinking.
First, record similar thought patterns on a page. Next, to help your child confront unreal thinking, get out a concordance or go to BibleGateway.com and find passages that specifically unravel the untruths your child battles against. Finally, help your child not only to memorize the words in those passages, but to internalize the concepts they teach. Help them work through how that verse can be trusted, how God has exhibited that truth in the bible, through past experiences in your own life that you can share with your child, as well as in your child’s own life.
Over time your child will not only replace deep-seated lies with truth, but he or she will also develop a new habit of thinking on “whatever is true…honorable…right…pure…”
As I have worked through these battles in my own life, with my boys, and discussed them with other people whose children have struggled with depression, I have uncovered a very interesting commonality. It seems to be that Satan uses the tactic of depression against those who are the most spiritually receptive. Just as God speaks truth into our lives, and some have a greater sensitivity to His voice, so too can Satan use that sensitivity for his own schemes.
Spiritual sensitivity works as powerfully in the godly direction as in the ungodly. And although the enemy never meant good to come from a person’s depression, God converts a once bad habit of hearing and cycling lies into a good habit that hears and cycles truth. So be encouraged parents; the difficulties your child may be experiencing now may be the very thing He will use to help your child live and walk closer with Him.