In a recent episode of my Parenting Great Kids Podcast, clinical social worker and psychoanalyst Erica Komisar alerted me to some startling statistics:
“One study by the Child Mind Institute showed that eighth-graders who were heavy users of social media had a 27% increased risk of depression. Most alarming are the results of a study by American researchers, which found that adolescents who spend more than three hours a day on a screen are 35% more likely to have a risk factor for suicide. Adolescents who spent more time on off-screen activities, on the other hand, such as spending time with friends and playing sports, were much less likely to be unhappy.”
Reducing social media use is clearly helpful for improving teens’ mental health, but so is something else: teaching them about God.
I’ve done extensive research on the impact faith can have on a child and what I’ve found is encouraging:
- Spiritual practices like meditation or prayer have been linked to increased levels of serotonin, dopamine and endorphins—chemicals that help the brain regulate and feel good. Reading scripture has also been linked to a decrease in cortisol and noradrenaline—chemicals that cause stress and anxiety.1
- One study in Canada found that people who attend religious services regularly have a lower risk of depression.2
- In a study done at a mental health treatment center, 80% of patients reported using religion to cope with daily life, 65% said religion helped them cope with their symptoms, and 30% said religion gave them a purpose.3
While monitoring and reducing social media use in our teens is key, so is instilling in them a deep faith, a foundation that will always be there, even when things get tough.
This Easter teach your child what the holiday really means. While the Easter baskets, egg hunts, and potlucks are fun, what your child needs is an understanding of Christ, who he was and what that means for your child. He needs to understand grace and forgiveness and how they relate to the resurrection. He needs to know that he is enough because Jesus loves him.
Perhaps you’re hesitant to do this. You’re not sure what you believe, much less what to say to your child. That’s OK. You don’t have to have your faith figured out before giving your child a foundation of belief. And it’s OK to say to your child you’re unsure, or you don’t know the answer to his questions. You can learn together.
Regardless of how confident you are in talking to your child about God, know this: understanding and experiencing divine love can have a profound impact on your child, her mental health and her future. Faith tells her she is loved, she is enough, she is forgiven—these truths are fundamental. Don’t miss your chance to teach them to your child.
1 Mohandas, E. (2008). Neurobiology of spirituality. Mens Sana Monographs. 6(1):63-80.
2 Balbuena, L., Baetz, M., & Bowen, R. (2013). Religious attendance, spirituality, and major depression in Canada: a 14-year follow-up study. The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry. 58(4): 225-232.
3 Tepper, L., Rogers, S., Coleman, E. & Malony H.N. (2001). The prevalence of religious coping among persons with persistent mental illness.