I believe giving your children a faith in God is one of the greatest gifts you can give them. When it comes to parenting, start with a faith foundation. That must come first before everything else can fall into place. You may not agree, but with the rise of anxiety and depression in kids today, this is more important than ever.
I’ve written frequently about the state of mental health in our children and teens over the last year. The numbers are staggering. Between 2007 and 2015, suicide rates for girls age 15-19 doubled. Statistics show that in 2016, more than three million adolescents had a major depressive episode. Researchers are drawing a strong connection between social media use and mental health issues in kids today.
All of this can make a parent feel helpless, but trust me, parents, you are not. Yes, social media is a big problem that you cannot solve on your own, but you have an even greater tool at your disposal. You can teach your child to have faith in something greater than himself.
Research has proven that having a religious faith is incredibly effective at preventing and treating mental illness:
- 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 percent of patients reported using religion to cope with daily life, 65 percent said religion helped them cope with their symptoms, and 30 percent said religion gave them a purpose.
If God is good for mental health, then God is good–and necessary–for kids.
Many parents today shy away from teaching their child faith because they don’t want to “impose” their views on their children. The media has made people of faith appear close-minded and judgmental, so the last thing we want is to teach our kids something that is unpopular.
Despite today’s cultural climate toward the Judeo-Christian faith, I believe if there is a time in history when children need to learn about the character of God, the meaning and wisdom of the scriptures and what the Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish traditions hold, it is now.
Here’s the bottom line: when it comes to teaching your children about God and faith, there is no room for political correctness. The stakes are too high.
Teach your child about God. You don’t have to have all the answers. You don’t have to be certain of it yourself, but most kids are naturally curious about spiritual things. They will ask questions. They will want to know. And they will need you to guide them. Are you up to the task?
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.
Psychiatric Services. 52(5):660-665.