Rejoice in the Lord: Limiting Anxiety in our Children
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2/13/2018 - Throughout the year, our Grammar School Monday Morning Assemblies have been focusing on Philippians 4:4-8, a very powerful and meaningful verse from the New Testament.

"Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all
understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

An unprecedented number of children and teens experience clinically significant anxiety these days. Why
is this? Well, the answer isn’t easy. Research shows that many things can factor into the rise of pediatric
depression and anxiety and the culprit depends on what research your reading. However, a few things
have become clear to me as I have waded through many articles, books and podcasts. Modern children
are exposed to far more reality than ever before. We talk about, watch, and listen to unfiltered content at
alarming rates, long before our young children are ready. We all know they’re sponges, but we often
believe that it’s all “going over their heads”. It’s not. Children worry about everything from bullying to
abandonment to terrorism, and everything in between. In many ways our desire to keep them safe
through information and preparedness has stolen their innocence. Layer on the constant push for
achievement, recognition, and success and we have collectively provided a heavy burden. By we, I mean
all of us, our culture, our media and many of our child raising beliefs. And I say we, putting my own
name at the top of the list.


“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. ~ Philippians 4:6

And don’t get me going about the role of social media and cell-phones! In this post let it just suffice for
me to say that I believe the current number one contributor to angst in the preteen and teen years is the
addictive and powerful force of the smartphone. Talk about giving a developmentally inappropriate tool
to the unprepared. Group texts, Instagram, Facebook and SnapChat. Be careful my friends, without
careful and inconvenient oversight, you may be allowing anxiety to fester.


I look back at the Bible verse and I feel a bit ashamed. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every
situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. I’m not sure my
children would report that I attended well to this advice through out their childhood and I can admit that
I (we) played a role in the clinical significant anxiety that one of my children has experienced. As parents
we have a unique responsibility to be aware of the many triggers bombarding our young kids. One
insidious source is the pressure to succeed.


I don’t know about you but, though I was a highly motivated student, I don’t recall the do-or-die
mentally I see in so many teens. These days it is harder than ever for our kids to understand what should
be informing their own sense of identity and value. For so many, being the best feels like the only option
that doesn’t equal failure. Am I the best student in my class? Am I the best athlete on the court? Am I the
best dancer in show? Am I the best volunteer in the community? Good doesn’t count, best is essential!
Self-worth has been highjacked by our competitive culture and the narrative being sold to our children is
that you won’t succeed, doors won’t open, and you should resign yourself to mediocrity unless you are
the best. This message affects the best and the average equally! Either I stress to maintain my position or I
accept myself as mediocre. Why do we buy in to this lie? I believe we as parents can and must address
this powerful force in our child’s lives. 

 

I encourage you to reflect on the mental health of your children, not because I think something is wrong,
but rather because we as parents play such a critical role in the well being of our kids. The easy answer is:
“My kid is fine, happy, trustworthy and not affected by these pressures.” The hard answer is: “I guess I
should take the time (regularly) to look a little deeper. As I mentioned earlier one of my greatest current
concerns for school aged children is the rise of the smartphone. Be very aware that when you give a
device that connects to the world to a child, you are taking a risk that MUST be monitored closely. This
will not be convenient, but it will be worth it!

 

Here are a few simple suggestions we CCA Administrators have found helpful in the area of monitoring
technology use and content for children:


1 - Set time limits for screen time. Include a nightly “shut down time” at least 1 hour before bedtime.


2 - Consider setting up a technology “check-in spot” in your home. Encourage children to leave phones,
laptops, ipads in this central location when not in active use.


3 - Require children to use technology in public spaces in your home and don’t allow children to take
phones or laptops to their bedrooms.


4 - If you have given your child a smartphone to communicate with you and friends and for safety
reasons, consider removing or limiting access to what they DON’T need. Turn off their ability to access
the internet. Require students to receive approval from parents before downloading apps. If you are
unsure how an app works, or how it can be used to communicate with others, do not allow your student
to download it. Just because the device CAN do things, doesn’t mean your child NEEDS those things.


5 - Actively monitor how and with whom your children are communicating online. Text message,
i-message, Google Hangouts, Instagram Direct Message, Facebook messaging, SnapChat...if you are only
monitoring text messages be aware that you are probably missing a lot of your child’s communication
with peers.


6 - Set up parental controls on televisions and streaming apps like Netflix.


The best guiding principal I can offer is, if you don’t have the time to monitor what your child is doing on
their device or if you don’t understand how something works, do not allow your child to have access to
it. We are always more than happy to speak with you, provide guidance and support you in this tricky
parental task.


Sometimes I wonder why the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, is not guarding my heart
and my mind in Christ Jesus. Oh right! How easily I forget the first step...do not be anxious about
anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
Good thing we have a patient God! I hope my words can bring you a peace that may in fact result in less
anxiety for you and your children as you make your way through the journey of childhood together.
Cover your child in prayer, allow them to be themselves, capitalize on their gifts, and leave the rest to an
almighty God.


He is good all the time.

 


By Andrea L. Bergstrom

Head of School

Covenant Christian Academy

 


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