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How to Recognize Depression in Children

Children and teens can become depressed. Divorce, learning problems, family stress, and physical or sexual abuse, and other issues, can cause depression in youth. Clinical depression differs from the third stage of grief as put forth by Elisabeth Kubler Ross in her book On Death and Dying. A depressed person of any age needs professional help. Ignoring depression can be deadly. Is that clear? Deadly.

Depression Is  Like Watching the World Go By without You

Depression Is Like Watching the World Go By without You

If you have or know of a child or teen who is experiencing a number of the symptoms listed below, contact a doctor or counselor or both.

1. Sadness that lasts for several weeks.

2. Complaints of physical illness or aches and pains that seems to have no physical causes.

3. Decreased interest in previously enjoyed activities.

4. Unable to sleep or sleeping all the time.

5. Decreased activity level or increased activity level, seemingly to avoid thinking.

6. Change in eating patterns leading to weight loss or gain.

7. Boredom, listlessness, or sudden onset of poor concentration.

8. Drop in grades or increase in school absences.

9. Wide mood swings.

10. Low self-esteem.

11. Frequent discussions of suicide.

12. Use of alcohol or drugs.

13. Aggression, temper tantrums, or anti-social behavior.

14. Excessive crying.

15. Withdrawal.

16. Strong feelings of guilt.

Childhood and teen depression is a serious problem. Please help others by sharing any experiences you have had with depression, whether your own or that of someone you know. Please don’t break any confidentiality with someone you know.

List taken from Growing Seasons: Helping Children Heal from Divorce and Other Losses, published by Living Free Ministries. http://store.livingfree.org/Growing-Seasons-Coordinators-Guide_p_162.html

Teaching Children about God

What spiritual messages do you want your child to hear?

Infants                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              You need to answer that question almost as soon as the precious bundle of joy comes into the world. Why? Consider this. From birth to age two children learn more about the world than at any other age. They learn whether the world is safe or scary and hurtful. Right after birth they may think, What is that bright light and why am I hanging upside down?  They need tender touch and soft words to feel secure. Infants who don’t feel loved will have a difficult time learning to trust.

Age Two                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Around the age of two their world view takes a quantum leap. They seem to change overnight. They may think, My mommy will give me an apple when I ask for one. Two-year-old children believe everything they hear and see. They have no way to know if the messages they receive are true.  They begin to understand they have choices. The word “No” sometimes gets them in trouble and sometimes helps them feel as if they have some power. They think concretely, so be sure you explain spiritual words, such as God and heaven. My two and a half-year-old son came into the room one Sunday morning as I was getting his sister ready for church. He said, “That man on TV said God is a Holy Ghost. God isn’t a ghost, is He?”

Preschool                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        As children approach the preschool years, they think for themselves more and more. They open their hearts to new ideas about spiritual issues as their spongy minds seek to understand the world they live in. They learn from many sources: their families, their friends, their teachers, and even television. Truth and lies vie for their attention. They still think concretely, yet they start to learn and love the traditions of the religion practiced by their parents. Preschoolers may not remember exact things that happened to them, but parents can help till the fallow ground of their spiritual beliefs, thoughts, and emotions. At age four, my son said, “I am going to dig a big hole and push the devil into it.”

Elementary Children                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Children as young as six can make religious decisions that will impact their entire lives, including where they will spend eternity. Spiritual beliefs and decisions made in the early elementary years tend to stand firm. Josh McDowell said on Point of View radio, “If you don’t reach a child for Jesus before the age of twelve, you have only a four percent chance of reaching him (her.)” My children both accepted Jesus as their Savior at age six.

What spiritual messages do you want your child to hear? What are you doing to make sure your children are hearing the truth?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             

Divorce, Kids, and My Ring Finger

074Kids and Divorce                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Does divorce hurt kids? People sometimes say, “Don’t worry. Kids are resilient.” It is true that some do seem to breeze through the break-up of a family, but others struggle for a lifetime. I recently learned a lesson from my ring finger. First, I need to tell you I have been married after 42 years. If you are divorced, I have not walked in your shoes, but I am not judging you either. I know things happen. Lots of things happen that cause a happily ever after marriage to end in divorce. The purpose of this blog is not to judge those who find themselves divorced. It is to ask you to take a close look at the thoughts and feelings of your children and teens.

For 22 years, I have counseled children and coordinated support groups for children who have experienced a divorce or the death of a parent. Some of these children are adults now and they are doing well in their lives. Others still struggle. The same is true for children from intact marriages. Yet, everything that happens in the lives of children has an impact.

Learning from Loss                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Recently something happened to me that illustrates an important point about the effects of loss on a child –  adults, too. About four years ago, I lost the diamond in my engagement ring. I think it happened at Wal-mart, but I didn’t notice it until later in the day. Finding a diamond hours later on Saturday at Wal-mart, well, let’s just say, “No way!” I grieved over the loss and what it symbolized.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago. I noticed a prong on my new ring was loose, so as soon as possible, I took it to the jewelry store for repair. I felt undressed without it. Then I looked at my empty ring finger and felt shocked to see the indentation left by the ring. I looked again a few days later and it was still there, so I called the jewelry store and told them I wanted the ring resized to fit my “older” finger.      

Help Children Heal                                                                                                                                                                                                                   That reminded me about loss. Whether it is from divorce, loss, or even moving to a new place, it does leave a mark on children. The more they talk about it, the easier it will be. But they may not want to talk to you, because they don’t want to hurt your feelings. They need an outlet and they need to know that God is always there for them. Growing Seasons groups can help. If your church, school, or organization does not have a program to help grieving children, tell them about Growing Seasons: Helping Children Heal from Divorce and Other Losses. You can follow the link and read the curricula online:

http://store.livingfree.org/Growing-Seasons-Coordinators-Guide_p_162.html

If you would like more information, email GrowingSeasons@aol.com.

Finding Hope in the Heat

On July 30, blessings came to the City of Memphis, TennesseeConvoy of  Hope rolled their trucks into town and residents of this city known for crime, poverty, and racial strife joined together to feed and pray for the hurting. While the thermostat read 102 degrees, fourteen hundred volunteers representing eighty different churches swooped down on the practically abandoned fairgrounds to hand out food and hope to more than five thousand people. No one saw color or class. No one judged others by their clothes. Everyone just shared the love.

                                                                       

Volunteers arrived early in the morning to set up tents for the different activities. Children enjoyed games, puppet shows, and jumping toys; such as such as blow-up slides and moon walks. Families received bags of groceries while volunteers gave free haircuts and created family portraits. Prayer warriors sent prayer requests to heaven. A job fair and health fair gave hope of a better day to participants.

The workers in the community services tent told families about places in town where they can receive help in their areas of need. I worked in that tent but with  a different slant. We showed church members ways their churches can help children and adults through small issue-focused Bible study groups and we invited familes to participate in these groups at our church.

Let me tell you about Living Free’s children’s ministry and how it can help families. Many of those attending were single-parents or grandmothers raising children. They wanted to learn about Growing Seasons, small group Bible studies that help single-parent children; whether due to divorce, death, imprisonment, or abandonment by a parent. They also teach parents how to listen and respond to their children’s feelings.

Others wanted to know how to prepare their preteen children for the peer pressure of adolescence. We told them about Empowering Kids for Life, a program that helps kids turn to God instead of addictions. I encourage you to go to LivingFree.org yourself and see how their small group Bible study ministry is helping adults and children. Maybe your church would like to include some Living Free groups along with your other programs.

I want to thank Convoy of Hope for visiting Memphis. I hope the love and understanding shared in this city yesterday will last and grow. I also hope God will answer the sincere prayers lifted up for families. Thanks you Convoy of Hope.

What’s a Single Parent to Do?

Here you are in one of the most, if not the most, trying times of your life. You may have to move, get a job, find reliable childcare, change churches, find out who your real friends are and more. If that were not enough, you have  children who are as devastated as you, but they don’t understand why this happened. You are exhausted:  physically, emotionally, financially, and spiritually and you can’t concentrate. On top of that, you are lonely. You love your children unconditionally, but they are also reacting to the changes in their lives. They withdraw or act out with anger. Their grades fall and their tempers rise. Yours is, too, because there isn’t much left of you to give them by the end of the day.

Your children’s pain hurts you the most. There are some little things you can do that will help a lot.The most important thing you can do for your children is listen to their feelings. Children don’t always have the words for their emotions, so they may need you to help put them into words. Even if you have tried to talk to them about their feelings and they yelled at you or retreated to their emotional safety zone, you can still help them talk about their emotions if you know how.

First, you must understand that feelings come in layers. Usually with uncomfortable emotions, anger is on top. Anger has a way of spewing all over everyone, which can lead a parent to respond the same way. Instead, stop and remember your child is grieving. Anger is an essential part of the grief process – part of breaking the bond with the one who is gone. You probably feel it, too. Have you noticed, when someone validates your anger, it seems to take the air out of it? That also works for children.

Even if you don’t agree with the things your children are saying, you can validate their beliefs it and hurts. One way to do that is to respond with, “It sounds like you feel __________. You can even add because_________. For example, “It sound like you feel angry, because Daddy didn’t pick you up at school today like he promised.” Or, “It sounds like you feel scared at Mommy’s house, because I am not there at night.” Don’t worry if you use the wrong feeling word, because then the child will have to think about it and correct you. This should disarm the child and open the door for you to go deeper. Listen again to your child’s next comment. It will probably have a strong feeling attached. Validate again, even using the same template if you wish. See if that doesn’t take your child to the next feeling level. It may take some practice, but if you love your children, and I know you do, it will be worth it. By continuing this process, you can often discover and correct the misconceptions your child is feeling after the loss, such as, “It’s my fault.” Try this today and see if it doesn’t help, but remember, your children may need you to do it a few times before they trust that you are really going to listen.

Visit again soon for more ideas on how to help children through tough times.

Regrets: Re-think, Release, Relax

 I was part of the sandwich generation, hash to be exact. I took care of my sick mother for sixteen years while my children grew from toddlers to college students. We stopped counting how many times I left my family to take her to the emergency room. She lived with us most of that time, but finally moved to a senior housing facility,which she enjoyed.The Saturday night before she died was just like any other, except it was raining rhinos and elephants.  I knew she didn’t feel well. In fact, I had taken her to the doctor the day before. That still small voice kept telling me to go see her. Instead, I cleaned out a chest of drawers in my guest room. After church the next day, I called to check on her. She was worse. I promised I would take her to the emergency room, but I waited until after dinner. The doctor admitted her. At least fifty times before, I stayed with her until she went to her room, but not this time.  I went home and went to sleep. At five o’clock the next morning the ringing phone jarred me out of bed. The calm female voice said, “Your mother is not breathing. She is in Code Blue. Do you want us to try to resuscitate her?”

Even though she had an advanced directive I said, “Yes, please,” and jumped into my clothes. She died before I arrived. I’ll never forget the way they left her body in that hospital room. With her head thrown back from the attempts to revive her, she looked like an old rag doll tossed aside by a pre-teen girl in search of a boyfriend. I regretted that I couldn’t tell her good-bye.

Five days later we went to Florida on a college visit with my daughter. I  ignored my grief during the day, but at night my mind kept rehearsing the two days before my mother died – the “what if’s”  kept me awake.  I thought, “What if I listened to the still, small voice that told me to go see her on Saturday. If I had gone, she might have lived.” NO!” I was believing a lie. I had to rethink my regrets. I finally concluded that it was my mother’s time to die. God called her home the moment she took her last breath. When her spirit left her body the pain left, too, and God replaced it with joy.

Hebrews 12:1-2 (NIV) speaks about that:                                                          “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

I had no power over death or the shame and regret I  felt for ignoring the still, small voice. God took my mother to heaven at the time He appointed for her to die and Jesus took my shame on the cross. When I rethought my regrets, I released the shame, and relaxed. I miss my mother, but I know Jesus has her safely in His arms. I also learned to listen and respond to that still, small voice. Regrets can be a weight that ensnares us. Give them to Jesus and set yourself free to run the race of faith.

Churches Can Help Grieving Children

 Growing Seasons: Helping Children Heal from Divorce and Other Losses

                                                                 

When children lose a parent, due to divorce, death of a parent or other reason, they feel lonely, afraid, sad, and angry. Churches can help. Growing Seasons groups are for children ages four through twelve. They include a Bible story, fun activities, new friends, and a chance to talk about their feelings. The Parent Guide gives parents and guardians ideas on how to help their hurting children. The curriculum includes ten sessions for three ages groups. Ages four to five, grades one through three and grades four through six. Each session runs for ten weeks.

Follow this link  that will allow you to flip through the pages of the Growing Seasons Curriculum.

http://store.livingfree.org/Growing-Seasons-Coordinators-Guide_p_162.html