The One Thing Your Child Needs Before Leaving Home
I saw a headline on my local news app that touted a sad statistic. It said that 60% of college kids struggle with anxiety and 40% suffer from depression, but only 10-15% seek help (according to National Alliance on Mental Illness). This came after news of two students at two local colleges took their own lives. My own anecdotal evidence proves this as well. When my son went away to college for the first time this fall as a sophomore, one of the first things he told me was, “Mom, everyone here has anxiety!”
We’ve all heard about the latest comfort measures on college campuses, such as petting dogs, jumping in bounce houses, hugging a teddy bear...aren’t these more common for toddlers and preschoolers? In an effort to stem the tide of anxiety, administrators are organizing these activities for those they consider “adults” in every other way.
I don’t mean to sound flippant about mental illness. It is no joke. In fact, I struggle with anxiety myself. It became pronounced later in life when hormones played a huge part. Why are otherwise healthy, young people with their whole lives ahead of them struggling so badly? The number of students with anxiety or depression has been rising every year. When my son and I went to his college orientation, we heard the health administrator talk a lot about dealing with mental illness, and to “just come and get medication.”
While medication has its place, I don’t condone the mass medication of a generation. It starts when they are young and are required to sit still at a desk for hours. Medicating for the personality traits we don't prefer is not a long-term solution. Our children come to believe they are “broken.” But the only thing that can remedy it is a foundation in Christ.
God created each and every one of us.
“You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it. You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered!”
Psalms 139:13-17 NLT
He created families. That is the place where children are supposed to learn about Him and how much He loves them. He is our solid rock foundation. That’s where our identity is found. Not in a government-run system that tells kids they came from monkeys or some millions-of-years-old slop. When children are taught that there is a God who loves them and has a plan for their lives, they have hope.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”
Jeremiah 29:11 NLT
When children get a little older, but not much, they are told that they can marry a man or a woman. And to further confound their immature understanding, they are told they should decide if they are even a boy, girl, or one of the other 58+ (as defined by Facebook) gender identities. Children don’t even know what they want for lunch, let alone what gender they should be. They are thrust into an adult world at younger and younger ages. That’s why parents and families exist. Children need truth, security, and stability, even if they act like they don’t sometimes.
Another factor affecting our mental health is technology. We have the entire world at our fingertips, carried around in our pockets. While we are literally more connected than ever, we’re anything but. Our society is suffering from a loneliness epidemic.
In a 2017 survey of nearly 48,000 college students, 64% said they had felt “very lonely” in the previous 12 months, while only 19% reported they never felt lonely, according to the American College Health Association. Students also reported feeling “overwhelming anxiety” (62%) or “very sad” (69%), and that “things were hopeless” (53%). Nearly 12% seriously considered suicide. (www.artandhealing.org)
We cannot live in a virtual world. We were made for human connection - first in our family, with God, and then with others. We cannot interact with images or videos on a screen, no matter how many “likes” or comments we get or give.
So remember our first and best foundation. The One who was and is and always will be. Introduce Him to your children and encourage them in their faith. Introduce Him to your children’s friends, neighborhood kids, those you teach in Sunday school. Show them His love and how they can love others. Don’t let your children leave home without Him.