How can we reduce anxiety in our children, and can the Church help?
It appears that anxiety in children is on the rise. Whereas as recently as a generation ago, childhood was considered a carefree age, today, many children are frightened, stressed or anxious.
Anxiety can look very different from one child to the next. Some children get physical symptoms such as a racing heart, palpitations or shaking. Others just have a sense of dread that something bad will happen. In severe cases, children are not able to go to school or get out of the house.
Reasons for children getting anxious are varied and complex but it appears that the modern-day lifestyle has a lot to answer. In the “old days”, children learnt to develop emotionally and socially through free play, and this has all but disappeared. Instead, the internet has brought the evils of the grown-up world into the eyes and minds of our children. Social media and messaging platforms make children compete with each other, from comparing their appearance to managing the hostilities of cyberbullying.
Treatments for childhood anxiety focus on building the child-parent relationship and improving resilience in the child. Therapeutic strategies range from examining thought processes, developing assertive communication styles and practising mindfulness exercises. Medication may be used in older children with more severe symptoms.
For the believing Christian family, the
Church can provide significant guidance and strength to help children with anxiety. Jesus instructs us not to have anxiety, but to simply trust God, who as the Creator maintains the universe through His loving kindness. Just as He feeds the birds of the air and clothes the lilies of the field, He promises to look after us. He simply urges us to “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness” (Matt 6:33) and He will take care of the rest.
The trouble is that in the modern world, Christian parents often struggle to inspire children to trust in God. As parents we are all conditioned, by the spirit of the world, to be people-pleasing rather than God-pleasing. We become vainglorious and materialistic. We become attached to worldly things that are temporary or of little substance, and this breeds insecurity. Children then learn from this, and become insecure themselves.
† Fr G. L.
Source: Lychnos August / September 2017