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Beware, Little Minds: Raising Mentally Healthy Kids

Focus on the Family / Jim Daly
The Truth Network Radio
April 28, 2023 6:00 am

Beware, Little Minds: Raising Mentally Healthy Kids

Focus on the Family / Jim Daly

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April 28, 2023 6:00 am

Katharine Hill wants to give moms and dads hope — and encourage them to be a powerful influence of emotional stability and resilience in their lives of their kids. She describes how nurturing, faith-filled families are more likely to have children who grow up to be healthy, happy and faith-filled adults.

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Hi, Jim Daly here. Today's culture deeply needs help, but in times like these, the light of Christ can shine even brighter. So be encouraged to share his light in this broken world. Listen to the Refocus with Jim Daly Podcast. Without time limitations, I'll have deep, heartfelt discussions with fascinating guests who will encourage you to share God's grace, truth, and love.

Check out the podcast at or wherever you get your podcasts. When my son was small, we really went through a season where he was very fearful of the dark, and we had to hold his hand till he fell asleep every night. When my oldest son was about two years old, he suddenly became terrified of the bathtub. It was a fight to get him in to take a bath every night, and that was a big stressor for him for a long time. My son is nine, and in the past he struggled with self-confidence.

If he made a mistake, he was really tough on himself. Well, it can be very difficult for moms and dads when our children have negative thoughts or they just get stuck in feelings of insignificance and sadness, maybe rejection. What do you do? How do you help them? This is Focus on the Family. Today we're going to examine some common challenges our children face, that our teens face, and the important role you have as a parent to navigate those challenges and equip your kids with emotional and mental resilience.

Your host is Focus President and author Jim Daly, and I'm John Fuller. John, there's something that rises up in a parent's heart when their child is discouraged or hurt in some way, both physically and emotionally. You want to protect them, and you know, it's a natural thing to do, but the Lord has plans in those valleys as well, and we need to realize how we go about that kind of parenting style to encourage our kids, but not over encourage them, right? And we're going to talk today about how to, kind of coming out of the post-pandemic world, how do we address some of the anxiety, which is sky-high right now, and we experience that in our own household, and that's really close to heart for me, and so I am looking forward to our discussion. Just to give the folks some perspective here, we're still dealing with the fallout of the pandemic. Research shows that seven out of ten parents believe the pandemic has taken a toll on their children's mental health. Seven out of ten, that's big, and 69%, almost that same percentage, believe COVID was the worst thing that happened to their child in their lives. There was an alarming rise of mental health problems in children as a result of the pandemic. I remember one stat, it was the CDC had done research from, I think it was 15 to 24 year olds, and noted that depression and anxiety had affected seven million children in that age group. It was big. Yeah, these are scary numbers, and I think we've all felt that, we've observed it, it would be easy to just get fearful about it, but God says, no, trust me, trust me with your family, with your kids.

That's a big call. Well, and for Christians, you know, it's so amazing because the scripture deals with this, with anxiety. In John 16, Jesus said, I have said these things to you that in me you may have peace. And sometimes it's hard to get from the head to the heart. And then he continued and said, in this world you will have tribulation, but take heart, I've overcome the world.

Sometimes it's easy to hear and hard to do, but today we're going to give you some tools to do it. Yeah, Catherine Hill is the UK Director for Care for the Family, a sister ministry, so to speak, to focus on the family. They're located in Wales, and Catherine is a speaker, author of a number of books about family, and is also mom to four grown children and five grandchildren. And we're gonna hear about one of her books today.

It's called A Mind of Their Own, Building Your Child's Emotional Well-Being in a Post-Pandemic World. You can find out more about Catherine and her book. Just stop by the show notes for details. And Jim, here's how you began the conversation with Catherine Hill on today's episode of Focus on the Family. Let's get into it. There's, you know, a bit of debate in our culture, especially here in the U.S. It's probably similar in England.

We tend to run together, Canada. But this idea of toughening up the kids, that we're just being too soft. There are a bunch of snowflakes. That's kind of how some of this debate will go.

What they need is a good valley experience so they can come right and kind of learn the things they need to learn. What's your perspective about that debate? Snowflake versus toughen up. Well, I actually begin the book with a story about a child psychologist who was talking to a group of parents about the kind of issues that she was seeing in the young people that she was counseling. And a woman interrupted, and she'd already been a bit vocal, I think, in the question-and-answer session. And she said, these kids, they just need to toughen up a bit. When I was their age. But she never did get to finish her sentence because at that moment the psychologist put up her hand for her to stop and she said this. She said, madam, you were never their age.

And I think that psychologist was right. We were never their age. They are growing up in a world that's light years away from the world that many of us are growing up in. And so just telling them to toughen up I don't think really cuts it.

Sometimes they do have to step up. But I don't think it's as black and white as that. You know, that's really interesting to think about because we, you know, we come from our experience and we know what it was like. You know, I'm 61 so I was born in 61. That's kind of an odd similarity.

Once-in-a-lifetime occurrence. Yeah, there we go. 61. Born in 61. But it was different then. Things were different. Culture was still pretty cohesive around certain moral values and we didn't lock our doors and we wouldn't play it at the park.

It's a very different environment than today. And I think even in that regard so many of us as parents that fear. You know, mothers thinking about letting their kids go play at the park alone. You know, ride their bicycle to the park.

Well, we can't do that. And the kids imbibe that emotion, right? Why are they fearful? I didn't grow up with that.

My mom, I mean, I was up at 5 a.m. going out in the alleys playing Batman and running around and then coming home for dinner and she didn't even send anybody to try to find me. But it's very different. It is different. Some of the dangers are just more real because of the digital age, I think. That's been a massive thing. So coming into our homes 24-7 are details of things that we wouldn't have known about many, many years ago. Speak to those moms, though, about those fears. And, you know, I'm thinking rightly of Jean and I had fears too. I don't want to say it's only women that have fears. I mean, we dads have fears as well for our children. I mean, how do we balance trusting the Lord with all these fears and say, okay, I'm not going to fear. Fear not. Yet you have these anxieties for your children.

And I think it's holding those in tension, isn't it? Not having, even if we are fearful ourselves, giving those fears over to the Lord, not passing them on to our children, not making their world smaller. I think often when we have four children and when they were growing up, I was fearful of some of the things that might happen to them. And so instead of teaching them to manage those situations, I actually made their world a bit smaller. I think actually we need to, as you say, use our common sense and part of them growing up as resilient, emotionally well adults, because that's our goal. We're not bringing up children or teenagers. Our goal is to bring up adults. And part of that is allowing them to step out and to take some risk, but appropriate risk. So one day we're not going to be there at their shoulder.

Right. And so it's about teaching them how to manage those risks well. And we're role models in the way that we manage our anxiety for our children. That's a powerful point because we sometimes don't model that well and they learn how to be fearful because they're watching us be fearful.

It's a great point. I was fascinated by the brain science related to positive and negative thinking. And I know, again, in the Christian circles, positivity has been a big buzzword in the U.S.

I'm not sure if the UK over the last couple of decades. And the Christian community, understandably, we're saying it's not about positivity, it's about a relationship with Christ. And I think I just want to get that out on the table. We get that. But there is brain chemistry with positive and negative thinking. And in the book you describe that, this negativity bias.

So what is a negativity bias? So experts say that our brains are wired to often think the worst, to dwell more on the negative than on the positive. And that's particularly the case for children. And so as parents we've just got a great opportunity to to help them to see the better things, the better way.

The Bible talks a lot about that, about focusing on the things that are true and lovely and, you know, all those, all those good things. And so as parents we can help them think, think well. And that actually changes the neural pathways in their brains. The Bible talks about the renewal of our minds and I think scientists call it the plasticity of the brain. It's the same kind of thing. But the way we teach our children to think and to look at issues and can actually change their brains and we can wire them to be more hopeful.

Yeah. To be more positive. I had never thought about it that way but you think God created us, right?

He created the brain and how it functions with all the biochemical things that occur in our brain to store memory, to have emotion, to have feeling. But that idea that so much of the scripture, I'm thinking of Romans 12, where it says be transformed by the renewal of our minds, etc. It's like the Lord set it up that way so he could remind us of the better direction, right? Absolutely. It's kind of interesting. Yeah and there's um, I mean one way it might work out, there's a story in the book about these two young girls who go shopping on a Saturday afternoon and they're spending their time in the changing room taking photos, taking selfies and then they go home in the evening and one of them, well they both actually post these pictures on social media. They're called Leah and Maria and Leah posts them on and she gets loads of likes and it makes her feel great and then someone posts a comment about the fact that she's got scrawny arms and she's really sad about that and she allows those negative thoughts just to take hold and she thinks oh yeah I do have scrawny arms, I should work out more, I'm so ugly and and that that negative way of thinking has taken away the joy of of the day. But then on the other hand the other girl Maria, she posts her photos, she gets some likes but again she gets a negative comment which is that she's got a fat tummy and again she's really sad about that but she's able to choose to think differently. She remembers how her mom had helped her when someone had made a mean comment on the bus and she remembers how she'd be able to rise above that and think differently and she thinks well hey actually I maybe I do have a bit of a fat tummy but that's not the point.

I love this top, it's a great bargain, I think I look really good in it and she's able just to change the direction of how she's thinking and that was just a little example of how it can work. You know and going right back to the top of the program where we talked about being raised in different environments, different eras, I mean you think about that the amount of social pressure through social media that girls particularly, but guys too, but girls particularly, teen girls are under to look a certain way and to be able to you know match somebody's expectations. That's powerful to be able to equip your children to say so what I like that I mean that's resilience. You have in the book something I want to flesh out here catch, challenge, change, kind of fits with this story and so many of our children need to be able to do this it's kind of what Maria did but describe it. So yes at the end of every chapter I put some really practical things that parents can do to embed this in the everyday things of family life and this is one of them and it yeah catch, challenge, change so we help our children catch and recognize those negative thoughts. Kind of taking captive exactly taking captive every thought exactly and then we challenge it we tell them the truth not what the negative thinking is but what the truth is and and then we help them to change it and there's a little way that they can do it's called blue to true thinking and so we say they have these negative blue thoughts so we get them to write them down they might have a little notebook they might put them on their phone and then we remind them of the truth and they put that down and then when those negative thoughts come back and they've got that to go back to you to remind them of what is truth because that's what we want them to build their lives on. That is so good and I think if a parent can just accomplish that John I mean that that's a great achievement really I'm gonna do that with my boys and that's probably the other thing as we talk I mean my boys are in their 20s now but it's never too late you're still their mom and dad right and still you can and you can kind of provide these perspectives to strengthen them along the way it's nice to start when they're four and five but if you haven't start today. Yeah when life storms come are you ready and have you prepared your child to be ready? This is Focus on the Family with Jim Daly I'm John Fuller and our guest today is Catherine Hill and what great content in this book of hers a mind of their own building your child's emotional well-being in a post-pandemic world look for that book at slash broadcast or give us a call 800 the letter A in the word family. Catherine let me ask you before we move away from that negativity positivity contrast because we're wired to lean more negative how do we readdress that in our home so we don't have a negative home I mean how do we create a home of encouragement? Yeah such an important thing the family is God's place for nurture it's where we learn how to relate and it's where we learn how to think where we learn how to do life isn't it all the important things and I always like to say that as parents we're the keepers of the atmosphere in the home so there's a difference between a thermostat and a thermometer so the thermometer just measures the temperature but the thermostat is the thing that sets it and that's what we can do and by how we are and our emotional health we can actually set that atmosphere in the home and that means even if we struggle because many of us particularly over the the last years with COVID have struggled with our own well-being and so that's not to say we have to pretend it's all fine because actually it's important to address negative thoughts and and issues when we're not feeling great just as much it's not about pretending everything's fine when it's not we need both but actually setting the lead in the home as to how how we manage emotions talking about emotions having fun together laughing together having traditions doing all those things that build family identity yeah that can be at the heart they're so good let me let me ask you temperament it has to play into this because I know some people that just their temperament seems to be kind of I'll say it engineering minded now please don't don't be offended if you're an engineer but you're just you're very practical you're very logical it's linear for you and I think those people temperament wise will struggle a little to not just state what's obvious and to lean towards something positive right do you find that in the research where temperament plays a role temperament plays a big role and some people just wake up in the morning and think great a new day what amazing opportunities are they going to be ahead of me and others wake up just feeling really sad and anxious and and both those things are okay and I think it's about being real about how we are accepting ourselves and accepting our children not trying to make them be somebody that they're not accepting their personality their age their stage their maturity and and working with that I'm just thinking the grumpy old man I don't want to ever be that I want to be the happy guy that the grandkids want to be around not the curmudgeon let me ask you about this because this is pretty common you have a couple of children maybe four maybe six John and Dina but you know some of them will be high achievers and you know they come out of the womb already knowing the alphabet somehow and then others are a little slower they smell the roses they walk in the garden and you're going it's time to get a job how do you go about parenting those different children's temperaments and how do you recognize to let your own anxieties down you know if if one of your children is underperforming how that reflects on you yeah the Christian parent how could that child not be in college how could that child not be a doctor how can that you get the drumbeat of that yeah how do we fight that in our own heart as the parent and then how do we help the child that's maybe that late bloomer do what they need to do in that moment whatever that might be yeah that's exactly right we and I've written about both those parenting high achievers and parenting what I called his underperformers but that's probably a bit a bit harsh but it's accurate I mean they're not hitting a point that we think they should exactly yeah so the high achievers very often I think we can take our eye off the off the mark with them we we think they're doing fine particularly girls but actually if we're not careful they become very preoccupied with perfectionism they they're always trying to succeed trying to trying to get it get better and better and they can get very anxious they miss the grade a by one mark and they think you know that is the end of the world so sometimes with that kind of child we need to just take a bit of a step back and just give them some space sometimes find some if we're talking about the academic area find things they can do that are not just the study one idea in the book is color-coding the diary and making sure that so the red stuff is the stuff that's really stressful and that is those are the mountains yeah exactly that's good I like that and then making sure that we don't have a whole day of that but we have some rest and some fun making sure they eat well I mean it's easier said than done it's very easy to be here and chat about that but but it is so important because well-being is that is the cornerstone of success yeah you mentioned the book and this is a good one too and I had this experience with Trent and Troy pick the right time to look at their report cards I mean now it comes in a digital form but you're looking at their semester performance and taking a look at that you do have to be wise about when you do that and you say don't do it at halftime what did you mean by that don't read their school report as a prophecy of the future lives oh I mean yeah as well as do it at the right time yeah so one of our boys the third one and he he really struggled at school he just he just sort of bobbed along didn't really get it and then something happened later on he's now a teacher I thought he's not an axe murderer I don't sure he read a book at school and now he's an English teacher so they mature at different rates so recognizing that and further under performance as well I think it's it's we obviously want them to do some schoolwork so we're not saying don't do the schoolwork but also recognizing the other gifts that they have they may be incredibly creative they may be really good with people all kinds of different things and so I think encouraging character and encouraging effort so I had a lovely thing happen just the other week our little grandson Ezra is just three and he went to nursery school and he came back on the first week with a report with a little bright pink star attached to it and my daughter was very excited to see what incredible thing he'd done had he done a jigsaw puzzle or a painting what was it and she read it and it said Ezra is kind he shared his tissues with the other children and we laughed in these COVID times that sharing snotty tissues was something in his report but you know I think that teacher was wise because she had spotted that he was kind and called it out and I think I hope my daughter will continue to do that and he'll grow up to be known as a man who is who is kind well that's a great point for all of us as parents yes to find those moments make sure you recognize yeah verbalize it to your child exactly and the effort as well in with ours we used to the do their exams and then we'd have a celebration a pizza or something after exams but before results they just to make the point that it was the effort that we wanted to celebrate so people kids around the world love pizza is that true I know mine do I didn't know everybody Catherine I'm thinking of a young family that we know they have four kids about ten and under so here's a mom and she undoubtedly has this mix of some overachieving underachieving how can she set the tone for the the emotional tone for the home and and still hear and speak to both of those extremes it's so hard trying to do that in a family we have four children and again they're very different and so you're they don't think you're being unfair just because you're nagging one more than the other incidentally nagging apparently doesn't do well it's so easy to just get on their backs but I think if we can recognize them as individuals and make our goal to call out their god-given gifts taking it higher than just what it is that they're doing if we set that in our sights then I think the other things then fall into place of course there'll be ups and downs and family life is never smooth but I think keeping that in our sights that how has God created this child what are the things that he wants us to encourage and to draw out of them then I think that will be the beginnings anyway yeah Catherine we've barely scratched the surface of the material I hope I know it's such a big journey and we're gonna do some other things but I I hope that we can come back to this book next time you're here I'm over there because there's so much more and I hope I hope the listeners get this I want to re punch if I could use that term that idea of resilience and children because so much of the science shows that that really is one of the key parenting goals is to make sure your kids have resilience that's one of the lifelong gifts you can give your children how can we as parents kind of double our efforts there what are some of the things we can do that are in the book that you suggest to build resilience into our children well resilience is so important I think it's at the heart of emotional well-being and scientists used to think that it was well first you think it's something you were born with but it's not it's something you can learn and it used to be described as bouncing back after something had gone wrong after a substance is out of shape bouncing back to the original shape but now people are talking about bouncing forwards so actually learning from the experience and it's about learning in the hard knocks of life which is hard so as parents I think I know on your other podcast we and broadcast we've heard of helicopter parents and parents that zoom in with the rotor blades whirring just to make sure that our children don't experience anything difficult in life and as parents were hardwired to want life to be easy for them but actually if we can stand back when they're facing a challenge and allow them just to find it a little bit difficult and find their own solutions that's the seedbed for the beginnings of resilience there's a story about a psychiatrist that I interviewed and he said his little boy came back from school and said dad dad we learned about resilience today and he was really pleased I was great what did you learn and he said that resilience means bouncing back he said oh that's great what's bouncing back and he said oh I don't know we haven't learned that just bounce back yeah exactly and he said the thing is of course it's important that schools teach resilience but we learn it in the hard knocks of life right and there's a wonderful thing that psychiatrists and psychologists talk about called the hope circuit and it's in the book of Romans and it's when position is suffering produces perseverance perseverance produces character character produces hope and if when our children are facing a difficulty we can allow them just to stand back there that to default one would be to internalize and externalize they say they've got a difficult maths problem and they don't know how to how to do it first of all they'll probably internalize it they'll say oh I'm so rubbish at maths I'm terrible I'm never going to be any good that's not a good way the other way is externalize it which is you're so rubbish you haven't tested me properly they didn't teach me properly sort of externalize it blame others but what we need and this is really hard as parents we need to allow them to go through those things and then just to stand back and to be sad I would I'd hate my children being salad always coming much too quickly to make life okay let them be sad and then let them begin to accept the situation and work out some things for themselves and it's a loop it goes round and round and round like an oil painting you should build on it bit by bit and that's how we build resilience that's so good and boy parents need these tools and Catherine it's been wonderful to talk to you again I just wish we could continue but thank you so much for your research and effort to put into this excellent research a mind of their own building your child's emotional well-being in a post-pandemic world I mean we need this right now and this book is so full of wonderful insights and encouragement for parents and as we always say we want to get this resource into your hands be part of the ministry for a gift of any amount or hopefully it may be a monthly gift we'll send you a copy of Catherine's book as our way of saying thank you and putting a great resource into your hands in your parenting journey yeah please join our support team here at focus on the family with a monthly gift or a one-time contribution of any amount our number is 800 the letter a and the word family or check the program notes for details and at our website we have a free parenting assessment for you it's gonna help you better understand what's working well in your family I think you'll find some encouragement there it might give you an improvement point or two and the assessment takes maybe five or ten minutes I urge you to check that out and grow in your journey as a mom or a dad Catherine it's been so good to see you thanks for being here and we'll look forward to next time thanks so much and thank you for listening today to focus on the family hope you have a great weekend with your family and your church family as well and plan to be with us on Monday as we hear about some common mistakes moms and dads make with their kids threats are things that are vague they tend not to have a lot of meat behind them you have to do this or else well what does or else mean on behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team we'll see you next time as we once again help you and your family thrive in Christ on the way to adventures in Odyssey album 74 buckle up there are sure to be bumps along the way Wooten faces a legal battle I'm taking you to court for what for destroying my chance at future earnings by tainting my character Olivia struggles to explain her faith how does your story relate to the doctrine of sanctification what wit must go into parenting mode are you jealous or something because hey that's enough buck and jewels hit a rough patch why are you so mad because it's none of your business and Renee's friendship with wit faces its biggest test oh I can't believe mr. Whitaker is being so stubborn and unreasonable cock this is a scientific breakthrough of monumental proportions and he is crushing it so yes it's time to buckle up in album 74 available now on the adventures and Odyssey Club CD and download find out more at
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-04-28 12:26:56 / 2023-04-28 12:38:46 / 12

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