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“Mom, I really am OK!” I heard my daughter respond once again to my questioning of how she was doing.
It had been a rough spring. In Florida during what should have been a fun-filled Spring Break, we discovered she had broken her right foot. Her left had been broken last fall. New X-Rays revealed a genetic abnormality. An extra bone that made her more susceptible to these kinds of breaks.
In her second cast in less than a year, she returned to school in crutches and seven sets of class changes. She seemed to be handling this life hurdle when yet another came her way. She experienced not being chosen for a part in a play she was hopeful to receive.
“Lord,” I prayed. “We could really use some good news.”
She had begun to lose a little of the sparkle I so love observing. As a mental health professional, I think we are almost hyper-aware of our kids’ emotional states. Over the next weeks, I began to notice she reported being tired often and then spending more time on her electronics and in her room. I also sensed my social butterfly was beginning to go through the motions of school, activities, and church but was not initiating any additional interactions with friends and family.
At the same time, I met with a spiritual mentor, and we discussed we both perceived our daughters being under some spiritual oppression so we prayed for them asking God to intercede.
Another visit to the foot doctor, cast removal, and MRI revealed the foot wasn’t healing. We are blessed with an excellent orthopedic who keeps up with the latest research. His solution made total sense to me. A check of Vitamin D levels revealed her to be deficient explaining not only her lack of healing but also her discouraged emotional state.
I’ve been informed by numerous doctors that the research shows 70-80% of Americans show lower than needed levels of Vitamin D. This hormone not only effects bone healing but when levels are low, can contribute to depression. A prescription continued prayers from our village, and encouraging words produced a change over time not only in her freedom from the cast but also a happier outlook on life.
Below are six ways to you can help your girls through difficult times:
1. Arm them with Scripture ahead of time.
Teach them that God is the lifter of their head (Psalm 3:3) and when their soul is downcast, they can put their hope in God (Psalm 43:5)
2. Pray for and with them.
Our kids need to understand that some battles are not just earthly no matter what they observe. Yes, our thoughts, choices, physical health and circumstances all affect our emotions, but there is also an enemy who is a liar prowling the earth looking to cause destruction. Satan at times will attack our kids. Praise be to God that His eyes search throughout the earth to support those whose hearts are His (2 Chronicles 16:9).
3. Be intentional about being curious about them so you will notice changes.
Realize that everyone has a bad day or a tough season but if the frequency and intensity of sadness seem to be increasing, it’s time to take note. We can also see if others see changes and approach our kids casually offering support and expressing our willingness to listen.
4. Be an encourager of their souls.
Most kids struggle with negative thinking when they are discouraged. They feel less confident in themselves and the goodness that the world might offer them. Write notes, catch them doing good, celebrate their personhood and verbally affirm their strengths during hard times. Also, my clients have taught me during difficult times, a silent presence can be more comforting than an enthusiastic cheerleader. A smile followed but a comforting touch while driving in the car can communicate approval without speaking a word.
5. Meet them in their space and their time.
This step is often challenging for this busy mom and counselor. I don’t sit still well. But during this season of my daughter’s life, I traveled upstairs and came to her rather than expecting her to come to me. I will confess I was tempted to clean or complain about the clothes on the floor but I knew that was not my mission. My mission was to read beside her, listen to music with her, rub her back when she went to sleep and just be present and available. My nonverbal message communicating, I am here and I am for you. You are valuable and worth my time and attention.
6. Consult and listen to the counsel of wise people.
I am so grateful to God for placing friends and family that listened to my concerns and prayed for her. As I reflect today, I am thankful for that discerning mentor and wise doctor whose solutions made a lasting difference.
Fortunately for us, her symptoms did not worsen. A depressive episode for this age might also include increased tearfulness, irritability, hopelessness, and a negative view of self that continues beyond a short season. If these had worsened or continued, we are committed to getting help. A great resource on this subject is More Than Moody: Recognizing and Treating Adolescent Depression by M.D. Harold S. Koplewicz.
As of now, she is still in a boot but with a cheerful spirit. We continue to take Vitamin D daily and I pray for continued healing of not only her foot but also her hope of a bright future. May all our kids learn that God and their parents are for them even when the world seems against them.
∞ ABOUT THE AUTHOR ∞
Michelle Nietert, M.A., LPC-S is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Clinical Director of Community Counseling Associates with 3 locations in the Dallas, TX area. She has been equipping audiences in the community, church, school and private practice office setting for over twenty years. Michelle has published parenting articles in both Lifeway’s ParentLife magazine and on the MOPS Hello Dearest Blog. She is currently working with a Christian publishing agent on a book possibly titled Uncomfortable Conversations that will equip parents to introduce topics such as anxiety and depression, abuse, sexuality, and other mental health issues to their children before the culture does.
A happily married mom of two children age 8 and 10 with a husband who travels for work, Michelle loves inspiring readers and audiences alike to discover Solutions for Life with Practical Teaching and Biblical Wisdom. Michelle’s favorite fun times include lazy days by the pool, trips to the beach, girls nights out with close friends and date nights with her husband. Her professional counselor bio is available here.
Michelle Nietert, M.A. Licensed Professional Counselor Supervisor and Certified School Counselor