Tag Archive | behavior management

Sadness, Depression, and Other Emotions


Some good news came from the medical community recently. New recommendations have been made regarding screening adults for depression. Why is this good news for moms raising kids with mental illness (MI)? Because the news is elevating awareness about the prevalence of depression. Those whose lives are impacted by a loved one with depression need not feel so alone. Several reporters highlighted the need to remove the stigma surrounding MI.

The time has come to raise awareness:

USA TODAY published an article January 26th about the new guidelines for depression screening in adults. Liz Szabo shared those guidelines in her article, “Task Force: Doctors should screen all adults for depression.”

In that article, Szabo included this quote from one of the task force members.

“‘We’re hoping that our screening guidelines are an impetus to increase awareness that depression is common, it’s painful, it’s costly and it’s treatable,’ said Karina Davidson, a member of the task force and a psychologist in the department of psychiatry at New York Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center.”

The new guidelines also addressed depression in pregnant mothers. That has prompted discussions about the difference between baby blues and clinical depression that can follow the birth of a child. So, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about emotions.

Regulating Emotions:

When I taught second graders, I planned several class reinforcement activities. Often the entire class deserved to be rewarded. Instead of handing out stickers, I preferred to involve my students in fun mini-lessons. One of those was an art/music activity.

“Use your crayons to draw on your paper a design that matches the music being played,” I’d instruct.

I’d start by playing a slow, classical song. The students would move their hands slowly across their papers. Even their bodies would sway gently to the music.

Then, I’d switch to a fast, lively tune. That would trigger an instant shift in mood. Suddenly, I’d have 25 bouncing beans for students—all with heads like bobble heads. They’d make short, jerking strokes on their papers.

Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to shift our child’s mood so easily?

A Biblical Example of Emotional Relief:

There’s one person in the Bible who could ease a king’s torment.

1 Samuel 16:14-16 sets the stage:

“Now the Spirit of the Lord had departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord tormented him. Saul’s attendants said to him, ‘See, an evil spirit from God is tormenting you. Let our lord command his servants here to search for someone who can play the lyre. He will play when the evil spirit from God comes on you, and you will feel better.’

God used David to sooth Saul’s torment.

“Whenever the spirit from God came on Saul, David would take up his lyre and play. Then relief would come to Saul; he would feel better, and the evil spirit would leave him” (1 Samuel 16:23).

The Power of Music:

Can music be that powerful? It absolutely can be used to minister to a depressed child. I’m not advocating that it be the only strategy used to help a child who is depressed. A multi-disciplinary approach to treatment is necessary, where a team of specialists treat the mind and body. Skilled therapists or counselors can provide encouragement and teach coping strategies. In addition, a psychiatrist can prescribe medication to treat the neurophysiological cause for the depression.

We know it’s also important to address the spiritual well-being of our children. God is in the business of meeting those needs. He answers our prayers and faithfully fulfills His promises. In addition, the Bible gives us another tool to comfort our emotionally fragile children.

His Word is full of references to music. Click here for a list of some of those verses: Music Verses

You look at your child’s despondent face, void of expression, and wonder if playing worship songs will help restore joy. You hope it can provide relief like David’s music did for Saul. I believe it can calm turbulent emotions.

Let me share another anecdote that illustrates the power of music. Years ago, I was the Bible instructor and Assistant Director for an overnight Christian camp for handicapped children. Each summer children with a variety of special needs attended our camp for one week. Campers were assigned to groups according to their age and disabilities. One group consisted of young elementary age boys who had Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). To say they were a handful to manage would be an understatement! Their schedule included a mid-day nap or resting period. Not only did those active kids need it, but so did their counselors.

Their senior counselor came to me one day seeking help. His bleary eyes reminded me of how mine looked when I’d pull an all-nighter studying at college.

“The boys won’t sleep or even rest during nap period. PLEASE, you gotta help,” he begged.

“I’ll stop by their cottage during nap period,” I promised.

Later that day, I headed toward their cottage. Before I could see the cottage, I could hear music playing loudly. The closer I got to the cottage, the more I realized the sound was coming from their room. The blasting music had a fast drumbeat. It was the kind of music you’d play at a wedding to get the guests up on their feet to dance. Surely not the kind of music you’d play to help hyperactive children drift off to sleep!

I entered the cottage and unplugged the boom box. I left with the boom box under my arm, calmly assuring the counselor, “You shouldn’t have any more problems.” And he didn’t.

That story shows how music can drastically improve the behavior of children with special needs. If it can be such a powerful behavior-management tool, surely it can calm emotions. Especially worship songs that tell of God’s love and faithfulness. Like Matt Reddman’s song ‘Your Grace Finds Me.’  Allow his lyrics minister to you:




Needless Shame

pout2  pout

A pouting child is a picture of….How would you finish that sentence?

Rejection. Isolation. Exclusion.

“What did I do?” “No fair.” Children understand when they are unfairly judged or excluded for no apparent reason. But that doesn’t make them feel any better. Those emotional scars can last a lifetime.

Throughout history entire groups have been unfairly ostracized and persecuted. The Israelites, Jews, and blacks.

Perhaps you feel ostracized. Excluded, ignored, banished, left out. Has mental illness (MI) made you feel like a cast away. Discarded. Shunned.

Like victims of bullying, you feel shame. Convinced you did something to deserve it. Taunted by unfair thoughts:  Maybe if I was a better parent.

But deep down inside you know you’re trying the best you can to help your child who has MI. You’re struggling to keep peace in your home and love in your marriage.

In the midst of all you’re dealing with, shame needn’t be one of the challenges.

According to the online Oxford Dictionaries, shame is defined as: “a person, action, or situation that brings a loss of respect or honor.”

MI: the situation that robs us of respect or honor. We feel shame because society still misunderstands MI. We feel judged by people who have no idea what we’re enduring. Shame on them!

Oxford Dictionaries also defines shame as: “a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior.”

Surely, our shame can cause us to feel humiliated. Others make us feel like we’re to blame for some reason. Shame on us for believing that lie.

The truth is MI is an illness. Behavior management techniques employed by other parents won’t work with a child whose actions are a reflection of unstable thinking or fragile emotions.

It’s not so easy to just…

  • Tell a clinically depressed child to, “Snap out of it.”
  • Expect an anorexic child to, “Sit there until you finish your meal.”
  • Require the explosive child with a bipolar disorder to, “Calm down and relax.”
  • Punish a child experiencing a psychotic episode for his violent and bizarre behaviors.

My resolve: to fight feelings of needless shame. And to seek encouragement from God’s Word.

“I have chosen the way of faithfulness; I have set my heart on your laws. I hold fast to your statutes, Lord; do not let me be put to shame (Psalm 119:30-32).”

“May the arrogant be put to shame for wronging me without cause; but I will meditate on your precepts (Psalm 119:78).”

“Because the Sovereign Lord helps me, I will not be disgraced. Therefore have I set my face like flint, and I know I will not be put to shame (Isaiah 50:7).”

I’ve learned to ignore assumptions made by others whose lives aren’t touched by MI. I no longer care what others think. Years of judgment from others taught me to be a God-pleaser. God sees the long-suffering, gentleness, and unconditional love I extend to Chris. My heavenly Father cares more about the fruit of the spirit in my life rather than the dust on my furniture. He knows I’m doing my best to honor Him in my parenting.

Bottom line: Christ knows the truth. And He experienced shame.

“…fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart (Hebrews 12:1-3).”

Call on Him to rescue you from needless shame. Fall on the throne of God and leave it there. May Hillson’s

“Came to my Rescue” be the cry of your heart.