Mental Health and Parenting

In our constantly evolving culture, understanding mental health from a Christian perspective is not only valuable but necessary. Follow along to learn about what mental health is and how you can apply this knowledge in your own life as well as in your parenting.

What Is Mental Health?

On Thursday, July 2, Terri Galindo spoke about mental health in Parenting Talks. Galindo is a licensed clinical social worker and licensed marriage and family therapist of 40 years who currently works at 4KIDS as the vice president of clinical services. 

After speaking with and listening to Terri’s insight in a separate interview, she explained how mental health involves our physical and emotional health and encompasses our ability to process information, adapt to change, empathize with others, and respond accordingly. In simpler terms, she described mental health as “a state of peace.”

What Does "Healthy" Look Like?

Using this definition of mental health, we can better develop a foundation for what “healthy” looks like. Analyzing your child’s mental health includes observing if they regularly function well in the domains explained below.  

  • They consistently intake water and food as well as get enough sleep and exercise.
  • They demonstrate a level of independence appropriate for their age showcasing their ability to process information and respond appropriately.
  • When connecting and interacting with others, their behavior displays empathetic and relational tendencies.
  • They have the ability to handle stress or change, which reveals emotional health and adaptation capabilities.
  • They display a variety of interests, which highlights levels of maturity and understanding.

How Do You Know if There Are Any Causes for Concern?

It’s important to note that you must understand child development before identifying any concern because there are natural stages of child behavior. For example, Galindo describes mental health for a three-year-old as “beginning to discover the world around him” resulting in the child having some fears. Galindo also states, “It is very normal for an adolescent to seem rebellious . . . [because] they are learning who they are as individuals.” 

Thus, singular acts of questionable behavior do not necessarily qualify as a cause for concern. Cause for concern comes from an ongoing behavior that contradicts or stands out against the foundations established for your child’s developmental stage. Galindo encourages parents to ask themselves this question, “Does this interfere with [my child’s] daily living?” while also noting whether the issue is individualized or affecting every area of life. 

How Can You Respond?

1. Take a breath.

Galindo prompted parents to first “take a breath.” In the same way a child is not expected to be perfect, neither is a parent. The Lord calls us to give Him our burdens, adopt His humility, and carry His yoke instead as He gives us rest (Matthew 11:28-30). This will lead us to surrender and rely on God’s strength over our own.

2. Understand that there is always a reason for behavior.

Secondly, Galindo reminded parents there is always a reason for behavior. She quoted this statistic from Sunshine State Health: “25% of children experience at least one trauma before the age of 16.” Trauma can be obvious or less noticeable. Whether your child has been abused, lost a loved one, or moved homes, there are various experiences that can cause trauma. Additionally, the current stressful atmosphere with a pandemic, civil unrest, and social media pressures can also be traumatic. Therefore, you must seek to identify the root of your child’s behavior so you can address that rather than solely the behavior itself.

3. Be willing to engage in difficult, honest, and vulnerable conversations.

Thirdly, Galindo advises parents to frequently have conversations with their children. This may include asking your child to rate how they feel, being honest about not having all the answers, or guiding them in decision making. Opening up about personal experiences or asking genuine questions will show your child that you truly care. As your child notes your courage and intentionality, trust will deepen and foster healthier communication.

“A holy temple in the Lord”—Ephesians 2:21 (NIV)

Before you can be used by God to help ensure the mental health of your child, you must also care for your own mental health. Pastor Bob Barnes once said it like this, “You teach what you know, but you reproduce who you are.” Our complete health—mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually—must be prioritized not only for our sake but for the sake of leading our children by example. Therefore, be intentional about your food and water intake as well as your sleep habits. Welcome the transformation that comes with the continual renewal of your mind (Romans 12:2). Create daily activities that bring you closer to God personally and then collectively. As God shapes you, He will shape your children as well!

“Chosen . . . holy and dearly loved”—Colossians 3:12 (NIV)

Above all, you must root yourself in your identity as a child of God (John 1:12). Being a child of God, you have the Spirit living within you giving you full access to true life and everlasting peace! As Romans 8:6 (NIV) says, “the mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.” Based on this, you can fully grasp Terri’s simpler explanation of mental health as “a state of peace.” When you decide to live in light of these truths, your life will change alongside the life of your child because God will be the one transforming you into who He made you to be!

About the Author

Samantha Rodriguez

Samy Rodriguez has been serving with the Calvary writing team since 2020 as a senior at Calvary Christian Academy. Before going to study communications, biblical studies, and intercultural studies at Palm Beach Atlantic University, she interned with the Calvary Communications Team and was a student leader in HSM (High School Ministry). She is passionate about communicating God’s Word and looks forward to continuing to serve in ministry after college.