1 Thessalonians 5:11: “Therefore, encourage one another and build one another up…”
This scripture reading provides a strong message for prevention. It describes one way to help strengthen a child against depression by building up a deep experience of themselves as good, cherished, and part of the world around them. This does not mean we don’t correct poor behavior, nor does it mean we don’t teach them about sin and redemption. It means we do these things while leaving their sense of themselves as blessed children of God intact.
Words that tear down in times of correction are words like, “What’s the matter with you!” or “Can’t you do anything right?”.
Words that build a child up during times of correction are, “This a mistake,” or “Youmade a mistake,” or “This is not right,” or “This is a sin,” or “You have sinned; good people do that sometimes.” In other words, we separate the child from the act. Even in the words of the Mass, the person is separated from the act of sin (“I have sinned through my own fault…). We believe that only Jesus actually became sin.
Children internalize the messages we send verbally and non-verbally as parents, teachers, coaches, ministers, or clergy. We have the power to shape children’s understanding of themselves.
Children who are built up and encouraged are not guaranteed to avoid an experience of depression. It does mean that if they do, they are more likely to recognize that the symptoms they experience are not them. Therefore they are more likely to seek help early.
Let’s pray that we learn how to better build up our children in Christ. Today, let’s find just one small way to encourage a child in our care.