Emma Hide shares a tool that transformed her thinking in her early 20s, and will help your child in their growth in faith

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Ever felt helpless in the face of your child’s worries, fears, anxieties or stress? Unsure of where to turn for guidance?

Navigating the landscape of youth mental health can be daunting, especially with the barrage of alarming news and grim statistics. It’s easy to believe that the well-being of our children is heading in a downward spiral.

However, as Christians, there’s good news. The bible contains promises of freedom, healing and renewal of our thought life, and is packed with wisdom and practical advice. Despite what the world says, transformation is possible!

This article first explores why it’s important for young people to renew their minds, and then provides a tool to help you and your child take a first step towards tackling harmful thoughts.*

Why renew our minds?

In Genesis, the fall introduces sin’s impact on both our physical bodies and minds. Our fallen world exposes our children to influences that distort truths found in God’s word — social media, school, friends, family, cultural norms, past rejections, and TV contribute to these misconceptions.

As children develop and embed beliefs in areas such as identity, they can absorb harmful ideas such as “I must perform well in order to be respected, worthy or loved”, “There’s no point in trying because I’m always going to fail”, or “I’ve got to change myself in order to be liked or loved.” Changing hormones and perceived social pressures can fuel the emotional intensity of these thoughts.

In John 8:44 Jesus tells us that the orchestrator behind these false and twisted ideas about reality is Satan (“Father of lies”), who seeks to destroy life through mental deception.

When lies infiltrate young minds, they can impact thoughts, beliefs, emotions, the body, words, and behaviours. These distortions differ for everyone and can affect thought patterns in various areas of life. For instance, a belief that worth and love is gained through achievement, may lead to a frantic pursuit of approval, resulting in a busy thought life, performance anxiety, sleep issues, and exhaustion. These distorted beliefs can rob young people of life in its fullest.


Jesus’ invitation and promise to renew our minds

While lies, fears, worries and anxieties can feel all-encompassing, it’s not the end of the story. God loves you and your child too much to leave you in a place of deception, hurt, fear and anxiety. Jesus invites all born-again believers into a lifelong journey of renewing our minds — replacing our worldly beliefs and thought patterns with God’s truth. This is a crucial part of our sanctification journey as disciples — the ongoing process of being made holy in the likeness of Christ.

In John 8:31-32, Jesus promises believers that abiding in Him and His truth can bring us freedom from the thoughts that hold us captive: “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

This promise offers hope: as we come to know His truth (His word but also Jesus Himself), we’ll be set free from the bondage of what’s not real (i.e. lies, fears, false beliefs) by the truth! Young people can break free from mental health trends, transformed by renewing their minds!


A practical tool to renew the mind

The bible abounds with verses about worry, fear, anxiety, and cares, and gives guidance on how to deal with harmful thoughts. However, putting verses into practice can be challenging. Below, is one tool to help you and your child confront lies and false beliefs about yourselves, others and God.

You’ve likely come across this verse: “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).

Here Paul emphasises that Christians have power and authority to capture thoughts misaligned with God’s truth, replacing them with beliefs rooted in truth, love and life. In the wilderness Jesus exercised this authority when he countered the Devil’s twisted temptations with the Word.

The following tool — akin to modern-day Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and used by monks for centuries — provides a framework for us to exercise this authority in partnership with the Holy Spirit. I recommend practising it yourself for a few weeks, starting small with one or two thoughts — this way you can approach your child with a tool you’ve found helpful and ask if they’d like to talk it through using an example of yours. It involves three steps:

1. Notice your thoughts

Find a quiet place, seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance, and jot down a recurring thought. An example for young people could be “I’m not going to get a good job when I leave school.”

Some will find it easier than others to sit quietly and reflect in this way. If struggling, you could gently prompt your child by asking if anything is worrying them at the moment. Let your child freely express their thoughts and any accompanying emotions, ensuring you listen well and don’t jump into solution-mode. 

2. Name the lie

Identify the underlying lie or belief behind the thought. This can help you to see the thought for what it is: false! For instance, the lie behind “I won’t get a good job” could be the false belief that “God doesn’t have good works planned for my future.”

You may need to help your child identify the lie, as it can be challenging to name. Be careful not to dismiss your child’s feelings, but instead empower them to view the situation in a different light (there’s always more than one perspective on a situation)!

3. Declare the truth

Counteract the lie, as Jesus did in the wilderness, with God’s word or your personal experiences. For example, Ephesians 2:10 affirms God’s plans for your child’s vocation: “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

You can then write a truth statement on a piece of paper. Declare your truth statements aloud each morning for at least 40 days (roughly how long it takes to form an underlying belief). If the thought resurfaces during the day, take it captive and make it obedient to Christ by declaring the truth! It may not feel true at first, but over time the Holy Spirit can rewire your brain and renew your mind.


Transformation for you and your child

I first used this tool in my early 20s, and it’s been one of the most helpful ways to renew my mind! I witnessed the fulfilment of John 8:31-32 as I was freed from lies and fears around my identity and the future, that previously held me captive. After 40 days of first doing it, the impact on my mind and body was amazing: I felt more peaceful, joyful, and energetic, I slept better, I worried less and I felt more hopeful about the future!

You can use this tool as a first step to help your child renew their minds and find freedom - remember it’s a lifelong journey and the Holy Spirit will continually highlight new thoughts to take captive! If you’d like to read more about this topic the following resources may be helpful:

  • The following Bible verses: 2 Corinthians 10:5, John 8:31-32, Philippians 4:6, Proverbs 3:5, Psalm 55:22, Philippians 4:8, 1 John 4:18.

*These tools can work for all children, but may benefit from adjustments if your child identifies as neurodiverse, for example having Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or Autism (ASD). Please note that this tool does not serve as an alternative to professional mental health support.