By DR. CATHERINE P. PHILLIPPI
How to fight for your child in a cancel culture
How many followers do I have? Every grade I make is critical. What if I don’t make the team? Why am I so fat? What is everyone saying about me? Can anyone see me? What if everyone finds out?
These are some of the questions spinning around in the heads of my patients. As a pediatrician and a mother of three teens, I feel compelled to be vocal about these issues and offer families a helping hand.
Add all those concerns to the “cancel culture” that we live in, and it is no wonder that mental health statistics are staggering in young people in the U.S. Even with underreporting in 2020 due to COVID-19, clinical depression is reported at around 20 percent in teens. Significant anxiety is reported at 30 percent.
The percentages are higher in my practice. If I take time to look past a teen’s veneer, I can often tease out the burden of so many fears. Economic strain, marital instability, parental depression, fear of an unseen virus, skepticism, political and racial unrest, division and death are like a dark fog oppressing our young people. Instead of being hopeful, many teens are hopeless.
According to the Cambridge Dictionary, cancel culture is a “way of behaving as a society or group in which you completely reject or stop supporting someone because they have done something to offend you.” A cancel culture does not allow someone to apologize and learn from their mistakes. This is the opposite of what Jesus taught.
If we are going to reflect Jesus, we must be an oasis for people who have messed up, including our children. This does not mean we water down our convictions or erase consequences. What it does mean is that true repentance and forgiveness are possible. Jesus came for that very reason.
Even churches today have become so polarized that what our kids learn is to hide and mask up, leading to more mental health issues in the future.
Technology and social media have made it possible for our mistakes to reach a wide audience in a matter of hours. Once this occurs, the child is at the mercy of their peers as judge and jury. The punishment, often, is to be “canceled.”
How anxiety-provoking is that? We know that childhood anxiety and depression are more likely to persist into adulthood if they’re not addressed and treated in a timely manner, so we must act now. We have to identify and treat children before the inner turmoil speaks loud enough to influence suicidal thoughts or self-medication with alcohol, drugs, porn, food, cutting, and whatever else Satan can offer.
We as believers know this, but let me be clear: THIS IS WAR. It is more important than an ACT score or a prom date. It is just as important as food, water and oxygen. Not only must you be armed and ready, but you must equip your child for battle.
In any battle, identifying the enemy is step one. So often we are manipulated into focusing all our energy on the symptom and not the source. In my opinion the source is a raging lion prowling around seeking to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10).
So start now! Identify the enemy and boldly teach that to your child or teen. Open the Bible, read it, and use it. It is a double-edged sword (Hebrews 4:12). Talk about it when you sit in your home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up (Deuteronomy 6:7). Put on the FULL armor of God every day (Ephesians 6:10-18), not just the helmet of salvation.
Let’s face it, we are all distracted and busy. Don’t read this and become overwhelmed and defeated. Be empowered and reminded that God gave us the tools to win. Partner with the Creator of the universe who already overcame this world. Surround yourself and your children with other believers who can mentor and disciple them alongside you.
And ask for help. Your pediatrician can help. This is not a time to ignore the signs of depression and anxiety in yourself or your children. Your pediatrician can guide and direct you with options for counseling, different types of therapy, and even medications if needed. It is one of my greatest joys to see my patients come out on the other side of darkness.
God is at work. Trust Him.
Dr. Phillippi joined TrustCare as a pediatrician in 2021. Prior to that time, she practiced at Children’s Medical Group in Jackson. She is married to Dr. Mark Phillippi, a nephrologist at Central Nephrology Clinic, and they have three children.