Ministries Emphasize Caring for Children’s Emotional Health

The objective is to alert parents of dangers and help them strengthen their children.

Jefferson Paradello, South American Division News
Ministries Emphasize Caring for Children’s Emotional Health
The Seventh-day Adventist Church has implemented several initiatives to support comprehensive healthy development of children, including their emotional health. [Photo: Marcos Sala and Sara Teixeira]

An extensive study published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics in 2022 revealed that between 2015 and 2020, there was an 8-percent annual increase in children’s visits to, and returns to, hospitals for mental health issues in the United States. The research examined data from more than 200,000 patients treated at 38 pediatric hospitals.

It was observed that 28.7 percent of the cases were related to suicidal ideation and self-harm. Mood disorders accounted for 23.5 percent, while anxiety disorders accounted for 10.4 percent. The rising rates have also attracted the attention of specific groups, including parents, educators, and experts, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic.

This reality has also raised concern in two areas of ministry in the Seventh-day Adventist Church that work directly with children. In addition to the projects and initiatives already carried out jointly, Children’s Ministries and the Adventurers clubs across the eight countries of the South American Division (SAD) have joined forces to warn parents about the importance of strengthening the emotional health of boys and girls during their early years.

The issue of children’s mental health raised by the Adventist Church across the SAD was the topic of the biblical message presented in Adventist congregations on May 18, when many churches around the world celebrate Children’s Sabbath and World Adventurers Day. More than a reflection based on the Bible, the goal is to draw attention to the challenges children face and how to support them. Experts addressed topics such as anger, fear, and sadness, and how to show love to children. It is estimated that there are approximately 300,000 children connected to the Adventist Church’s youth activities in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, and Uruguay.

Paying Attention to Emotions 

“There are those who are vulnerable, who are bullied, who are orphaned, who are sexually abused, who have their emotions often shattered by so much abuse,” SAD Children’s Ministries director Gláucia Korkischko said. “Often, they … face major emotional problems, but they can’t identify what they’re going through. That’s why, since last year, we’ve put a multidisciplinary team together to write a special message that shows how to help them.”

Leaders of the Adventurers club ministry, which serves almost 1.5 million children ages 6 to 9 around the world (200,000 of them in the SAD), hopes that this message will further strengthen the work parents are carrying out. Called the Family Network, it is a monthly meeting in which parents can opt to participate in seminars, lectures, and chats conducted by psychologists, teachers, and other professionals on the challenges of their children’s education.

“From now on, they will learn how to treat a child who is deeply sad, who is being bullied or harassed and doesn’t understand or know how to cope,” SAD Adventurers director Udolcy Zukowski said. “This is the main goal of this initiative: to unite parents and children under the cross of Christ. We help parents to acquire more experience to better understand their children.”

Both Children’s Ministries and Adventurers leaders have been working to offer support and care to children, always combined with support for parents. One of the measures Adventurers have already adopted is providing a “blue room” at large events. It is an environment prepared to receive those who are sensitive to fireworks, sounds, and lights, such as boys and girls with autism.

“We need to welcome our children, understand them, and support them so that they learn to deal with their emotions,” Korkischko said. “Of course, we don’t have all the tools to do it. It is something that requires the assistance of trained professionals. But our role is to show especially parents what can be done.”The original version of this commentary was posted on the South American Division Portuguese-language news site.

Jefferson Paradello, South American Division News