People will do anything for love and attention. If a child cannot find love and attention in a positive way from their parents, family, and God, the child will find the imitation of love and attention elsewhere. Love is cultured during frequent interaction over an extended period of time. Being a parent requires the sacrifice of personal problems and ambitions in order to set aside time for the adolescent. We have all heard it said that people can become neglectful toward their children if they are absorbed in worshiping the false Gods of money and power. People can also become absorbed in worshiping their false Gods of personal troubles and ailments. Such negative worshiping is more prevalent and often leaves both parent and child feeling negative and sapped of energy.

Poor Example:

          Danny often suffered from depression. Danny’s depression started when his wife left him during his bouts of depression, Danny would let himself go. He would stop taking his medication. He would stop exercising and eating healthy. He would stop helping around his house and, sadly, he would stop interacting with his daughter.

          The first time that Danny became depressed, his daughter stepped up to the plate. She cleaned the house, did the laundry, and cooked the meals. Danny appreciated her hard work, and periodically expressed his thankfulness.  Danny did not intend to slip into depression as deeply as he did, but with his daughter taking over all of his household duties, it was easy to lie in bed and let the darkness consume him.  

          Despite frequent visits to mental health professionals, Danny found that he continued to have frequent bouts of depression. After a while, Danny began to identify with the depression. He felt that the depression was a part of who he was. He began to talk about his depression at work and at church. He educated everyone to the seriousness of his dilemma. As time went on, Danny became more and more focused on his depression. It became a central part of his thinking, conversations, and behavioral patterns. When he started to feel sad, he no longer fought the negative feelings, he simply succumbed to them.

          At first his daughter, Bobby, had tried to cheer up her father whenever he felt depressed, but as time went on she began to feel like she was doing all of the work on fighting the depression instead of her father. She would attempt to take him out of the house on an outing, or fix him his favorite meals. She tried to help him build a support system and fill his day with activities that would keep his mind off of the depression. After all, this was what her father’s therapist was recommending. Despite her hard work, all of her best efforts were simply refused by her father.

          Over time Bobby started resenting the fact that she had to complete all of her father’s household duties whenever he became depressed. She especially resented that she was losing all of the connection that she had with her father. They rarely seemed to interact anymore. Her father did not appear to be interested in Bobby’s life. Mostly, he talked about his depression, medication, and related problems. Bobby felt lonely.

          Danny noticed one evening that Bobby had a boyfriend over. It was a little late, but he was tired and depressed. He trusted Bobby, she was dependable and responsible. After all, she frequently took care of him. Instead of meeting Bobby’s boyfriend or talking about curfew, Danny shuffled into his room and succumbed to feelings of misery.

          Bobby noticed that her father did not even ask about the boyfriend that she had brought over. She did not want to be chewed out by her father for having a guy over so late, but she at least wanted him to talk to her, set a curfew, and be concerned about her welfare. Bobby did not care very much about the boy, but she did like the attention that she was getting from him. It made her feel a little less lonely, even if he only wanted something physical.

          As weeks wore on, Bobby slowly upped the ante. She sent the boy home later and later. One time, she intentionally left a contraceptive lying on the sofa. She expected her father to intervene, step up, and not allow his daughter to make such mistakes, but he never did.  Instead of talking to her father about the feelings of loneliness, she masked them with physical affection from the boy. The physical encounters masked the loneliness while the boy was present, but afterward she felt hollow and dirty inside. Her father seemed to know what was going on, but instead of being a parent to her, he let himself slip deeper and deeper into depression. Bobby’s feelings of loneliness increased with each passing day.

Good Example:

          Melissa often felt depressed. She had bouts of depression that haunted her for as long as she could remember. She frequently visited mental health professionals for the depression. Melissa felt that it was her depression that drove her husband away, leaving her to support Mary all by herself. Melissa noticed that as her daughter grew into her teenage years, Mary required more and more attention. As a child, Mary would always rehearse her day for her mother, but the events were usually laid out in a matter of minutes and Mary would go on her way.  Now, as a teenager, it would take Mary hours to sort through the relational and academic problems of the day.

          Melissa was determined that she was going to own the depression and that it was not going to own her. She was careful to follow her counselor’s advice. She filled her schedule up every day and made herself follow it. She exercised regularly, ate healthy, and forced herself to get out of bed before her daughter did. Melissa wanted Mary to have as normal of a childhood that she could. To do this, she was going to have to take care of herself.

          Melissa did not want Mary to worry about her depression, so she rarely mentioned it to her. It was enough to talk about it with the support network that she and her counselor had put together. Melissa felt pride inside when she could make it through a serious period of depression without her daughter becoming overly concerned. Sometimes it took all of the energy and self-discipline that she could muster to come home after work and spend time with her daughter. She often felt hollow inside as her daughter told her stories, but she always managed to find a sliver of concern and empathy deep inside. Melissa noticed that as she expressed the empathy it would grow and her depression would slightly lift. Mary’s reciprocation of love often made her effort feel appreciated.             

          Mary knew that her mother frequently suffered from depression. She could tell when things were especially bad by the way her mother would force a smile or make herself appear interested. Her mother did not always respond to her concerns in a normal manner. Sometimes her eyes were shady and her voice was dry, but Mary knew that she was trying to care for her by the way that she would intermittently force herself to express excitement or happiness at her stories.

          Mary looked up to her mother. She saw her mother as being strong. Even on the worst days, when the depression was deep, her mother would complete her routine chores and assignments in the home. She would move slowly, but everything would always get done. Mary admired her mother for fighting the depression, in order to take care of her. She felt confident that her mother loved her.