10 Ways to Help When Your Child is Depressed
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I’ve been both a child with depression and
the parent of a child with depression. So I know it’s hard for a parent whose child
is in pain – it’s your pain at the same time. But I can tell you that for a child, or teen,
with depression, it’s much worse. Hi, I’m Deborah Gray, creator of Wing of
Madness Depression Guide. I was a child in the 1960s and seventies. At that time, even the medical community didn’t
realize that children could be clinically depressed. My parents knew that something was wrong,
but they didn’t know what it was. We’re in a different time now. If you think your child is depressed, or they
tell you that they’re depressed, you can help them get treatment. And you can help in other ways. I’ve put together a list of ten ways that
you can help your child when they’re depressed. 1. Recognize that clinical depression is an illness,
and should be treated like any other illness your child might have. Really, honestly, internalizing this fact
will help your child in two ways. One, it will hopefully keep you from blaming
yourself or your child. This is no one’s fault. Second, if you think of depression as an illness
instead of as a choice your child is making, you won’t say anything thoughtless like,
“Why don’t you just pull yourself together,” “But what do you have to be depressed about?”
or “Stop feeling sorry for yourself.” If they could make themself feel better, trust
me – they would! 2. Don’t freak out. I know this is frightening, but losing it
(or being in denial) will definitely not help your child. They need you to face this head on, as calmly
as possible. Remember two things. One is that your child is also scared, but
you’re the one they look to for reassurance. Second, clinical depression can be successfully
treated in most cases. As long as your child has a good doctor and
supportive parents, he or she has a very good chance of recovering. Notice that last part – while everyone with
depression really needs a caring, knowledgeable doctor, supportive parents are absolutely
critical for a child with depression. 3. Do your homework. Read up about depression – symptoms, causes
and different forms of treatment. The more you know, especially about treatment
options, the more effectively you can advocate for your child in the health care system. As far as treatment goes, don’t forget about
good nutrition and stress relief – those are as important as other treatment options. Make sure that your child is drinking 8oz
of milk three times a day (milk has been called the perfect food, nutritionally) and getting
exercise and/or meditating to relieve stress. It may sound very crunchy-granola, but we’re
beginning to realize that poor nutrition and stress can have a real impact on mental health. 4. Let your child know that it’s okay to be
depressed. In other words, make sure that your child
understands that this isn’t something to be ashamed of, and that it doesn’t make
them any less wonderful in your eyes. They need to know that you love them even
though they have this illness. It might seem obvious to a parent that they
love their child no matter what, but a child’s mind works in mysterious ways. We may assume that we know what they’re
thinking, but we often find that their fears are taking center stage in their minds. In particular, with depression, there’s
frequently a feeling of guilt. Your child may be thinking that this is their
fault. Reassure them that it’s not their fault
any more than it’s their fault if they have a cold. 5. Talk to your child frequently. This might sound like a tall order. Any parent who’s ever asked, “How was
school?” and got the response, “Fine” every single time, knows that children can
be reticent. And when someone’s depressed, talking is
often the last thing they want to do. Think about providing some low-stress, low-distraction
opportunities, like taking a walk or preparing a meal together, that might allow your child
to open up to you. Remember that children tend to hide things
from parents that they think will upset them. Make it clear to your child that nothing they
could say is as upsetting to you as their not being able to talk to you about how they’re
feeling. 6. Be your child’s advocate in the health care
system. Make sure that their doctor is knowledgeable,
caring, patient and someone who really listens. Take charge of your child’s treatment. Ensure that your child keeps appointments
and takes the prescribed medication. You may have to be tough and persistent, but
treatment, either medication or therapy or both, is essential. 7. Don’t be afraid of the “S” word. You may be afraid to ask your child if they
are having suicidal thoughts, assuming that you will put the idea in their head. Don’t worry. Either they are already having suicidal thoughts,
in which case it may be a big relief to talk about it, or they haven’t had them, and
talking about it openly will allow them to bring the subject up again if this changes. And please note that even children younger
than 12 do commit suicide. If your child is having suicidal thoughts,
ask them on a regular basis if it’s vague, abstract thoughts or if they have an actual
plan to carry it out. If they do have a plan, immediately call your
child’s doctor and/or go to the emergency room. By the way, I do know that just thinking about
this is unbelievably terrifying. Just remember that keeping the lines of communication
open about this is absolutely necessary in preventing this tragedy. 8. Encourage your child to socialize. One of the last things your child is going
to want to do is socialize. Trust me – I know this from both sides. Be persistent, though. Contact with friends and family provides a
support system that is essential to someone with depression, and the socializing itself
is important to recovery. 9. Encourage your child to enter therapy. Talk therapy, especially Cognitive Behavioral
Therapy, can help your child break out of negative and self-hating thought patterns
that are generated by the depression. Health insurance providers sometimes make
you jump through hoops for therapy, but it’s an important part of treatment, so again,
be persistent. 10. Be patient. This won’t be an easy time and it won’t
turn around overnight. And you will have to be an absolute rock for
your child, even while they’re shutting you out and possibly hurting your feelings. If you feel like you need help coping with
the situation, you might want to try individual therapy or family counseling. I’d love to hear your comments on this video,
either questions or anything you’d like to share – or criticism, which I’m always
open to. If this video has been helpful, please consider
clicking the thumbs up button to give it a like. Also, if you are interested in more videos
about depression, please consider subscribing. See you next time.

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