5 Musts for Any Parent of a Depressed Child
It’s so difficult to be the parent of child who battles depression. On top of the pain associated with the knowledge that they’re in pain, many parents also feel personal shame that their child is not “normal,” or that they might have failed them in some way.
To cope with those feelings, parents sometimes minimize the mental illness or try to look on the bright side. I urge you to instead acknowledge the depression and talk openly with your child about it. Here’s a step-by-step path you can take.
1. Know how depression manifests.
Radical changes in behavior are fairly easy to spot for an observant parent. Perhaps your child is suddenly much more isolated, or they stop enjoying things they used to love.
But the one depression symptom that most people don’t recognize is anger. Most kids and teenagers turn to anger when depressed. They don’t know how to process what they’re feeling, which is intensely frustrating, and anger results.
2. Accept the diagnosis.
Once you realize your child might be depressed, it’s time to have them evaluated by professional, and often, to seek regular child therapy or teenage counseling.
Make no mistake: It’s really difficult to take this step. It’s much easier to avoid and deny the problem, to spot a rare good day and use it as proof that professional help is unnecessary. This is shame and guilt getting in the way of what needs to happen. Don’t let it.
Try to position yourself as a safe haven for your child. Ask them to come to you with whatever is on their mind and let them know they will be listened to, without judgment. Then (this is the difficult part) actually listen without judgment. Thank your child for sharing themselves with you.
4. Find a counselor and begin talk therapy.
It doesn’t need to be at Stenzel Clinical (although you will be welcomed with open arms if you do choose to come here). Child therapy, teenage counseling and family counseling services are all crucial for the family that battles depression. The important thing is to find the right office and the right therapist for your child. If you’d like to browse a list of Stenzel Clinical therapists and view their specialties, you can do that here.
5. Take care of yourself.
Depression is a solitary disease, but the way it affects a home is anything but solitary. Every member of the family is impacted by a child’s depression. Making sure you follow through on Step 3 is much easier if you’re well rested, relatively stress-free and practicing self-care.
Depression is a heartbreaking mess of contradictions. You don’t want to die, but you don’t want to live. You feel incredibly lonely, but you don’t want to talk to anyone. You wake up in the morning and wait for night to come again. When a child is in the midst of these low points, they often think they’ll feel this way forever. But if you follow these steps, hope, healing and better days are ahead.
- The 5 C’s of Parenting a Child with Behavioral Issues
- Therapy Isn’t for the Weak
- When to Give Grace (and When to Speak Truth) to a Depressed Loved One