If your child has recently been diagnosed with depression, you might be feeling worried or overwhelmed. While this might be a difficult time for your family, you can make your child feel safe and comfortable by supporting them. But if you’ve never had any experience with mental illness, you’re probably struggling to decide on the best course of action. You want to help your child in every way you can, but you’re scared that your well-meaning actions will make things worse. Fortunately, this blog has some helpful hints to push you in the right direction.
Why do children become depressed?
In order to understand what you can do as a parent when your child is struggling with depression, it’s vital that we take a closer look at the reasoning behind the diagnosis. And why a child might become depressed. Of course, every story and situation is different and some young people are more predisposed to depression than others, but with this in mind here are some of the most frequent circumstances that can lead to depression in children.
- Surviving a traumatic event
- Neglect and abuse at home (physical, mental or sexual)
- Life changes that are out of their control e.g. death of a family member or friend, divorce, social difficulties
- Neurobiological reasons
Remember: All children are unique. which means some children cope with difficult and stressful situations better than others, and some children are more predisposed to depression if they already have a mental health condition such as anxiety, ADHD and/or behavioural problems.
If your child is living with depression, consider these approaches as a parent.
Be there for them
One of the simplest ways you can support your child with depression is by letting them know you’re there for them. While this might sound obvious to some, many parents are tempted to walk on eggshells around their child after their diagnosis. This can only make them feel more isolated, so make sure they know that they can talk to you or reach out for help if they need it.
Don’t push them
While it’s important to encourage your child to be open and honest with you, never push them to talk about things that they aren’t comfortable sharing. In time, they might open up and share more of what’s troubling them, but if they don’t then as their parents you should respect their privacy. Your child should have a safe space to discuss all their thoughts and feelings though, whether this is with a school counsellor or private therapist.
Some children with depression might be more inclined to isolate themselves, but spending some quality time with them can really help in the long run. You don’t have to do anything big, as even small activities like watching a movie together on the sofa can let your child know you’re there for support.
Encourage healthy habits
Giving your child plenty of opportunities to get out in the fresh air and eat nutritious food can help to improve their overall wellbeing. While depression is complicated, unhealthy habits will only make your child feel worse. Try to get the whole family into a good routine of going to bed early and doing some regular exercise. This could be as simple as taking a walk or going for a bike ride at the weekend.
Don’t expect miracles
Even if your child is going to therapy and leading a healthy life, don’t expect their depression to go away overnight. Mental illness can take a long time to overcome and it’s not a sign that you or your child is doing something wrong if they don’t seem to be improving. Progress isn’t always noticeable at first, but if you stick with your treatment plan you’ll begin to see positive changes.
If you’re still feeling a bit lost then make sure you do everything in your power to educate yourself about depression and mental illness. Sometimes just knowing and understanding what your child is going through can help you empathise with and support them.
In Conclusion…If you’re a worried parent, and you’re concerned that your childs’ depressive state is getting worse, then it’s important to seek help as quickly as possible. Consider reaching out to the Yes We Can Youth Clinics for more advice.