Having a child who's depressed can be heartbreaking.
Here's 10 tips to help get them, and you, through the toughest times.
1. Take a look at your own life.
Are you depressed?
Have you got other issues within your family structure?
Are there things going on in your life which could be affecting your child?
Your child could be more affected by your actions than you realise. Take a good look at your own life and get the help you need.
Here's a link to a test which may tell you if you have depression:
2. Start talking to the child.
Don’t talk at them, talk with them. Really, really talk.
Start sentences with: I feel or I sense
Avoid: you always, you should, you never etc.
It maybe easier to get them talking when you are both busy and slightly distracted e.g. whilst you are both doing the washing up or playing a game. Doing something that involves not looking at them directly is the key.
You can also talk to them from your heart about things that have happened to you that have made you depressed.
I used to get depressed when my Mom wouldn't let me play with the other kids.
I felt lonely if my Dad went away for work.
Share just enough to let them know they're not odd, or alone, with their feelings. But keep it age appropriate and don't burden them.
3. Ask and listen.
Ask: ‘What’s troubling you?’
Avoid: ‘What’s wrong with you?’
They may not know why they are depressed but listen to how they feel without any judgement.
Say: ‘No matter what you tell me I won’t be angry’ and stick to it.
Whatever the response is, listen carefully with your ears, eyes and instincts. Don’t fill in the empty silences but let the child come forward – they always will when given the time and space.
4. Respond with courage.
If what you hear is shocking, breath deeply but don’t explode.
Respond with something like: ‘I will help you get through this’.
Save your emotional outpouring for another adult. The child doesn't need to be burdened with your feelings of distress. They are depending on you to be a safe haven. If you're shocked by what they say, they may not tell you anything else.
Remember, they weren’t born depressed; something has affected them to make them feel this way.
Find your compassion by becoming the parent you would want for yourself.
5. Get on their team.
When you have an understanding of your child’s issues think about who you need to speak to, recruit, confront etc in order to get behind your child’s needs.
Become like a manager of your child’s ‘team’ and talk to other members of their ‘team’ (e.g. teachers, family members) to sort out problems inside and outside the home.
Your actions will speak louder than words. Once you start batting for them, they will begin to trust you, open up to you and start to come out of isolation.
6. Set the boundaries.
Children feel cared for, cherished and safe when boundaries for behaviour are set with love and respect. They feel bad if they know they are getting away with things they shouldn’t.
Make boundaries crystal clear even writing them out and sticking them on the wall if you have to.
7. Feed them well.
Bad food encourages depression. Change their diet.
Aim for five portions of fruit and vegetables a day. Leave a bowl of fruit on the table or put some fresh fruit salad in the fridge.
Lead by example and eat a good meal with them.
Here's an article about foods that boost the mood:
8. Spend more time with them.
Depressed children need time with adults who love them. Spend time with them on their level. Do what they want to do.
Do some colouring, go to the park, take them shopping, play games with them etc. adjusting the activity to their age.
A guide to a minimum amount of time to spend with them is:
1 hour a day
1 day a week
1 weekend a month
1 week a year
9. Love them up.
Tell them how much you love them and give them the evidence.
‘I love the way you laugh because when you laugh I feel like laughing too and that gives me the best feeling in the world.’
Show how much you enjoy them by spending more time with them. The best way to help a child who is depressed is to become the protective, loving and supportive parent they need in order to express themselves.
10. Sign up both of you for one activity outside the home.
Find an activity for both of you to do together.
Undertaking a common interest with your child is a great way of showing your commitment to your child.
It can be as simple as a weekly walk. This will help them feel better about themselves and this will help them come out of isolation.
Follow these ten tips and watch them blossom!