I’m guessing if you came across this post from a Google search, you’re trying to find a solution or gain knowledge. Maybe you’ve been blaming yourself or avoiding your child because this is all new and troubling. Don’t fear. You looking this up is a good sign; you want to do something. Neglecting your child’s mental health and acting like it’s not happening is one of the worst things you can do. It will only get worse.
I’m no doctor but I am someone who grew up with depression and, along with my parents, could have used some guidance to deal with it. Here are a few of my own tips for you to help your child with their depression.
Realize that it is not your job to fix it.
I’m all for parents doing the best they can to help their kids but the truth is, parents can’t fix everything. Imagine if your daughter or son fell from their bike and broke their arm. Your first instinct wouldn’t be to attempt to set the bones yourself and put it in a cast. There’s a reason why we have doctors, even for problems we can’t see like depression. The first step for you is to find any doctor who your child feels comfortable talking to and who you can talk to as well. From there, they can establish a treatment plan that the whole family can be a part of.
Your responsibility is to be supportive.
A big part of treatment for depression is to have a support system. A support system consists of the people in your lives that you trust enough to turn to when you can no longer deal with it yourself. Surprisingly, not many teens can say that they are close enough to their parents to confide in them. Many depressed youth find it hard to open up in fear that their feelings will be dismissed or questioned.
If you want to be a part of your child’s support system, the best thing you can do is listen.
I cannot stress this advice enough. Whenever I talk to someone, it’s always my last resort. Like most people, I like to keep my problems to myself. This leads to me bottling up my feelings until I can’t take it anymore and tearfully confide in the first person I can reach. To have someone cut me off or tell me to snap out of it just makes me retreat even more into my shell.
Think of that when your child is talking to you. You might not find the right words to say and that’s okay. This is the time for you to learn more about how your son or daughter is doing and ask questions. However, you don’t have to talk to be supportive. Lending an ear and a shoulder to cry on is all some people need to be able to breathe easier.
To encourage your child to talk to you, make it known to them.
Inform them that they can come to you for support at any time and make good on that promise. Put away your phone, turn off your laptop, and give them your full attention. Make talking to them a regular thing; ask them about their day and, eventually, they’ll surprise you and say something other than “Fine.”
Just remember to be patient.
I won’t sugar-coat it, having a depressed child hurts. However, there is no quick fix for it. As your child grows, they’ll have to manage it on their own to be able to go to college, work or move out. It doesn’t mean they won’t call or visit occasionally to be able to get your support. By establishing trust early on, you are ensuring a future where you’re fully aware of your child’s mental state and they always have someone to call when things get dark.
About Fatou Balde
Fatou Balde is a floater in life, currently dipping her toes in communications and psychology to see what she might pursue as a career. She's been depressed since 12, and desperately trying to get better since 16.