How to Parent a Depressed Child
There IS Help
Depression is a serious matter. No one is immune. If you believe you see signs of depression in your child, immediately seek assistance from your family physician.
Your doctor can provide you with information and resources available to you in your area that will help you learn about your options. Adolescent depression can be treated effectively. The earlier your child seeks treatment the better.
Signs & Symtoms of Depression*
Persistent Sad Feelings
Keeping to themself. Not participating in family events. Spending a lot of time alone.
# Getting into trouble at school and home. Starting fights. Arguing more.
You may hear them say,"You just don't get it" or "Forget it, you don't understand".
^ They become upset to the point of tears for unknown reasons. Or poorly perceived reasons.
They feel hopeless, worthlessness and/or guilt.
Their sleep pattern changes. They have difficulty sleeping. Riseing early in the morning. Causing them to be tired during the day.
They have difficulty making decisions, remembering details or concentrating.
Overeating or appetite loss
^Have you notice a change in their weight? Heavier or thinner?
Suicidal thoughts or attempts
#If your child mentions suicide or harming themself seek help immediately!
Aches, Pains, Fatigue
Pain that doesn't subside with treatment. Fatigue that isn't relieved with rest.
^ Prevalient with girls
# Prevalient in boys
Your adolescent may internalize their feelings resulting in angry outbursts, stealing, starting fights at home and at school, skipping school and isolating themselves.
Your family doctor can help. They will direct you to a counselor and they may suggest medication for your child. Generally, anti depressants are safe. However, you should be aware of a warning placed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. There is a “black box” warning label – the most serious type of warning, on all antidepressant medications. The warning reads:
- There is an increased risk of suicidal thinking or attempts in youth taking antidepressants. Youth and young adults should be closely monitored especially during initial two weeks of treatment (NIMH – National Institute of Mental Health - Depression in children and adolescents fact sheet)
Parenting a Depressed Child
I am not a doctor or psychologist but I have raised four children, two boys and two girls, to adulthood with minimal problems.
Your child doesn't go through adolescents alone. You go through it together. With all the ups and downs and all the emotions that comes with it. The first boyfriend/girlfriend, when they have their first kiss, when they meet their “true love” and then when they break up with their “true love”. You will get through this. With some new information and skills to assist you, you can go forward, with confidence that you’ll both get through it and you may develop a closer relationship as a result.
Your teenager needs your help whether he/she says they do or not, just know they do. Don’t “cater” to the depression by acknowledging an outburst with an outburst of your own. Or, when your child storms off to their room and slams the door behind them, don’t leave them to “think about it” for too long. The rush of feelings that set off the episodes are new and confusing for them. Give your child about thirty minutes to sort out their feeling and try to collect themselves. If they haven’t emerged within a thirty minute period, then go to their door and knock gently (but not timidly or forcefully) and open the door. Sometimes they will have fallen asleep (emotional turmoil can be draining) or they may be upset still. You could ask if he/she would join you for lunch or what ever you know your child normally enjoys doing. Invite him/her to join you with in it. Tell them you want to hear what happened. Tell them you want to understand what went wrong and how you can help (you may not be able to help. Just being there to listen is so important). Sit together and let them do the talking.When they are finished, if theyask for your opinion, then and only then give it. If they don't ask for your opinion, you can ask them if you may offer it, keep in mind, they may not want your opinion, and that's OK.
Remember, your child is becoming an adult, right before your very eyes, treat them with the same respect you would any adult. That does not mean giving in to a request to go to a party until 2am. You are the parent. That means that you still need to make decisions about such activities, in a respectful way. If they still are upset and storm out of the room, the storm won’t be as coarse because you listened and respected them, and your child knows you did. Depression is real and waiting. At least that is what it felt like for me as a parent. When emotions become frazzled and overwhelming, and they will, you need to be supportive and respectful while keeping the boundaries well defined. If your child is prone to depression be on high alert for any signs . Especially during adolescence it can feel like depression is just waiting outside the door. All you have to do is open that door and it will come barging in and step right into your life whether you want it, or not.
This pamphlet, offered by the NIMH, talks about the changes an adolescent brain is going through, what to expect and information of where to get further help. http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/the-teen-brain-still-under-construction/teen-brain.pdf