It can be very overwhelming to get the news that your child or teenager has been diagnosed with depression. Parents often blame themselves, wondering “What did I do wrong?” or “What could I have done to stop this?” You may be worried sick about your child, or even feel depressed yourself. These emotions are common and it’s okay to feel them.
Depression is usually a combination of genes, personality, and environment, and it’s usually impossible to understand exactly why a child becomes depressed. No matter why they are feeling depressed, you, the parent, can play a huge role in their recovery. Here are five tips to help you help your child through this tough time:
1. Take them to their appointments and give them their medicine! Therapy and medication may be necessary when a child or teenager is depressed. Please take them to their appointments consistently. I know it costs money and it’s no fun to try and fit something else in your schedule, but this is really important for your child. If they are taking medicine, make sure they are taking their medication every day. Medication needs to be monitored and therapy is not a quick fix, so even when it gets difficult, please stay consistent with treatment.
2. Make sure they get enough sleep. Help them get to bed early enough to get enough sleep every night. If they are having trouble sleeping, problem solve with them to make their bedroom the best possible sleeping environment. For example, if light shines through the window or they can hear loud noises from the TV in the next room, help change this so that they can sleep more easily. In the same vein, do not allow the child to fall asleep with a TV on in their room or let them play video games before bedtime.
3. Maintain a busy schedule. Kids and teenagers with depression often fight routines. They may prefer to just sleep or lay around all day. However, they will recover more quickly if they have a structured, busy daily routine. This may involve extra-curricular activities, chores, or family activities – just try to stick to a routine and keep them involved in the world. Try to have a mix of fun activities and tasks, so children can enjoy themselves and also feel like they’re accomplishing things.
4. Spend time with them! Your child needs love and support the most when they are feeling depressed. Be there for them. Ask them to go places with you, help you with chores, or play with you. If you have a teenager, sit with them in their room and ask about their favorite music, YouTube videos, or whatever will get them talking to you! Especially because depression can come across as anger and moodiness, parents sometimes want to give their kids space. Space is important, but it’s also important to stay engaged. Don’t wait for your child to come to you, but make an effort to spend time with them every day.
5. Understand that this is not a quick process. Recovery from depression takes time, and parents have a tendency to try to rush this. It may be several months before your child feels better. Although this can be a frustrating process, that’s okay – don’t give up! Talk to your child’s therapist and psychiatrist to hear about their progress. Also, you need support, too! Take advantage of support groups for parents who have kids with depression, such as this one.