Parenting: Helping kids overcome depression – Montgomery Advertiser
A new study presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies Meeting in May found that the number of children and teens admitted to children’s hospitals for thoughts of suicide or self-harm have more than doubled during the last decade. The lead author on the study, Dr. Gregory Plemmons, is an associate professor at The Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt.
You notice that your son has been looking pretty disheveled lately. His grades dropped last quarter, and he doesn’t want to seem to want to do anything, even the things he loves. When you ask about it, he gets defensive and feels like you are accusing him of something.
You try to encourage him to get to bed a little earlier, but he says he can’t sleep. He keeps asking to stay home from school, saying he doesn’t feel well, and you are also beginning to notice he doesn’t eat much these days.
Chances are good your son is suffering from depression. It may be situational — perhaps something has happened (or a series of things) that have triggered it — or it could be clinical. Either way, he needs help.
It’s hard for parents to watch their children suffer. No one wants their child to be depressed, but if you are noticing signs that something is wrong, there are things you can do.
First and foremost, get professional help. Find a counselor who specializes in children and adolescents. Ask if the therapist incorporates cognitive behavioral therapy, a type of psychotherapy that challenges negative thinking patterns in order to change various behavioral patterns. Research shows it is particularly effective for teens suffering from depression.
Next, do your homework. Hop on the internet and study depression. Know the signs. Know the dangers, and reach out to other parents and professionals for wise counsel and support.
Then, get to work on connecting with your child. Listen actively, making eye contact and showing genuine care and support, without any judgement. Our kids need to know we love them unconditionally and that we think the very best of them, even though they may be going through a rough time.
Don’t try to fix the problems they share with you. Just listen. If they ask for advice, give it, but let them know that your thoughts are only one perspective. Encourage them to talk to other adults that you trust and gather advice from multiple sources. There is wisdom in a multitude of counsel.
Conversation is king! Find and create many opportunities to talk to your child. Watch TV together. Go to a movie and then grab a bite to eat afterwards to talk about it. Go for walks together. Cook together and do housework together. Take your child with you on errands and use the car time to talk.
Be careful not to grill your child or make him feel like you are investigating him. Instead, use your time together to talk about all sorts of things, and if you feel like the time is right, gently ask how he’s doing. If he wants to talk about it, great! If not, move onto another topic.
Last of all, be patient. It may take time for him to work through the depression. Praise his successes and be compassionate in the wake of any failures. With your help and the help of a good therapist, he can conquer depression.
Jenni Stahlmann and Jody Hagaman host POP Parenting, a one-hour weekly talk radio show in Sarasota, Florida. For more information, go to www.jenniand jody.com, visit the Jenni and Jody Facebook page or follow them on Twitter @JenniandJody.