It can be a very traumatic and bewildering experience for a parent when their child is diagnosed with depression. Parents feel helpless, guilty and frustrated. Here are some practical suggestions on how you can support your child.
1. Monitor medication
It is very important to check that your child is taking his or her medication regularly. Anti-depressants take a few weeks to work and many teenagers may take it haphazardly or stop taking it altogether because it does not seem to be working. Make sure that they take the tablet in front of you at a specified time.
2. Be supportive
Listen to what your child has to say and encourage your teen to talk. Don’t get upset if the child describes unhappy feelings. NEVER tell a child to simply “pull yourself together” or to stop feeling sad. Avoid the mistake of telling your child that he or she should be thankful for all the good things in life. Depression is an illness that temporarily removes all joy from living.
- Also see: How to prevent teen suicide
3. Let your teen know that it is not his or her fault
Depressed children often have excessive feelings of guilt for feeling so blue. Acknowledge that your teen has the right to feel depressed and that it is beyond his or her control. It is also important to remember that you are not a bad parent just because your child is depressed, so never take it personally.
4. Maintain a routine
Depression often goes hand in hand with anxiety. A predictable routine is essential as it makes the child feels secure. Don’t give in to changes in the child’s routine like allowing them to miss school or staying in bed all day. Although loss of appetite is a common symptom of depression, you should make sure that your child maintains a balanced diet. Do not take no for an answer.
5. The importance of exercise
Exercise is a natural way of alleviating feelings of depression. Depressed children are usually lethargic, therefore it will require special effort to get the child active. Be persistent and creative to involve him or her in some form of fun exercise.
6. Combat isolation
Depressed teens tend to withdraw from their families and friends. Do not allow your child to become a couch potato or to hide away in his or her room. Invite friends and family over that will support your child without expecting him or her to be cheerful.
- Also see: Early bedtime beats teen depression
7. Give the child extra time and attention
A depressed child needs huge amounts of attention and praise as the disease has such a negative effect on the teenager’s self-esteem. Continuously tell your child that he or she is loved, special, talented and unique.
8. What to do if your child mentions suicide
Always take the mention seriously. Try to determine if the child has made any specific plans. Make sure that your child does not have access to dangerous items like sharp objects, poison, prescription medication or weapons. Do not assume the child is just looking for attention and never dare a youngster who mentions suicide to “go ahead”. You may think it is a bluff, but he or she might take the dare. Always contact the child’s psychiatrist to evaluate whether the child needs to be under observation in a clinic or hospital.
9. Reassure your child and give them hope
Explain to your child exactly what depression is and let the child know that with the proper treatment he or she will soon be feeling better. Depressed teenagers often think that they will always feel this way and begin to lose hope of recovery. Emphasize that depression is just an illness, like any other and that it is a curable disease.
Catherine Radloff is a qualified Educational Psychologist who practices in Cape Town. Phone: 083 379 3595, email@example.com , www.cathradloff.com.
*For emergency assistance contact the South African Depression and Anxiety Group on 0800 567 567, for counselling contact their 24hr Helpline on 0800 12 13 14
Has your child been diagnosed with depression? What tips do you have for other parents in this position? Share your experience wby emailing to firstname.lastname@example.org and we could publish your story. Do let us know if you'd like to stay anonymous.
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