Watching a child grapple with sadness can be distressing for parents. The good news is adults don’t need to feel powerless. Here are nine things parents can do to help their child cope:
- Show your love.
Love, empathy and respect can go a long way. Let your child know you care and think their feelings are important. You can do this simply by being present with them and offering reassurance.
2. Stick to a routine.
Use schedules and routines to create structure and security. Depressed children might not want to participate in activities, but it’s important for parents to maintain routines and schedules.
3. Focus on positive communication.
Be mindful of how many positive and negative comments you make to your child. Your goal should be to offset every negative remark with five positive comments.
4. Develop a positive environment.
A positive, loving atmosphere can help children relax. Build upon that by making a list of fun activities you can do together – and then be sure to follow through.
5. Take care of yourself.
To take care of others, you also need to take care of yourself. Find a support group, exercise or hire a babysitter so you can make time for yourself.
6. Find treatment for your child.
Therapy or counseling and medication could help a depressed child. A pediatrician can help you decide what is best for your family.
7. Get help.
If your child expresses thoughts about wanting to kill or hurt themselves or others, call 911 or bring your child to the nearest emergency department. These feelings and thoughts can be serious.
8. Reassure your child.
Let your child know you are going to help them to feel better, and that therapy, activity and, in some cases, medication can help.
9. Draw on outside expertise.
Many resources for parents exist. Here’s a quick list:
• “Depressed Child: A Parent’s Guide for Rescuing Kids,” by Douglas A. Riley
• “Help Me, I’m Sad: Recognizing, Treating and Preventing Childhood Depression and Adolescent Depression,” by David G. Fassler and Lynne S Dumas
• “Lonely, Sad and Angry: How to Help Your Unhappy Child,” by Barbara D. Ingersoll
• “Raising Depression-Free Children: A Parent’s Guide to Prevention and Early Intervention,” by Kathleen Panula Hockey
• “The Childhood Depression Sourcebook,” by Jeffrey A. Miller
- A CHOC pediatric psychologist offers insight into behaviors and reactions parents might expect from their children – as well as themselves – and strategies to help.
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