Tips for parenting a child who is depressed

We understand that in these very difficult times, children and teens can struggle with feelings of depression.

If you are a parent who is concerned about your child or one of their friends, here are tips for starting the conversation. This guide on common sayings to avoid, and what to say instead, can help as well.

Below are parenting tips for a child or teen who is depressed, from the mental health experts at CHOC Children’s:

  • Show your love. Children need love, empathy and respect. Let them know you care and that this is important. Just be present, sit with them and reassure them that you understand how they feel.
  • Make a date. Schedule time to spend with your child, even if they won’t talk during this time. Schedule pleasant activities, preferably out of the house and active such as walking or going to the park. Before and after the COVID-19 pandemic, these dates might look like going to a movie or getting ice cream. Your child may not want to engage in activities. Encourage them to do it anyway.
  • Stick to a routine. Schedules and routines create a sense of structure and security. Make things seem normal – even though they may not be. Learn more about creating structure and routine for kids during COVID-19.
  • Focus on the positives. Track your ratio of negative to positive comments to your child. Your goal should be one negative to five positives.
  • Stay calm. Kids who are depressed are very sensitive. Small things set them off, so communicate calmness through your voice and body language.
  • Develop a positive environment and atmosphere to help your child relax. Make a list of fun things to do and follow through with them.
  • Take care of yourself. Find a support group, exercise, or ask another adult in the home to stay with the kids so you can relax. You have to take care of yourself before you can take care of your child. Learn more about how parents can deal with stress during COVID-19.
  • Find treatment for your child. Your child may benefit from some treatment to help them feel Options include therapy/counseling and medications. Speak with your doctor to determine what will work best for your family.
  • Get help. If your child expresses thoughts about wanting to kill themselves or is saying scary things, call 911 or bring your child to your local emergency department.

Helpful books for parents of children who are depressed:

  • “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

If you or your child are thinking about suicide or hurting yourself, please use one of these resources:

If you or your child is in immediate crisis and/or danger, you can call the Orange County Behavioral Health Crisis Assessment Team (CAT) at 1-866-830-6011. They will come to where the child is to do a safety evaluation. You can also call 911 or proceed to the nearest emergency department.

If you or your child is struggling, you can access these resources 24 hours a day:

  • California Youth Crisis Hotline 1-800-843-5200
  • Suicide Prevention Center 1-800-784-2433
  • Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255 (TALK)
  • Crisis Text Line 741741
Learn more about mental health services at CHOC

Related posts:

  • Depression: Say this, not that
    Talking to someone with depression can seem like you are walking on eggshells. Although you may have the best of intentions, the words you use may not express exactly what ...
  • Depression coping tips for kids and teens
    In these very difficult times, children and teens can struggle with feelings of depression. If you’re a teen struggling, here are tips for coping.
  • 8 ways for teens, kids to cope with depression
    Even if it’s not uncommon for teens and kids to feel sad sometimes, those moments can still feel overwhelming. The good news is there is a lot you can do ...

Depression: Say this, not that

Talking to someone with depression can seem like you are walking on eggshells. Although you may have the best of intentions, the words you use may not express exactly what you mean. Here are some common statements to avoid and some tips on what to say instead. You can also learn how to start a conversation around mental health.

Say this: “Whenever you feel like talking about what’s going on, I am here to listen.”

Not that: “What do you have to be depressed about?”

Clinical depression is a serious medical condition; it is not a choice.

Say this: “No one is rushing you to feel better; take as long as you need.”

Not that: “Hurry up and get over it!”

A person with depression can’t just get over it. They have to learn the skills to effectively manage their depression.

Say this: “You are not alone in struggling with depression.”

Not that: “There’s someone worse off than you!”

When you compare other problems with depression, you run the risk of minimizing the person’s struggle with depression.

Say this: “I can help you get whatever help you may need.”

Not that: “Stay away from therapy and drugs.”

Many people are scared to ask for help because of the stigma of mental illness. They may come from a culture that shames them for talking about personal problems with a stranger.  The use of medications can also feel scary to them because of stories of addiction and dangerous side effects.

Say this: “I may not know exactly how you feel, but I know it must be hard.”

Not that: “It can’t be that bad.”

Depression is a complex condition.

Learn more about mental health services at CHOC

Related posts:

Depression coping tips for kids and teens

We understand that in these very difficult times, children and teens can struggle with feelings of depression.

If you are a parent who is concerned about your child or one of their friends, here are tips for starting the conversation and tips for parenting a child who is depressed.

If you are a teen struggling with depression, here are tips for coping.:

Try not to bottle up your feelings

Seek out a trusted friend or adult, such as your parent, to talk to about your feelings and what is on your mind.

Understand that there is a name for what you are going through, and that you are not alone

At least half of your classmates will experience symptoms of depression at some point in their lives. There are other people who have felt the same way you do.

Keep up with friends and activities

Even if you do not want to do things, you should still try to do them. Push yourself to try to do fun things, even if you have to go through the motions. During the COVID-19 pandemic, some of the activities you used to enjoy may not be safe in their typical form. Talk to your parent or guardian about activities you can have fun doing while still being safe.

Do something that makes you feel proud.

Do your homework, finish a chore (such as cleaning your room), and notice what a good job you did. Feel proud of your hard work.

Talk about your sadness

Sometimes when people feel sad, the things they think about are sad, too. If your best friend told you they were feeling really sad or had a problem, what would you say to them?

Talk about scary thoughts and feelings

Sometimes when kids feel upset, they think a lot about death or dying. If you notice yourself having scary thoughts such as, “I want to die,” tell a trusted adult, such as your parent or guardian.

Focus on getting enough sleep

We are more likely to get upset or feel down if we don’t get enough rest. Try to make the hour before you go to bed peaceful and relaxing. Try to stay away from your phone and the TV, since the light tricks your brain into thinking it is daytime.

If you are thinking about suicide or hurting yourself, please use one of these resources:

If you are in immediate crisis and/or danger, you can call the Orange County Behavioral Health Crisis Assessment Team (CAT) at 1-866-830-6011. They will come to where you are to do a safety evaluation. You can also call 911 or proceed to the nearest emergency department.

If you or your child is struggling, you can access these resources 24 hours a day:

  • California Youth Crisis Hotline 1-800-843-5200
  • Suicide Prevention Center 1-800-784-2433
  • Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255 (TALK)
  • Crisis Text Line 741741
Learn more about mental health services at CHOC

Related posts:

  • Tips for parenting a child who is depressed
    We understand that in these very difficult times, children and teens can struggle with feelings of depression. If you are a parent who is concerned about your child or one of ...
  • Depression: Say this, not that
    Talking to someone with depression can seem like you are walking on eggshells. Although you may have the best of intentions, the words you use may not express exactly what ...
  • 8 ways for teens, kids to cope with depression
    Even if it’s not uncommon for teens and kids to feel sad sometimes, those moments can still feel overwhelming. The good news is there is a lot you can do ...

8 ways for teens, kids to cope with depression

Even if it’s not uncommon for teens and kids to feel sad sometimes, those moments can still feel overwhelming.

The good news is there is a lot you can do to help bust these bummers. Next time you’re feeling down, try some of these tips:

  1. Speak up: Find a trusted friend or adult and tell them what’s on your mind. Staying silent never helps.
  2. Know you aren’t alone. At some point in their lives, at least half of your classmates will feel symptoms of depression. That means there’s a good chance that at least two other kids in your class are feeling the same way as you do right now.
  3. Keep up with friends and fun activities. It might not sound fun, but try to hang out with friends, play sports and join activities. Pushing yourself to stay connected helps.
  4. Do something that makes you feel proud. Even small accomplishments can be mood-boosting. Do your homework, clean your room or help a sibling. Then, notice what a good job you did and feel proud of your awesome work.
  5. Talk back to your sadness. Imagine a friend told you they were sad or had a problem. Think about what you’d say to them – and then say that to your own feelings.
  6. Tell a loved one about scary thoughts and feelings. If you notice yourself thinking a lot about death or dying, talk to a trusted grown-up. They can help.
  7. Don’t skimp on sleep. Being unrested can make it easier to be sad or feel down. About an hour before bedtime, turn off your phone and TV, and try to focus on relaxing.
  8. Reach out for help. Besides your parents, a lot of grown-ups can help you with these feelings. Psychologists, social workers or counselors can help you understand and manage your feelings. Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or text CONNECT to 741741 for support. Call 911 immediately if you want to hurt yourself.

Stay Informed about Mental Health

CHOC Children’s has made the commitment to take a leadership role in meeting the need for more mental health services in Orange County. Sign up today to keep informed about this important initiative and to receive tips and education from mental health experts.

9 ways parents can help kids cope with depression

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:

  1. 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

Stay Informed about Mental Health

CHOC Children’s has made the commitment to take a leadership role in meeting the need for more mental health services in Orange County. Sign up today to keep informed about this important initiative and to receive tips and education from mental health experts.

Related posts: