When your child is suffering from depression it can be difficult to know how to cope. You want to do the very best to help your child, but nobody can click their fingers and make it all okay again. It’s not always straightforward to find the right treatment plan for depression as there are lots of options and each child is an individual. It’s important to educate your child about what causes depression. From our genetics and the chemistry of the brain (i.e., low levels of serotonin) to stress and their environment, helping your child to understand that they are not to blame will be essential in their recovery.
If you are struggling to cope, this guide will take you through what to expect when your child is suffering from depression.
What’s involved in treatment?
Your child may also benefit from counselling or therapy with a mental health professional. Depending on their age, young children may respond well to play therapy while Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) can be more effective in teenagers. There are also specialist facilities which focus on depression in young people and children such as Ignite Teen Treatment. Medication may be required in some cases alongside counselling, and in very serious cases hospitalization may be necessary.
Supporting your child at home
Treatment for depression takes time; there are no quick fixes, and some children will need longer than others, even when medication is involved. You can help your child during treatment by encouraging them to be active either through sport or a family bike ride/walk. You will need to supervise their medication to ensure they follow their treatment plan. Try to cook nutritious and balanced meals and encourage a healthy sleep routine. Give your child the opportunity to talk to you about their feelings and try to practice active listening.
Supporting your child at school
Depression can have a significant impact on a child’s education, as it can be very difficult to stay focused and motivated. The teachers and support staff at your child’s school should be informed, especially if there is a counsellor available who may be able to help your child. Schools should be able to support your child by providing extra time in examinations or assignments, extra notes, and simplified assignments. Your child may need to take a break at some point in the day to talk to the school counsellor.
Children are developing and growing at a fast rate which means that their depressive episodes can be more intense or may seem to come and go as treatment progresses. If they seem to be in recovery on one day, but soon afterwards they have relapsed, this does not mean that the treatment isn’t working. During treatment your child may be irritable and prone to outbursts of anger or tearfulness. It’s important to remain calm and supportive while practising active listening. While no one can cure depression overnight, with the right treatment and the support of their family children can recover.
Take care of yourself
Caring for your child during this time is likely to be emotionally and physically draining, and it’s important to take care of your own physical and mental wellbeing. If you don’t take care of your own health through balanced nutrition, regular exercise, plenty of rest and time for socializing, relaxation and hobbies, you will end up burning out. This will only make you less able to care for your child, so while it’s natural to put your child first, don’t push yourself to the bottom of the list.