Six Ways to Help Kids Cope With Depression
As a parent witnessing your child experience pain and distress feels like a gut punch. That gut-punch makes you spring into action to help alleviate your kiddo's pain. Watching a child suffer with depression can 10X those feelings. Because you can’t see depression, you can’t do the same things you’d do if your kid sprained an ankle.
All is not lost though – even though you can’t see it, there are things you can do to help your kiddo cope with depression. I’ve shared 6 of them below.
You can’t pour from an empty cup. You are no good to anyone, especially your child, if your cup is bone dry.
1. Routine. Routine. Routine.
Schedules and routines create structure, safety, and security. The rub is depressed kids may resist schedules and planned activities – so be ready for the snarky ‘tude. Routines are one of the best remedies for depression, so it’s worth it.
By routine, I mean doing specific things, at a specific time, for a specific duration. For example, schedule; bedtime, time in nature, schoolwork, social time, and screen time. Note: routine is important, but flexibility is also key, you don’t want your routine to be rigid.
2. Get some wellness in your world
A good foundation for positive mental health is to prioritize wellness. Studies show a link between increased wellness activities and decreased depressive symptoms. For example, getting sufficient sleep, eating a healthy diet, exercising, and making healthy connections with others. Here are some tips to infuse a little wellness is your teen’s world:
Spend time in nature. Studies show 120 minutes in nature per week promotes positive mental health.
Exercise. Exercise and dance release a feel-good chemical in your brain naturally improve mood and helps to remedy depression.
Replace 2 servings of soft drinks or juice with water. Replace snacking on processed foods with dried fruit. Maybe it’s me, but I swear -- dried mango taste just like candy.
Try social distance hangouts with 1-2 people at a park, or my favorite Zoom Charades. I’m undefeated!
There’s no better way to prioritize wellness than guided meditation. Surprisingly, teens love it. I listed a resource below.
3. Take care of yourself
It’s cliché, but I’ll write it anyway. You can’t pour from an empty cup. You are no good to anyone, especially your child, if your cup is bone dry. My recommendation? Have a personal happy hour at least twice a week. Take anywhere from 20 to 60 minutes alone. Turn off all devices so you can slow your mind and reset your nervous system. My go-to personal happy hour situation looks like this. …in my car, with lavender essential oil, a snack, music on, windows down, and the seat reclined. After a crazy day -- it feels like heaven.
4. Give and Get Info
There is so much misinformation about depression. You can snap out of it, talking about it makes it worse, and it’s not a real illness just to name a few. These myths, if believed, may interfere with your kiddo getting better. That’s why it’s so important to arm yourself and your child with facts. Facts like: Depression is caused by an imbalance of chemicals in your brain. Movement, mindfulness, and medicine can help get those chemicals back in balance. Determination alone – not so much. Here are a few ways to arm yourself with facts:
-Talk to a professional - Read books and blogs like the one I recommended below -Follow mental health professionals on social media -Listen to mental health podcasts
5. Don’t go it alone
Cliché number 2 in 3…2…1… It takes a village to do most things, especially raising a child. Sometimes the villages is family and friends, and sometimes its professionals. If there are people in your circle who’ve experienced depression, or are great listeners use them as a resource. If your kiddo needs more support, definitely reach out to a mental health therapist. Someone who specializes in working with children and will help you understand and support your kiddo through this illness. I’ve found play therapists that work with teens are really impactful.
6. Create a Safety Plan
Sometimes the pain of depression is so unbearable that people choose suicide to make it stop. In other cases, teens will feel numb and engage in self-harm in order to ‘feel something.’ If you suspect your child may engage in one of the above. Get together and create a plan, with specific steps your teen should take if they are thinking about harming themselves. Once the plan has been written, be sure both of you save a picture of it in your camera roll. Use the document below as a guide.
Resources: Get some wellness in your world -Guided meditation for teens: Smiling Mind -https://www.smilingmind.com.au/ -Guided meditation for people of color, all ages: Liberate - https://liberatemeditation.com/ -The Calm app has a variety of guided meditations for depression, adults and teens.: https://www.calm.com/gclid=EAIaIQobChMI37Lcu6Kl6wIVrD6tBh3Maw1AEAAYASAAEgIoJfD_BwE
Don’t go it alone. To find a therapist try:
Play therapists: https://www.a4pt.org/
Therapy for Black Girls: https://therapyforblackgirls.com/
Ayana Therapy: https://www.ayanatherapy.com/Find a play therapist. https://www.a4pt.org/
Get and give info - “Lonely, Sad and Angry: How to Help Your Unhappy Child,” by Barbara D. Ingersoll - “Help Me, I’m Sad: Recognizing, Treating and Preventing Childhood Depression and Adolescent Depression,” by David G. Fassler and Lynne S Dumas
Create a safety plan -Here is a sample of a safety plan you can complete with your teen. https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/Brown_StanleySafetyPlanTemplate.pdf
Yeshiva Davis – LMFT, MBA President & Founder K&S Therapeutic Service, Inc. IG: @kandstherapy FB: @kandtherapy Twitter: @kandstherapy 213-255-5629