How do I talk to my Child about Depression?

As much as we nurture our children with love and care, we may have to articulate certain essentials that are very much needed for their lives and well-being. In the world that we are in today, mental health issues have become prevalent. As parents, you need to communicate and make your children understand and gain support and guidance from you whenever needed. This article will more or less act as a practical guide for parents in conversing about mental health issues like depression with their children.

First and foremost, before parents talk to their kids about depression, they must acquire a clear understanding of the same. So, let’s learn what depression exactly is, its causes, symptoms, and the major treatment options available.

What is Depression?

Depression is one of the most common mental health disorders. Recent research has also found that many individuals including youngsters and children are at risk of developing the disorder. Depression can simply be stated as the feelings of extraordinary sadness and dejection. The individual experiences hopelessness, and helplessness and feels dejected by happenings in their life. It does affect the individual’s thinking, feelings, behaviour, and also the activities of everyday life like eating, sleeping, etc.

Diagnosis and Causes

For an individual to be diagnosed with depression, the individual must have the following symptoms for at least 2 weeks. If someone has been experiencing some of the following symptoms consistently for about two weeks, the individual may be experiencing Depression. The symptoms include,

  • Persistent sadness,
  • anxiety or feelings of emptiness,
  • feelings of hopelessness,
  • feelings of irritability or frustration.
  • Loss of interest in almost all activities,
  • decreased energy,
  • difficulty in paying attention,
  • change in appetite,
  • physical aches and pains,
  • recurrent ideations of suicide as well as suicidal attempts.

These are the signs and symptoms provided by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

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The cause of depression cannot be concluded to one as it may be due to a multiplicity of certain causal factors like Genetics or hereditary, major life events, hassles of everyday life, any neural damage, etc. The exact reason remains unknown. There are different types of depression as well like Major Depressive Disorder or Major Depression, persistent depressive disorder, perinatal depression, seasonal affective disorder, and bipolar disorder.

Coming to the treatment options, even Major depressive disorder can be treated. But like for any disorder or disease, the earlier the intervention, the more effective and better it would remain. Seeking professional help is the best option for getting treated for depression. Medications, Psychotherapy, certain lifestyle changes, and prioritizing one’s self-care more than anything could help deal with people battling depression.

Talking to Your Child About Depression

There might be times when your children (young kids and Adults) may ask/questions regarding Depression- they might ask you what depression means; and how do I know if I am going through it- for this, you can give them an analogy to ask them their own experiences of when they have been feeling sad or blue. Tell them that for some individuals that feeling of sadness may stay with them longer or might never go away. Teach them that this condition is called Depression; Can I get depressed? Is it like a cold or clough that goes away with medicines- tell them that seeking paediatricians or Psychology doctors would help them cure; Is it curable? – it’s a definite yes with proper treatment; Have you (Mumma or papa) experienced this before? Will my friends accept me? Is it possible for me to come back to normalcy after going through depression?

These are more or less the common questions posed by our children when we start our conversation about Depression. The upcoming sections will help you find answers to all these questions.

Talking to Young Children

Now, how do we start talking about depression to our kids (young children)? To begin with, create a very safe and comfortable environment for the conversation to happen organically. Indoor especially choose a room with fewer distractions as well as a space where there is no noise from the outside. It would be better if you prefer the room your children prefer.

This could eventually make your child calm, comfortable and listen. Once there is a safe environment is provided, children will start sharing their experiences. Most often, they would share the most funny, happy, and exciting things happening in their world.

Your patience and listening skills would help them share what they are going through. Be open to whatever your children tell you. Use your children’s age-appropriate language. Communication is the key element here. To generally start, you can ask them if they are experiencing or haven’t expressed any feelings that they are going through. Give them some time and space to articulate what they are feeling or experiencing. Show your concern and willingness to offer support and help to them.

Though we as parents have learned certain complex and frightening terms at the beginning of the article, make sure you do not use those with your children. Once your child starts venting their feelings, offer them warmth and support. Ask them not to pile up their feelings either positive or negative. If not, teach them some basic self-help exercises, and ask them to express their feelings whenever they go through something bad.

Talking to Adult Children

how to talk about it to our adult children? It is quite different from how we deal with kids. They are quite knowledgeable and know something or the other about depression. Choose the right time and environment. Dealing with them with utmost respect and maturity is essential.

Though they have little knowledge about depression, it is very much vital for the parents to tell them what exactly depression is. They must understand your concern for them.

Since they are adults, you can start your conversation off directly and honestly about depression. Also, listen to them with patience. The major skills you must have while talking with your adults is that you have to be empathetic, and non-judgemental, and give them space and independence while also respecting them and their thoughts and experiences.

They may be frightened of what the world would see, think or behave towards them when they confront the battles of depression. So, the parents need to address these misconceptions and stigma associated with depression and teach their children that they will be fine and people around them will also understand the same. Reassurance is the key here. Also, providing knowledge to your adult children, irrespective of whether they are going through such a phase or not, would be significantly helpful for your children.

Support Strategies for Parents and Their Contribution to Destigmatizing Mental Health

Just as we prioritize healthy food habits and physical activities for our physical health, parents can similarly begin to promote certain healthy strategies in their children’s routines for better mental health. This may include the practice of Meditation which involves focusing on oneself while moving away from distractions; Journaling: the art that is therapeutic where you write or make an audio or video about experiences, events, feelings, and much more that happened in the day of an individual; follow breathing exercises to calm the mind and body; and also engage oneself in any of the hobbies or interests.

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Parents should sit with the children daily to connect with them. This always would foster an attachment with you. Also, it helps children in venting up with you no matter what they are experiencing. Check them on and off on a routine basis. This checking doesn’t need to be authoritative, rather it has to be polite, natural, and also a gradual process. The next step is to reassure and tell me that you are there for them under all circumstances. Normalize the emotions your children are experiencing. Give them space to express themselves. Let them know that it is completely okay to ask for help.

One of the best options would be to reach out to a Mental Health Professional- it could be a Psychiatrist a Psychologist or a Therapist. They are the most appropriate people to approach as they have knowledge, skills and treatment options tailor-made for the identification, diagnosis and recovery of your child. There are different kinds of therapies and therapists. At first, both you and your child might feel a bit nervous or anxious about starting something new. But as time goes on, these feelings can turn into hopefulness. This shift is a good sign—it means that healing is underway.

Read More: Family Therapy: Objectives, Techniques and Effectiveness

Researches and statistics as posed by the World Health Organization states that about 3.3% of children and young adults seem to be affected by Depression across the globe. The most common reasons include Academic pressure, social media usage, parental negligence, dynamics in the family, struggles with peers etc. Children as young as in the pre-school years are getting affected by Depression.

Many children are not seeking treatment as they are not being overlooked by their parents. Parents may have to take steps to prioritize their children and what’s happening in their world. They may have to educate themselves, be available for their children, and communicate with empathy and open arms.

Read More: 11 Effective Methods to Teach Children Good Habits

Parenting should also involve normalizing certain practices irrespective of the stigma and stereotypes the culture holds. Even in the most recent times, there remain stereotypes attached to either seeking professional help or even talking about mental health and also the issues associated with it. Parents should teach their children that it is fine to seek professional help or support when needed.

Take Away

As a note of closure, it is very significant for parents to be open to the questions posed by their children. They may ask questions like “Why do I often feel sad? What is happening to me? Or even Am I going to feel better or not? You may have to sit for a while and make them understand and feel supported. At times, it is even essential to bring about only certain initial conversations when you see that your children are not affected by it. Though it can be intimidating or you may feel awkward to start these conversations, let’s normalize these with our children.

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