How to Prevent Depression from Affecting Your Child
I was a depressed child.
It’s sort of a long story. But that part of my life prompted me to better understand mental health and how to prevent issues with depression, especially when it came to my own kids.
Because let’s face it—when our children hurt, we hurt.
And there’s a certain balance we have to strike as parents: we have to understand there is always the possibility for depression to rear its ugly head in our kids, while at the same time remembering there are practical ways to decrease the likelihood that it will.
I want to give you three skills you can teach your children.
Skill #1: Know Thyself.
As parents, it’s good to understand some of the risk factors involved with depression in children:
- There is a history of depression or other emotional struggles in the immediate family.
- The child experienced any earlier traumas or chronic illness.
- There is substance or alcohol abuse in the family.
These factors increase the chances that a child could experience struggles with depression.
No need to freak out here. Nor is there reason to try and diagnose anything. We simply need to be aware of the possibility and let that motivate our diligence to maintain good mental health in both our kids and us.
It’s good for younger kids to begin to understand their feelings. Help your child put a name to their emotions. Feelings are still a new thing for kids. I don’t know how many times I’ve sat with my own children, talking out just what it was they were feeling inside: I’m not mad, maybe a little sad, kind of embarrassed, but I’m not sure.
When your child can name feelings, they can begin to manage them.
Skill #2: Care for yourself.
The Big-3 of self-care practices are sleep, exercise, and diet.
Be sure your kids are getting plenty of rest at night. The National Sleep Foundation recommends 9-11 hours of sleep each night for 6 to 13-year-olds.
Kids also need plenty of physical activity and outside time. This is important for physical and brain development that directly affects emotional regulation. Sunshine boosts serotonin in the brain, which counteracts depressive states.
Avoiding processed sugars and having a cleaner diet also helps kids regulate their moods while improving sleep quality and activity levels.
Skill #3: Connect with those who love you.
The CDC says connection is a key to protecting the mental health of kids. Do what you can to keep your relationship strong. (Here are some conversation starters to help you connect!)
Be sure you are spending plenty of quality and quantity time with your child. Engage with them in meaningful conversation. Include them in your world. Remind them every day how much you love them and that you’ll be there for them, no matter what. Encourage them to come to you when they need you. When they know you are on their side, your child will be much more empowered to manage strong emotions like depression.
One last thing: your kids need your example. You want your child to have confidence that they can work through emotional struggle. This is difficult for a kid to come by if you don’t regulate your own emotions, care for yourself, and seek help when you need it. Don’t be afraid to seek professional help for yourself or any family member who can’t seem to shake depression; we all need help like this at times.
You know what it’s like to struggle with your emotions. We know our kids will wrestle with theirs at some point. It’s part of life. Let’s be sure our kids are equipped to handle their feelings, so their feelings don’t handle them. Begin some skill-building this week and keep it going. And don’t forget to stay connected!
- Is Your Child Depressed?
- Tips for Controlling Your Emotions
- Are You Setting a Good Example of Self-Care for Your Family?
- How to Prevent Depression in Teens
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