The steps you take now will impact your connection in the future.
The goal of positive parenting is to build a deep, lifelong connection with your child. It’s the idea that while our primary role as parents may end when our children move out, we’re still a guiding presence in their lives. I don’t want to parent my children once they’ve stepped out on their own, but I do want to be there as a source of wisdom, support, and guidance when needed.
Being a positive parent is about nurturing, empowering, and guiding while being nonviolent. You may be asking yourself, “Am I a positive parent?” I know I want to be.
There are several key components to positive parenting. A positive parent:
Guides, leads, and teaches.
Is caring, empowering, consistent, and sensitive to a child’s needs.
Provides regular open communication, emotional security, and affection.
Shows empathy for the child’s feelings and supports the child’s best interests.
According to author L.R. Knost, “respecting children teaches them that even the smallest, most powerless, most vulnerable person deserves respect, and that is a lesson our world desperately needs to learn.”
Here are some ways being a positive parent can create a lifelong connection with your child:
1. Teach them how to do age-appropriate tasks.
When I ask my kids to do something around the house, and they say, “I don’t know how,” I hear a teaching opportunity. It can be hard to slow down, but helping them learn how to do something new builds their confidence. When you teach them, they’re also learning how to make good choices. When we don’t teach, they become reliant on us or others to do things for them.
2. Give them autonomy (within reason, of course).
Let’s talk about parenting toddlers. If you aren’t there yet, just hang on and get ready for some exciting years. Between the ages of 2-5, both my kids pushed for independence and autonomy. They wanted to be the king or queen of their own world. Aren’t we the same? We don’t want other people running our lives. Look for opportunities to give your child autonomy. Put them in charge of a household chore, let them choose dinner one night, or let them choose their clothes. There’s nothing like going to Lowe’s when your daughter’s in her entire ladybug outfit…been there recently and have the pictures to remember it. Giving them independence promotes creativity, empowerment, and self-determination.
3. Reward positive behavior.
I’ve often heard it said, “What gets recognized, gets repeated.” My son just wrapped up a great baseball season and aced a test in third grade. We rewarded him for excelling in school and on the ballfield by going to a local baseball card store. He’s totally into baseball cards right now, so we let him choose a box of cards. He had bad games and some weeks where he didn’t do well on quizzes, but we didn’t punish him for those times. We just encouraged him to do his best and understand that sometimes bad days happen. But he knows what it takes to get rewarded, and he’ll work toward that again.
4. Be a positive role model.
Your children are listening and watching. Remember, more is caught than taught. They see how we treat others, our work ethic, and our kindness or the lack of it. If you want to raise adults who positively contribute to society and care about their neighbors, you’ve got to model that behavior now.
5. Make positive family experiences a priority.
Our kids don’t need extravagance; they need us to create memories with them. I can’t count the number of times my daughter brings up something seemingly small we’ve done as a family. To her, it was impactful. Take a neighborhood walk together, get ice cream after school, or do something for someone else. When we prioritize creating positive memories as a parent, we’re building a lifelong connection with them.
Parenting is challenging, but connecting with your child doesn’t have to be. Be caring, teach, lead, communicate, and provide. Take steps today to build a lifelong connection with your child as a positive parent.
https://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/BlogPic-PositiveParenting-01.png8542048Mitchell Quallshttps://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/ftf-logo-300x186.pngMitchell Qualls2021-06-08 16:46:332021-06-09 10:40:175 Ways Positive Parenting Creates a Lifelong Connection with Your Child
You can have a strong, healthy marriage, even if you fight sometimes.
Having a new baby is amazing. And amazingly exhausting. You can always tell which parents have a newborn. They’re excited, but you can see the stress in their eyes. We’ve been there. When our son was born, he rocked our world. At times, we were so stressed and tired that the slightest frustration triggered an argument. And arguments, when you’re both exhausted, are dangerous. Here’s a secret, though: After having a baby, many couples can’t stop fighting. It’s not just you. All new parents experience high levels of stress and frustration.
Those first few months are filled with sleepless nights, hectic schedules, and disrupted routines. Not to mention you’re both figuring out how to balance work, family, chores, and grandparents. It’s no surprise that new parents experience high levels of stress. And high levels of stress often lead to arguments. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Parenting isn’t stress-free (sorry to burst that bubble), but you can reduce stress and manage it.
How can you lessen the stress (and fight less) after having a baby?
It’s common for new parents to feel like they aren’t communicating with each other. Communication doesn’t have to be complex at this stage. Make sure to take a few minutes each day and talk to each other. Talk about your needs, emotions, struggles, and listen to each other.
Assuming is dangerous, and it leads to frustration. But it’s so easy when you are both tired. Talk to each other, ask questions, and voice any concerns.
Apologize when you see you made a mistake.
If you’re in the wrong, own it. We all make mistakes, especially when we’re tired.
Don’t play the blame game.
When you both are stressed and arguing over something, don’t fall into the blame game. Own your mistakes, voice your concerns, but don’t turn it into a contest of who has made the most mistakes.
When things get heated, take a break.
Sometimes the healthiest thing to do is walk away from an argument. You don’t want to say something that will cause far more damage in the long term.
Address the issue at hand. Solve one problem at a time.
Be intentional about talking for at least 5 minutes a day.
Schedules are hectic when a newborn is in the picture. It’s easy for time with your spouse to take a backseat. Set aside time to talk and reconnect.
Give at least two compliments or expressions of gratitude every day. You look great today. Thanks for taking care of ______. I appreciate all your help with ________.
Expressing gratitude improves your physical health, reduces aggression, and increases your mental strength.
Be intentional about connecting with your spouse.
In the first few months of parenting, newborns own your schedule. But you can still connect with your spouse. When your baby is napping, it may be more important to sit and talk to each other than clean the kitchen.
Keep your marriage at the forefront of your relationship.
John Medina, a molecular biologist and author, was once asked, “How do I get my child into Harvard?” His answer, “Go home, love your spouse well and create a stable environment for your child.” One of the greatest gifts you can give your child is a healthy, stable (not perfect) home.
If you just had a baby and you can’t stop fighting, remember that parenting is tough, but it’s fantastic. These last eight years as a parent have been some of the best moments of my life. You and your spouse can have a strong, healthy marriage, even if you fight from time to time. Put your marriage first and provide the best possible home for your child you can.
https://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/BlogPic-01.png8542048Mitchell Quallshttps://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/ftf-logo-300x186.pngMitchell Qualls2021-06-03 16:01:352021-06-09 09:58:49Help! We Just Had a Baby and Now We Can’t Stop Fighting
Knowing these things can make a HUGE difference in your parenting.
Parenting toddlers* can test your courage as a parent, adult, and otherwise mannerly person. As the parent of 5 retired toddlers, a current toddler, and an aspiring toddler, I’ve been tested quite a bit, and I’ve struggled. But, as billions of parents and I have learned, toddlers somehow make it to preschool age, sometimes despite their parents, which is comforting to know. In order to make it past that toddler stage, current and future parents of toddlers might want to know a few things.
Here are seven things your toddler wishes you knew:
2. I like being with you, but one day I’ll wish you had given me unstructured playtime without you and the screens.
The AAP says that toddlers need unstructured time alone. Entertaining myself with blocks, dollhouses, and funny gadgets helps me grow and develop. Sometimes I need you to show me how and then step back. I’ll be better for it.
3. Emotionally and mentally, I’m a toddler.
I may talk a lot and say clever things, but I don’t know the language or possess wisdom like you do. When I yell “No!” 40 times, throw a tantrum, or act jealous when you hold another kid, remember, I’m a toddler. I may even spew out hurtful phrases like, “I hate you.” “I wish you weren’t my parent.” “You’re ugly.”
Hear me. I’m frustrated. I’m experiencing these crazy emotions. I have no idea how to get what I want. As a baby, all I had to do was cry. Now I have words, but I don’t know how to use the millions of words out there to express myself. So it’s “by any means necessary” until you teach me and hold me accountable. Even then, it may take some time.
It’s not OK for me to say hurtful things, but it’s a normal part of my development. Please help me to learn the right boundaries and show me some empathy. When you try to help me understand instead of getting equally frustrated, it teaches me how to express my emotions. You may not be able to stop the tantrums, but I need you to teach me through them.
4. I know I’m cute. I’ll use it to my advantage if you let me.
Please don’t let me use that to control the house. Boundaries are necessary for me. It isn’t cute when I hit someone, talk disrespectfully, and abuse my siblings or their things. I may not be able to speak well, but I can understand what you’re saying. Please don’t let me get in the habit of using my cuteness to be mean.
5. I know I just said I’m a toddler. I’m also a person, and I have something to give.
The quicker you give me things I can do to help the family, the less likely I’ll feel entitled. I can help you take spoons out of the dishwasher, pick up toys, and take clothes out of dryers. All this stuff has to be done, and I can do it. That way, you can do the stuff that only adults can do. Everybody wins. I don’t want you to do everything for me, only what you have to do. I can understand more than most adults think I can. Harvard researchers say that having responsibilities will help me be a more caring person.
6. Stability and consistency help me settle into this world.
I’m seeing so many new things, and I don’t know how to act sometimes. Predictability at home helps me not be anxious all the time. You may not realize it, but the routines of eating dinner together and talking about the good and bad in my life, reading a book to me at night, or just knowing you’ll hug me when I’m hurt helps build trust and security.
7. I don’t need a perfect parent. I need a present parent.
You’re gonna make some mistakes with me. Who wouldn’t? I’m a lot to handle. Just because I yell out a cuss word at church that I heard you say when you were upset doesn’t mean I’ll grow up and be unruly. Not everything I do is about you. And even if it were, who cares what everyone else thinks? I’m not worried about what other parents say about their kids on social media. That’s their life. They aren’t telling the whole story anyway.
I think the world of you. Even when I test the limits and yell something crazy, you’re the one I want to roll with, mistakes and all. Please don’t be scared — it’s harder to ruin my life than you think.
Bonus: I love you.
You don’t have to prove that you love me; I know you do. That’s why I keep looking back to see if you’re there when I’m testing my independence.
Your presence, consistency, and care mean more to me than your perfection, knowledge, and skill as a parent. If I say you’re mean, remember, I’m 3. What do I know? My world centers around me. I’m closer to being an infant than I am to having a fully developed mind. The tests we go through together will make us stronger. Just stick with me, and don’t stop showing me the right way. I’ll grow, develop, and mature in due time.
*The CDC considers toddlers to be ages 1-3. Ages 4 & 5 are considered preschoolers.
Note: This message is veteran-tested and toddler approved.
https://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/BlogPic-Toddler-01.png10422500Reggie Madisonhttps://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/ftf-logo-300x186.pngReggie Madison2021-06-03 09:40:072021-06-03 12:30:52Seven Things Your Toddler Wishes You Knew (Plus a Bonus)
When each of my sons was born, I was ecstatic to add another person to our family. I thought about things we would do together, like buying matching outfits and taking family photos or trips together. I clearly remember one trip in particular. The boys were 11, 6, and 3. As we were driving to Florida, I heard my 3-year-old mumbling to his 6-year-old brother, “Stop touching me.” The mumble went to a yell, “STOP TOUCHING ME!!!” I was at a loss for words, but I was able to quell that disagreement. However, it was the beginning of what I call the “Rumbling Years,” that time where it seemed like every interaction between the boys escalated into sibling arguments.
You may be experiencing the same thing with your kids. Perhaps they’re constantly arguing, hitting each other (or on the verge of it), or even ignoring their siblings. You may feel like you’re at your wits’ end. If so, you are not alone.
These tips can help you make it through your own “rumbling years.”
Remember that it’s normal for siblings to argue.
Let’s be honest. There’s no way to stop or prevent all sibling arguments. Arguments or disagreements are just a part of life. At home, within the family is the correct place for your children to learn how to handle conflict appropriately. Think of your home as the training ground for how your kids will handle conflict throughout their lives.
Help them learn how to handle conflict – it’s a necessary life skill.
Conflict is something that everyone deals with. You may or may not like dealing with conflict, but it’s a part of our lives. As your children grow up, handling conflict is a vital life skill. To handle conflict in a healthy way, your child will utilize the following skills:
NEGOTIATING. Suppose your kids are arguing over who is using the family computer. In that case, you come in and make a declaration about who uses it when. You have just prevented your children from learning how to negotiate a schedule devised by them. Think about it this way: If there were visiting grandparents and the same scenario arose, would you be there to solve the problem for them? No. Instead, teach them to solve the problem for themselves.
HOW TO AGREE TO DISAGREE WITHOUT BEING DISAGREEABLE. Some issues may not be fully resolved. The best solution may be to agree to disagree without being disagreeable. Yes, that sounds silly, but your child won’t get their way all the time. Help them learn that it’s ok to disagree with their sibling while still treating them with love, respect, and compassion.
Establish your rules of engagement.
There will be times when parents need to step in, especially if the disagreement has turned physical. There are times when the best thing to do is let your children work through the conflict on their own. Don’t overreact to their arguments. Remember when they fell as they learned to walk? If you reacted, they did, too. If you were calm, they were subdued. It’s the same with sibling disagreements. You can calmly say, “If you are going to argue, please do so in your own room.” (They may look at you strangely, especially if they are accustomed to your intervention.)
Acknowledge that their arguments make you uncomfortable.
I remember my mother asking me, as the oldest, “Why don’t you and your brother get along?” She went on to say, “My older brother took care of me. Why can’t you do that for your brother?” My mother was well-intentioned, but she was placing the interactions she had with her brother on me and my brother. Has that happened to you? My mother’s fear was that we (my brother and I) wouldn’t be close as adults based on our sibling arguments. Is that a concern of yours?
You are stressed and tired of acting like the referee. And it seems that your children are at each other’s throats all the time. Nevertheless, remain calm, knowing that this time in life teaches both you and your children lessons about patience and compromise. In the end, you all learn that conflict doesn’t have to ruin relationships going forward.
From the moment you announce your pregnancy, it seems like everyone offers you parenting advice. You’re inundated with opinions about everything from sleeping and the right kinds of diapers to preparing you for the terrible twos. (By the way, that actually lasts from 18 months until about 3. You’re welcome.)
Actually, I believe there’s no such thing as the terrible twos. I call this age a “magical time” when many developmental leaps take place. It’s a time of significant growth and development for you and your child.
The time between 2 and 4 is foundational as kids change physically, emotionally, and intellectually. They’re also learning and becoming their own person. It’s a time to look forward to and anticipate because the skill developments in this timeframe benefit you AND your child.
Here are a few things to remember as you deal with this “magical time.”
This is a necessary stage of growth and development.
I had a friend who shared that when their child was in this stage, they believed they did something to “break” their child. Gone was the calm, sweet infant they brought home. It seemed to happen overnight.
I could bore you with all the human growth and development theories, but I won’t. Suffice it to say, this stage of development is necessary and expected. Yes, they have tantrums and cry. But it’s usually because they don’t have the words to effectively communicate what they want or how they feel. Plus, they don’t have the skills to control their emotions. This is when the magic happens.
It’s critical to decide what’s truly important versus what you can let go of during this time. Part of the magic is setting appropriate boundaries. Everything doesn’t have to be a fight or power struggle. Remember, you are the authority, so no need to struggle.
For example, safety is paramount. Things like holding hands while walking in a parking lot are NON-NEGOTIABLE. Other things, you may choose not to fight. Mismatched socks or wearing a Christmas sweater in May shouldn’t ruffle your feathers.
Try to prevent bombarding yourself with thoughts about how something makes you look to others. This is about you and your child growing and learning together. You may need to create a saying to remind you that this phase is necessary for growth and becoming the person they were made to be.
This “magical time” lays the foundation for your future.
It may be hard to believe that your child will one day be a teenager or adult. You may be wondering, “Why are you talking about the future when I’m struggling in the present?” Believe it or not, your present struggle is preparing you for the future by developing your character, strength, and skills as a parent.
MAGICAL TIME teaches you skills like:
Staying calm in a crisis or the middle of the toy aisle when your child is pitching a fit
What works best for your particular child
How to guide rather than dictate or control (because can you really control anyone?)
MAGICAL TIME teaches your child skills like:
How to identify and regulate emotions
How to make decisions (age-appropriate)
Independence and autonomy
How to speak for themselves
As you’re learning and growing, your child may still cry, yell and throw tantrums.
YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
You aren’t the only parent who has gone through this.
More importantly, you aren’t the worst parent in the world. In reality, you are learning new skills. So, give yourself a break!
Through these words of encouragement, I’m not trying to blow smoke or try to make it seem like magical time is without challenges or some tears from both of you.
Yes, it can be challenging, frustrating, and feel never-ending. But no matter what, it will be worth it. You’ll learn about yourself and how to be the parent your child needs. You get to choose how to see this time. Will you see it as magical or terrible?
https://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/pexels-william-fortunato-6392803-scaled-e1615985855992.jpg235600Gena Ellishttps://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/ftf-logo-300x186.pngGena Ellis2021-03-17 08:58:342021-03-22 22:41:04How to Deal with the Terrible Twos
You can help them navigate the world of online relationships.
Take a deep breath. You may have just realized that your child might be a cyberbully. Ugh. And now you’ve got to a) Find out if it’s true, and b) If it is, try to address it so that it stops.
Whether you read a social media post, heard from another parent or teacher, or overheard a conversation, something has made you wonder if your child is cyberbullying. It doesn’t mean you’re a terrible parent if your child is being aggressive online. While it’s healthy to think through anything you may have done that could contribute, it’s essential to focus on helping your child, because cyberbullying harms young people. Addressing it and dealing with it can promote the safety and wellbeing of your child and those they come in contact with.
So, what even is cyberbullying? It’s using an electronic device to intimidate, threaten or humiliate another. This most often involves being aggressive online toward people from school or the neighborhood.
What are some warning signs that your child may be a cyberbully?
While there’s no substitute for ongoing conversations between you and your child, this list from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services may be helpful.
Dramatic changes in technology usage. Yes, some kids seem to be glued to their devices. Keeping an eye out to see if they are on their devices more than usual or suddenly seem to not care if they are on an electronic device could raise some red flags. They may be super interested in seeing how others respond to them or even feel some guilt and not want to know. Either way, this may be a sign of bullying behavior.
Are they jumpy, hiding devices, or changing screens when you enter the room? Savvy kids can try to hide behavior and screens from you. Learning how to look up search history and digital usage can unlock their electronic behavior.
Unwillingness to talk about what’s on their screens. Maybe they give one-word answers; they avoid the topic or ignore the question. Pay attention when they’re unwilling to answer questions about what’s on their screens. This could indicate involvement in harmful online behavior.
Let’s be honest. Most of these bullet points probably sound like normal teenage behavior on a regular basis. It’s difficult to accuse your child of cyberbullying when you’re not 100% sure.
However, these tips can help you address the issue whether you just suspect it or want to prevent it from happening.
Dig deeper to get a feel for what’s going on in your child’s heart and mind. Look at pictures, posts on social media, text messages, etc. Try to find out what’s happening behind the scenes in their life. Many times, the digital trail will give you quite a bit of insight and greater understanding.
Think through what it takes for you to be open, honest, and vulnerable with someone. Then think through what it takes for your child to be open, honest, and vulnerable with you. Be that person when you talk with them. This will increase your chances of working together to overcome the situation and form an open, honest relationship of accountability for the future.
Don’t be surprised if your child gets defensive. Children can be persuasive when it comes to avoiding “trouble.” They’ll say things like, “I can’t believe you’d think I would do that!” Focus on ensuring that bullying behavior isn’t acceptable by anyone in your home, but also look for the “why” behind the behavior. Your relationship with them is about so much more than punishing them. Your goal is to guide them where you’d like to them be and lead them to make healthy choices.
Ask your child if they’ve ever done something that might be considered cyberbullying. Or if someone has cyberbullied them in the past. Help them think it through. You may talk about how easy it is to take things (especially in a text) the wrong way. Sent a message that made someone feel uncomfortable? Made fun of someone and hurt their feelings?
Help your child think from the other person’s perspective. Putting ourselves in someone else’s shoes to understand what they may be feeling can build empathy.
Talk about your family expectations regarding online conduct and how to treat people at all times. Set the standard. Your children must know precisely where you stand regarding any kind of bullying by them or toward them. Discuss and enforce consequences for engaging in any type of bullying behavior.
Many forms of cyberbullying violate schools’ zero-tolerance policy and may be addressed by a school counselor. If you find yourself in this position, it’s important to encourage your child to do as they’re asked at school and use the situation as an opportunity for growth instead of a form of punishment or unfairness. Let them know you’re on their team and you’re there to work through it with them.
Oh, and one more thing.
Many bullies target others because of something they have experienced themselves, and they may have never told anyone else about it. Professional counseling may help your child work through issues that trigger the cyberbullying behavior. Your child needs to know you are there for them, and that you will do what it takes to support their growth as they navigate the world of online relationships. They won’t get it right every time, but they can move forward with your help.
https://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/daria-nepriakhina-_XR5rkprHQU-unsplash-scaled-e1615477364330.jpg288900Reggie Madisonhttps://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/ftf-logo-300x186.pngReggie Madison2021-03-11 10:42:552021-03-11 12:29:00I Think My Child Is Cyberbullying… What Do I Do?
Cyberbullying has been on the rise for a while, but it has escalated during the pandemic. And it’s no wonder, due to virtual school, increased technology, and the flexibility parents have been giving to digital boundaries.
Our kids are highly active online. They’re digital natives. This is the world they are growing up in. Safety is always a concern, just like it was for us. I want my kids to be safe when they are online, so I want them to be aware of cyberbullying.
Cyberbullying is using an electronic device to intimidate, threaten or humiliate another. It’s bullying in a digital world, and it can be done 24/7.
According to a recent Pew Research survey, 59% of U.S. teens have experienced some form of online harassment. Teens reported six common types of abusive behavior:
Spreading of false rumors
Receiving explicit images they didn’t ask for
Frequently being asked where they are, what they’re doing, or who they’re with by others
Having explicit photos of them shared without their consent
As parents, we need to proactively watch for signs of cyberbullying. Ninety percent of teens surveyed believe cyberbullying is a problem that affects people their age. A majority of them felt their parents were doing a good job addressing online harassment. Let’s keep it up.
Signs of cyberbullying
Here are some signs that your child is a victim of cyberbullying. They:
Suddenly stop using their computer, tablet, or phone, even though they’ve always enjoyed it.
Seem nervous when receiving a text or notification.
Shut down their devices when family members approach them.
Allude to bullying without directly saying they are being bullied. Maybe your child talks about drama at school or their lack of friends.
Withdraw from technology, friends, or family.
If you see these signs, don’t just assume they act this way because they are teens. While that may be the case, something deeper may be happening.
Steps you can take to help your child
The first step is to talk to your child. As parents, we know our kids best. When you see a change in their attitude or demeanor, ask some questions. If you sense they’re being bullied but won’t open up about it, share a story from your childhood about when you were bullied. Your child’s safety is your top priority. You want to make sure they feel safe and know they can talk to you about anything. You both want the same result: to stop cyberbullying.
If you don’t already have ground rules in place for technology usage, now’s the time to start. You should be able to see where and who your child has been interacting with online.
Collect evidence. Print out or take screenshots of cyberbullying instances.
Work with the school. Talk to the administrator about their bullying policy.
Do not contact the bully’s parents. While this is often our first thought, we don’t want to escalate the situation. We, as parents, usually take our child’s side and don’t like to listen to accusations about their behavior.
Contact the content provider. Websites, apps, gaming networks, etc., all have terms of service that cyberbullying violates. It’s in all those disclaimers that we often just click “I have read and agree” without reading. (Guilty!) Even if your child can’t identify their bully, the provider can do something about it.
If necessary, seek counseling. Remember your child’s well-being is the top priority. Bullying can have long-lasting effects. Speaking to a counselor may help them.
If there are physical threats, contact the police. It may be an empty threat, but do not wait to find out.
Cyberbullying can be a severe threat to your child’s well-being. They deserve the opportunity to learn and develop without fear. The best step you can take is to be proactive. Be engaged in their digital lives and build an environment of trust and transparency.
https://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/pexels-rodnae-productions-6936070-e1614858302454.jpg344900Mitchell Quallshttps://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/ftf-logo-300x186.pngMitchell Qualls2021-03-04 06:45:132021-03-09 08:58:00What to Do if Your Child is Being Cyberbullied
As a parent, you’re constantly looking for things that can harm your child. Remember the “baby-proofing” you did? If you’re anything like me, you actually got on the floor to scope out things that could potentially harm your little one. Well, as they grow, so does your intuition. Maybe you’ve got a “gut feeling” that something is going on, which can be more challenging to handle. You start to see new behaviors or don’t see actions you’re used to seeing. You may wonder, “Is my child depressed?”
Facts on Childhood Depression
It’s common for kids to feel all kinds of emotions due to family situations. For example, a loved one’s death or moving away from friends and family may cause sadness and grief. But because there’s a range of severity in depression, it’s essential to know the difference between simply being sad and being clinically depressed.
According to the CDC, 3.2% of children ages 3-17 have been diagnosed with depression. Your child’s pediatrician can be an excellent resource for you.
How You Can Help
First, strengthen your relationship with your child by communicating. Instead of doing most of the talking, ask questions and listen to what’s happening in their lives. Be curious about their friends, school, and social media. If your child has been through any significant changes, give them space to process. Still, continue to monitor what they watch on television or streaming services and what they search for online. Pay attention to their sleeping and eating habits. (Read How to Prevent Depression From Affecting Your Child.)
Signs to Look For (from CDC website)
Depressed children show several behaviors that are pretty consistent and persistent over time. According to the CDC, the actions include:
Feeling sad, hopeless, or irritable a lot of the time
Not wanting to do or enjoy doing fun things
Showing changes in eating patterns – eating a lot more or a lot less than usual
Showing changes in sleep patterns – sleeping a lot more or a lot less than normal
Having a hard time paying attention
Showing changes in energy – being tired and sluggish or tense and restless a lot of the time
Feeling worthless, useless, or guilty
Showing self-injury and self-destructive behavior
(Please note: This list is ONLY for your awareness, Some of these symptoms may be part of normal development. Think growth spurt, hormones, etc.) This list is not for you to diagnose to confirm or deny what your “gut” feeling told you.
How to Get Help
Perhaps you’ve monitored your child and kept an eye on their screen activity/social media. And now, you recognize that they have shown behaviors from that CDC list over time. What do you do?
First, call your child’s primary care provider. Your child’s doctor can help rule out any physical causes like low Vitamin D, anemia, or something else. Your pediatrician may do a behavioral screening.
If nothing physical is going on, seeking out a mental health professional who specializes in children might be your next step. Your pediatrician can recommend what to do and where to go from there.
Parenting is the most challenging job on the planet. You feel totally responsible for another person. You feel the need to protect your child from anything that can hurt or harm them. But when you can’t do that, you may feel guilty, like it’s your fault that this thing happened or that you’re a terrible parent.
I’ve been there, too. But here’s the deal: we can’t control or prevent anything from happening in our child’s life, no matter how hard we try. If there’s a problem, the best thing we can do is get them the help they need.
As you begin this journey, your child needs you to be their touchstone. Surrounding yourself with loving, supportive friends and family can build up your strength, but if it comes down to it, seek your own professional help. Continue to care for your own body by making sure you’re exercising, getting enough sleep, and eating right. You have what it takes to support your child.