Watching a child deal with depression can be distressing for parents. The good news is adults don’t need to feel powerless. If you are a parent who is concerned about your child or one of their friends, here are some tips about how to support them. This guide on common sayings to avoid, and what to say instead, can help as well.
Show your love
Children need love, empathy, and respect. Let them know you care and that their feelings are important. Just be present, sit with them and reassure them that you understand how they feel.
Stick to a routine
Schedules and routines create a sense of structure and security and can help make tasks feel more approachable. Help create routines for your child to—even though they may not feel like doing activities.
Focus on positive communication
Track your ratio of negative to positive comments to your child. Your goal should be 1 negative to 5 positives.
Develop a positive environment
Create a positive atmosphere to help your child relax. Make a list of fun things to do together and follow through with them.
Take care of yourself
Find a support group, take an exercise class or hire a babysitter so you can get out. You also have to take care of yourself when taking care of your child.
Find treatment for your child
Your child may benefit from therapy/counseling and/or medication. Talk with their doctor to decide what will work best for your family.
If your child expresses thoughts about wanting to kill or hurt themselves or is making concerning statements, call 9-1-1 or bring your child to the nearest emergency department right away. These feelings/thoughts are an emergency. Never assume it is a joke or an exaggeration.
Assure your child
Let your child know you are going to do what it takes to help them to feel better and that therapy, activity and medications can help them. Remember that depression is treatable and that it can get better.
If your child expresses thoughts of wanting to harm themselves or others, call 9-1-1 or visit the nearest emergency department.
988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline:
Text any message to 9-8-8
Chat online at 988lifeline.org/chat
Crisis Text Line:
Text “HOME” to 741741
Find a mental health provider
Check your insurance website or the back of your insurance card.
Explore Psychology Today’s “Find a Therapist” tool.
Call CalOptima Behavioral Health (Orange County, CA).