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How to Help a Child with Depression

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Abby’s mom had no idea why her daughter was struggling so much; it was as if someone had taken Abby over. Her personality was different. She didn’t smile as much and always wanted to be alone. It was like she didn’t want to be part of the family anymore. She didn’t do much with her friends and wasn’t even excited about dance which she used to love.

Abby’s mood was so grumpy. When her mom asked her to do something, Abby snapped. She had a big overreaction to making mistakes. Abby was negative about things and people around her, but she was mostly negative about herself. Abby was suffering from childhood depression, and her mom didn’t know what to do.

Some stats say that 10-15% of children and teens have experienced depression. I have had depressed children as clients, and one of the hardest things for parents to understand is how to help and not make it worse. Most parents want their child to just snap out of it and get better, but recovery from depression can often take time.

Here are a few ways to help your son or daughter with childhood depression.

Don’t go it alone.

It is important to have people walk alongside you. Your child might need professionals to assess the situation and come up with a plan to help. Some kids and families need a therapist to help guide them through the roller coaster of recovery. An uninvolved third party can help you see things that you aren’t able to see because you’re too close to the situation. Getting help and support from others is key to helping your whole family through this hard time.

Teach them coping skills.

Being a kid can be overwhelming and stressful these days. The pressures our kids are dealing with are more than I experienced when I was their age. This is why you need to teach your kids how to deal with stress. Here are some healthy coping skills to teach them: talking through their feelings, journaling, writing or playing music, being active, finding something that helps them feel like they have purpose, shifting negative self-talk, and taking care of their bodies through healthy eating, exercise, and sleep. (Here are 6 steps for helping your child deal with emotions.)

Be there.

Someone who is depressed tends to isolate and push others away. So it is important for you to not take it personally if he/she does. Remember that they need to know that you are with them in the struggle. Keep pursuing your child without being overbearing. Try to find a healthy balance of giving space and making sure they know you are always there.

Love them through it.

When someone is depressed, they often have trouble loving themselves so it is important to communicate your love regularly to remind them that they are lovable. Your child needs to know that you love her unconditionally—even through her down time. Be consistent and creative in showing your child that you love her and don’t stop even if it doesn’t seem to make a difference. Start with these 10 compliments your kids need to hear. The goal is not for your love to magically lift the depression. It is for your child to know that your love won’t give up on her—no matter what state she is in.

Parenting a child through depression can be a huge challenge. So make sure you take care of yourself through the stress and have a support system too. If your husband is depressed, here’s what you can do to help.

So tell me what has someone done to help you when you have been in a low place?

Teri Claassen is a Jesus follower, wife to Dan, mommy to one boy and one girl, a foster mom to kids in need, and a therapist at Renewed Horizon Counseling in Tampa, FL.


How can I help when you feel sad?

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