My Kid Looks Depressed. What Do I Do?

Being a parent is hard, even when things are running smoothly. Worry is the constant companion of a parent. Is everything okay? Am I missing anything? Parents monitor development, mood, and skill. We guide and advise. But sometimes we come upon a problem we just don’t feel equipped for. Sometimes we lack the background and experience. 

Depression is most parents’ nightmare. Your child is suffering internally, and you can’t measure the problem. You don’t know what advice or support will help.

If you think your child is depressed, take the following steps:

1.    Sit down with your child and listen. Ask how she is feeling, and what she needs from you. Ask if there has been some kind of trigger, or if she needs you to intervene. Don’t talk much; just spend a long time asking and understanding so you’re in a better position to help.
2.    Ask someone who knows. Maybe you have a close friend or family member who has struggled with depression, or parented a child, teen, or young adult during a mental health problem. Even if you don’t have a close person with experience in mental health, there are key members of the community already available. School counselors, primary physicians, and referral services can assist. Your employer may offer referrals for family members, your faith community, or even your health insurance company. Reach out to someone with experience and ask: Can you recommend a professional person to help us? How do I know if this is a crisis? What should I do now?
3.    Find your child a counseling professional who is an expert in his age group or diagnosis. Counseling is usually the best place to start in mental health. It’s important to look for someone who has experience with the problems your family is having. Search for a play therapist for young kids, a teen specialist, or someone with expertise in college kids. Or, search for a professional who treats panic attacks, binge eating, or the specific types of symptoms your child is experiencing. 
4.    Be part of the team. Parents see more and know more than most mental health experts when it comes to your child. Be part of the treatment solution. Give information. Ask for advice. Learn how to be supportive in the best possible ways. 
5.    Seek counseling for yourself. Having a child with a mental health crisis can create distress and turmoil. Your child’s distress can unearth family problems you hadn’t realized were unhealthy. If a kid you love is struggling, you need some support and advice yourself. Don’t be afraid to ask for that as well. 

Posted on May 16, 2016 .