Have you ever had the experience of your responsibilities and abilities being entirely mismatched, and not in a good way? If you can answer “no” to this question, is your name James Bond?
A large part of parenting seems to involve confronting problems with no obvious solutions, or even an entry in the Parenting Manual’s index. Seeing that your child may be suffering from depression can certainly make you wonder what to do next.
Encourage Shared Activities
It’s obvious when you think about it, but scheduling a time in your day planner marked “serious talk about depression”, forcing your child to sit down across from you and interrogating them about their feelings is not the way to understand them, never mind gain their trust.
Instead, giving them the opportunity to express themselves alongside you will show them that you’re available without being intrusive. Sharing creative activities not only encourages conversation, but also demonstrates to them that they are in control of at least some aspects of their lives and capable of making something beautiful.
Make Sure They Have Access to Other Resources
You may want your child to be totally open and trusting when it comes to discussing their feelings and experiences with you. Especially with older children, though, you might as well wish for a million dollars and the ability to fly.
It’s natural for children to want their own mental and social space, so trying to deny them this right will almost certainly backfire. If, however, they know that an anonymous therapist or therapy is available when they need it with no questions asked, you will at least have the peace of mind of knowing that they won’t be facing whatever is bothering them without guidance.
Cook Healthy Meals
It’s been pretty well established that there exists a clear link between poor nutrition and mental illness. While children may believe that a good diet can consist of chicken nuggets and candy bars, neglecting vegetables for long enough is likely to bring down anyone’s mood.
The thought of cooking every night can be a little intimidating, especially if you’re a single working parent. Still, there are plenty of resources, including Youtube videos, to help teach you how to prepare a variety of inexpensive, tasty and nutritious dishes.
This is good advice in any case, but particularly when your child or teen finds themselves under mental strain. Newton’s third law of parenting is: if you get pushy, you’ll generate resistance.
There’s a fine line between asking supportive questions like “You look tired, have you been sleeping okay?” and delving into matters they will regard as private. If you make a habit of really listening to what they say without being judgmental, including supplying unasked-for advice, they will certainly open up themselves when they’re ready.
Empathy and closeness aren’t things that can be forced. Developing these attributes takes time, patience and effort, but is an essential part of being a good parent. Try to put yourself in their shoes, emphasize the positive and provide them with opportunities to be active. Younger people can be surprisingly resilient, especially when given the support they need from their family.