Being a parent is the hardest job on the planet. But being a parent of a child with a mental illness can feel unbearable at times.
All parents want to do what’s right for their kids, but when your child is sick, either physically or mentally, the desire to “get it right” becomes even more intense.
If you are the parent of a child with depression, know there is not one “right way” to parent them. Having said that, here are some ways you can support and show you love your child on their way back toward the light.
Accept Your New Reality
For many parents, accepting that your child has a mental illness is extremely difficult. It is natural to want to deny the truth and pretend that everything is the way it was before the diagnosis. But invalidating reality will only make your child feel shame. Accepting the truth will help your family take the necessary steps to getting the right help. Having a mental illness is no different than dealing with any other illness. Whether your child is dealing with diabetes or depression, feeling shame will only make coping with it more challenging. And in the long run, make developing coping strategies more elusive.
Your child needs you now more than ever. They need to feel that they can talk to you when their world feels dark. Sit your child down and tell them they can come to you at any time for any reason. Let them know you could never be angry at them for how they feel. When they are ready to talk, listen closely and with an open mind and heart.
Help Their Body
It’s a fact that an unhealthy body effects the mind, especially with a mental illness in play. Help your child’s recovery by encouraging healthy eating habits. Limit sugar, bad fats, and caffeine intake. Make sure they get plenty of exercise. Invite them to go for a hike or bike ride with you. And finally, help them get enough sleep each night by setting firm bed times.
Talk to Them About Suicide
It’s a conversation no parent ever imagines they’ll have to have. But for the parent of a depressed child, the risk of suicide is a sad reality. Start the conversation with your child. Ask if they’ve ever thought about suicide. Asking these questions in an objective way allows your child to speak candidly with you and share their true thoughts and feelings with you.
And understand that there is no danger of a person planting a thought of suicide in someone else’s mind if it’s not already there.
Though you can be a big support in your child’s life, you’ll need the help and guidance of a trained mental health therapist. Talk to your pediatrician for a referral. You can also get a referral from local support groups and friends and family.
If you or a loved one has a child suffering with depression, you are not alone. Please contact me to discuss treatment options.