Having a child with depression, however old they are, is difficult. We know how hard it can be to try and find the right words to say. It can be really daunting to try and talk about anything depression-related because we worry about saying the wrong thing and making things worse. We don’t want to alienate our child or make them feel like they can’t talk to us. Often we avoid the topic of depression altogether because it’s just too hard.
With the help of a few lovely people on twitter, we’ve pulled together a few thoughts on talking to your child about their depression – it doesn’t have to be a topic you avoid altogether, and it can help both of you to talk it over.
First and foremost, the person you’re talking to is still your child. They’re still the same person you’ve known all their life; they’ve just got an illness which is doing its best to make things as tricky as possible right now.
Try not to avoid talking about it. If it comes up naturally in conversation, roll with it. Depression can be scary, but talking about it doesn’t need to be.
— Lucie K (@Luciek11K) August 25, 2016
You are your child’s parent not their psychologist or GP. You don’t need to use any technical terms or try and analyse them. If your child wants or needs it, it might be appropriate to speak to their team, and to help your child with any ‘homework’ they’re set, but on a day-to-day basis, you can just talk to your child as you’ve always done. Talk to them about their day, their friends, the good bits of life, the not-so-good bits of life. It doesn’t need to be a difficult conversation, just chat to them.
It’s possible that your child won’t want to talk to you about their depression (or talk to you at all if they happen to be a teenager… but that’s perfectly normal!). They may refuse to talk to you about it many, many times before you have a conversation. Try and be as patient as possible. Let them know that you’re there and you care. Don’t feel like you have to push it or try and make every conversation about their mental health. Just let them know that you’re there when they’re ready.
Tough love isn’t always the best policy. Your child may well be acting out, or acting in ways you don’t expect, but depression can do that to a person. We all feel snappy, anxious, quiet, sullen, and unsociable, at times and depression can amplify that, it can also mess with eating or sleeping patterns.
@Naomi_Barrow tough love doesn’t work!
— Ellie (@EllieLomas_) August 25, 2016
Let your child know that whatever they’re feeling is valid. You might not understand it, you might not be able to relate to it, and that’s okay. Let them know that being an adult doesn’t mean that you understand their feelings better than they do. Whatever they’re feeling is okay and they don’t need to hide it.
@Naomi_Barrow I wish he’d said, “I don’t understand, but I believe you. Being an adult doesn’t mean I know your feelings better than you.”
— Jessica Jo Horowitz (@TransientJ) August 25, 2016
@Naomi_Barrow I wish my parents had told me it was okay to feel whatever I was feeling and not to hide it because it didn’t feel normal.
— Charlotte Lewis (@charincharge) August 25, 2016
Remind your child that they’re not broken, and that they won’t always feel this way. There are numerous treatment options when it comes to depression, and often time and environmental changes can help, too. Remind them that there is hope and that you’re there for them and let them come to you when they need to – they don’t have to face it alone and it won’t always be like this.
@Naomi_Barrow “You aren’t broken – remember that. Never feel bad about asking for help, you don’t have to deal with this alone.”
— Blake Flournoy (@BlakeLocked) August 25, 2016
Sometimes you don’t even need to talk. Sometimes you could write them a letter, share a song that helps you when you feel low, or encourage them to get their paints back out. Sometimes a hug can speak thousands of words.
If you feel out of your depth – there are lots of online pages and resources around depression. We have a resources page, but there are also other charities with information about depression such as Mind, or YoungMinds, and the NHS website has some information on symptoms, causes, and treatment options, too.
Most importantly, please remember that you’re not alone in this. There are a number of organisations who can help, and YoungMinds have a parents helpline. It’s also perfectly okay to book a GP appointment if you’re struggling to cope. Please remember that you matter too.