If you suspect that your child might be experiencing depression or suicidal thinking, it’s critical to secure an open line of communication with them. They need to feel comfortable sharing their deepest and darkest feelings with you without worrying that you’ll panic or go into a rant, criticizing the way they run their lives. Many children, especially teens, are reluctant to share their inner lives with their parents, so it can be especially difficult to get them to open up when they’re dealing with depression. Knowing they’re safe from your disappointment is necessary in order for them to open up to you. This sense of safety can lead the way for you to connect them with a professional counselor. If they seriously mention suicidal intentions, take them for professional help right away. Suicidal threats are not something to take lightly.
Getting your child to tell you what’s bothering them is a terrific first step toward finding a solution.
Many children blame their problems on their parents. If they claim you are making them miserable, don’t fall into the trap of defending yourself. If you do, they will immediately shut down and feel certain that it is pointless talking to you. Listen to what they have to say and consider their point of view regarding changing about the way you treat them.
If they blame you, don’t think you are a bad parent. In many families, children are unhappy with their parents and it is not because the parents are abusive or neglectful. Usually, it is because the parents are trying too hard to be good parents. They may be overprotective, trying to shelter their children from pain or giving them everything they want so they won’t feel deprived. Parents often don’t realize that by doing too much for their children, they prevent them from developing the resilience and skills they will need to deal with the hardships of life. Even if you have been a perfect parent (if such a thing is possible) you still cannot control the way your children feel, and you cannot guarantee they won’t develop social or emotional problems. Problems happen in the best of families, so don’t blame yourself.
And of course, don’t blame your child. No one has problems on purpose.
It’s likely, though, that if your child is clinically depressed or suicidal, the problem is more serious than a parent, book or video can be expected to solve. Even when the children of psychologists and psychiatrists have problems, they usually need to go to an outside expert to help them. Parents are often the last people children are willing to listen to for advice on how to solve their problems.
You should be confident that professionals can help your child overcome depression or suicidal thinking. Cognitive Behavior Therapy, the leading approach to treating such problems, works on transforming one’s negative thoughts, words, and actions as the best way to improve feelings. If you are able to help your child determine the faulty thinking that is leading to their misery and to correct it, wonderful. If not, rely on a professional. Also, professionals may recommend medications that can be helpful.
Some children are ashamed to go for professional psychological help. They think it means they’re crazy. If this is the case with your child, assure them that needing help is nothing to be ashamed of. If you have ever gone to a psychological professional, let your child know. You can also inform them that many of their favorite celebrities have gone for help. Assure them that the treatment will be confidential and they are even likely to enjoy the sessions.
If you are the one who’s ashamed of needing professional help for your child, STOP. It is not a sign of bad parenting. No one will think badly of you if you for getting them help. The consequences of not going for help can be much worse.
There are other practical ways you can help your child feel better, though they are long term interventions. Healthy eating habits, physical exercise and involvement in social activities, especially volunteering, have been proven to be related to emotional well-being.
Remember, if your child is experiencing serious depression or suicidal thoughts, don’t delay. Get them help right away.