You both play a key role in assisting your child when he/she is in depression. Your child needs you to be able to listen, to be present, and to help make everyday life easier. Knowing your child as you do, there is a great deal you can contribute to gaining an understanding of the things that put him/her under pressure, and thus also what may relieve those pressures and provide positive experiences.
Your child needs to be aware – and reassured – that, despite his/her own low self-esteem and self-reproach, he/ she is loved and valued. You can keep your child’s hopes up, and, for instance remind him/her that depression is a disorder that will pass, or remind him/her of the progress that has been made.
In talking with your child, it is important that you do not try to contradict or correct his/her perceptions or experiences, but that you listen with empathy and, when relevant, present your alternative and more positive views.
It is also important to ask about and listen to your child’s thoughts of suicide, if any. Here, you should express empathy for his/her pain and at the same time assure him/her of your help and protection. As parents of a child in depression, you also have an important task in helping your child – as far as at all possible – to maintain a normal circadian rhythm and normal eating patterns, and to motivate him/her to participate in activities and to get exercise and fresh air.
Generally speaking, as a family, you need to try to limit the amount of criticism, angry outbursts and conflict, as children and young people in depression are particularly negatively affected by this. When giving your child an instruction and when correcting him/her, make sure you speak in a neutral or cheerful tone of voice.
As parents of a child or young person in depression, it is easy to become over-involved to the point that you have difficulty allowing the child to be himself/ herself. It is important to strike a balance between respecting your child’s boundaries and offering help and support.
Children and young people in depression often have difficulty maintaining contact with their friends and networks. Here you can be a great help. For example, you could help your child by organising short visits or, with your child’s agreement, keeping his/ her network informed and encouraging the network to continue sending messages to your child – even if, for a while, he/she is not able to reply personally or receive visits.