How To Talk To Your Kids About Depression
Carly Snyder, MD is a reproductive and perinatal psychiatrist who combines traditional psychiatry with integrative medicine-based treatments.
How do you talk to your kids about depression? That will depend on a few different factors. First, you need to know the reason for the discussion. Are you looking to share information in general, tell them about your own struggle with depression, or talk to them about whether they have depression? This will guide what you do.
Second, what age is your child? Whether your child is of preschool age, elementary school, or high school, will largely determine the discussion that you have. Younger children require less detailed information whereas older teens can handle much more.
Whatever your situation, know that being open about mental health issues is always preferable to keeping them secret or not talking about them. Mental illness has long been maligned as something that nobody talks about. The more open you can be with your children, the more comfortable they will feel coming to you to talk about their problems in the future.
Your Inner Voice Is Incredibly Critical
Another sign that your parents didnt care for you in the ways kids are supposed to be cared for is that your self-esteem always seems to be very low. Emotional and verbal abuseas a child can look a lot of ways think, those times when peoples parents compare them to superior older siblings, tell them theyll never amount to anything, or hold them to impossibly high standards. If a child grows up in a highly critical family where anything less than perfection isnt tolerated, they may develop a harsh internal critic that tells them that they are a failure if they make any mistake, even small ones, Henin tells Bustle.
All of this can make it hard to find your self-worth as an adult. According to a 2020 study published in the International Journal of Social Psychiatry, children whose parents berated them are more prone to be hypercritical of themselves and have very low self-esteem. Theyre also more likely to feel stressed out all the time, which can translate into being extra hard on yourself for always messing up.
You Apologize All The Time
If your friends are always begging you to stop apologizing because no, the bad weather on your beach day is not in fact your fault that might be a sign of growing up with toxic parents. Children of toxic parents may be especially vigilant to others needs and emotions to maintain their emotional safety, Henin tells Bustle. It can help to check in with yourself about whether youre apologizing because you actually screwed up, or because something went wrong that you cant control and you want to make sure no one is mad at you for it.
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How To Address Your Parents Questions
More than likely your parents are going to have a lot of questions about the idea of their child being depressed. They might fear the worst and jump to the conclusion that youre suicidal. They might be upset because they feel responsible or at fault for you feeling this way. These feelings could come out in a number of ways from tears to frustration to fix-it mode. Its important for you not to let this part surprise you. Your parents are humans too! Remain as calm as you can and answer the questions, youre comfortable with as factually as possible. They may want to know what your symptoms are, how long youve been experiencing them, whether something traumatic may have happened, and why you think its depression. If you arent comfortable answering questions, you can say something like this:
- Im a little tired and overwhelmed to answer all these questions. Can we just make an appointment with my doctor and talk about it then?
- I get why you have questions, and so do I. I really need your support right now, and the questions are making me feel like Im in trouble. Can you just give me a hug and tell me everythings going to be okay?
- I know youre worried, but I just told you I think Im depressed. I dont know any more than you do. Can we do some research together and figure this out?
How To Convince Your Parents To Let You See A Psychologist
This article was co-authored by Mirjam Quinn, PhD. Dr. Mirjam Quinn is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist and the Founder of Mirjam Quinn and Associates based in Illinois. With over 13 years of experience, she specializes in using cognitive-behavioral, mindfulness-based, and attachment theory grounded therapy techniques to provide psychological care for the whole person. Dr. Quinn also has a special focus on working with people from diverse and multicultural backgrounds and adoptive and blended families. She earned her PhD in Psychology from Purdue University and completed her internship at Butler University. Dr. Quinn is a member of the American Psychological Association and the APA Division for Peace Psychology and the Society for Child and Family Policy and Practice.There are 15 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page.wikiHow marks an article as reader-approved once it receives enough positive feedback. In this case, several readers have written to tell us that this article was helpful to them, earning it our reader-approved status. This article has been viewed 58,245 times.
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Will You Take Therapy Seriously
Parents may ask if you plan to take therapy seriously and will want to hear that you are committed to the goals of therapy and aren’t just hoping for a quick fix. If you are going to invest your time and money into therapy, be sure of your commitment, she says.
Behr says to have some reasons why you think therapy will be good for you and show evidence of your understanding of the investment and commitment required.
You’ve Often Felt Responsible For Your Parents’ Behavior
One feature that seems to bring the adult children of toxic parents together is that their family dynamic is so entrenched that they don’t think of it as abnormal it’s just the way things are. Benin says that in some households, the parent may consistently put their own needs ahead of the child or react to the child in an unpredictable or inconsistent manner. That can leave you feeling like you need to control your behavior as much as possible to try and regulate their reactions which leaves you thinking youre responsible for a lot of things that are actually out of your control. You believe that every circumstance or interpersonal relationship challenge is your fault, Ezelle explains.
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New Research Is Revealing How To Protect Teens’ Mental Health During A Challenging Part Of Life
Parents are understandably worried about their teens. Last years spate of teen suicides in Palo Alto, coupled with high rates of teen depression, make parents wonder what they could be doing to better help their kids navigate the sometimes-treacherous waters of their adolescent years.
Fortunately, scientists who study teen depression have some preliminary advice. By looking at new findings in neuroscience, as well as other psychological research and longitudinal data, scientists are zeroing in on a better understanding of what impacts teen depression and how to prevent it. Here are some of the suggestions coming out of the science.
What Options Are Available To Me
The obstacles weve been talking about apply to getting professional help. But thats not the only type of help you can get!
- You can start by learning more about mental health. There are lots of ways to do this. You can look for information onlinethis website is a great place to start! Just make sure the websites youre looking at are reliable sources. There are also anonymous sources offlineyou can read about mental health in a library, or and ask questions.
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How To Talk With Kids About Depression
How you talk with your child about depression depends a lot on how old they are.
Considering how common it is, older kids and teens have probably heard about depression before and may even know someone whos been diagnosed with it. They may have done their own research into depression symptoms or wondered whether they, themselves, have it.
Still, they could have gotten the wrong information about depression, depending on who their source was.
For younger kids, the subject of depression may be new. Its possible that theyve never heard the term before, or they might have misunderstood what it really means. Or they might have been affected by depression without having a name for it for example, you or another adult in their life may live with depression.
Depression Can Make The Work Of Parenting Feel Impossible But Theres Consensus From Both Mental Health Experts And Parents Who Have Raised Their Children Amid Feelings Of Hopelessness And Despair: Help Is Out There And The Sooner You Access It The Better Life Will Be For You And Your Family
When Maddie was single and in her early 20s, she began experiencing intense fatigue and lack of motivation, “a quiet undercurrent of sadness that was never so debilitating that I couldn’t get out of bed but that would flare up for months at a time.” Negative thoughts with themes of insecurity and fear of abandonment played on a loop in her mind. Upon seeing an Instagram pic of friends enjoying a night out, for instance, she’d hear a voice in her head, taunting, “Of course they didn’t invite you you’re boring and annoying.”
When the Seattle-based teacher was 29 and her elder daughter was 2 years old, the thoughts returned. Except now, they accused her of being a horrible mother. “I’d be bathing my daughter and worrying about when she’d stop loving me, or lying in bed next to my husband, thinking, ‘When will he figure out what a fraud I am and leave?’ The kids were at a hard age, motherhood still felt new, and I was overwhelmed with working and parenting, feeling like I was doing everything poorly,” Maddie says. “I’d get them to bed and sit on the stairs and cry, thinking, ‘They deserve better than me,’ but I had nothing left to give.”
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How Culture May Impact Disclosure
Culture has also been shown to impact the experience of disclosure of depression to loved ones. According to a 2018 research study of older Latinx folx who had been diagnosed with depression, it was found that individual emotional and support needs, personal characteristics of a trusted support person, and quality of that relationship tend to impact the decision of participants to disclose.
For instance, “desahogo” was described as a release of emotions, for which, loved ones are needed for venting towards navigating their depression better.In this way, culture allowed some people to process their decisions to disclose and access support based on their understandings of how to cope. In stark contrast, shame or fears of being seen as weak sometimes posed a greater barrier based on the Latinx culture of these research participants.
As examples from that research study of older Latinx adults with depression demonstrate, your culture can aid or hinder disclosure of your diagnosis with loved ones.
Many other factors in your life may serve as reasons for your choice to share with your parents that you are dealing with depression, like their ability to provide emotional support.
Does The Doctor Know How Youre Feeling
Depression is a very real illness. This means its often treatable and manageable. Encourage your mom or dad to talk with their doctor if theyre feeling depressed, because there are options for resolving the issue. Be honest with your parent: Tell them that youre concerned about their well-being and that you think a health care professionals opinion might be helpful.
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Consider The Implications Of Negative Consequences
Children with depression need negative consequences for breaking the rules, but you should choose those consequences carefully. Taking away your childs ability to socialize with friends, for example, could make his depression worse.
Short-term consequences, like time-out, can be very effective for younger children with depression. Consequences that take place over several days, like being grounded for a week, can backfire because children with depression may lose their motivation to earn their privileges back.
The Effects On Children
For parents with depression, there are the obvious detrimental symptomsemotional pain, lack of motivation, loss of joy in once-joyful activitiesand even physical troubles such as gastrointestinal distress and reduced immunity. But research has found that children of depressed parents are about three times as likely to suffer from major depression, anxiety disorders, or substance abuse as children whose parents hadn’t been depressed.
All kids have developmental needs that include feeling securely attached to a safe, caring adult and having a caregiver who is both physically and emotionally present and can model adequate coping mechanisms, says LaToya Gaines, Psy.D., a clinical psychologist and former school psychologist in New York City. Untreated mental-health concerns can threaten a parent’s ability to fulfill these needs. “When we’re depressed, we have difficulty connecting,” says Kristen Granchalek, LCSW, a Chicago-based therapist specializing in women’s issues, anxiety, and emotional reactivity. “Our faces don’t respond in a way that mirrors our children’s emotions, which they need for healthy development and to feel cared for.” With anxiety, kids can absorb their parent’s chronic worrying and, says Granchalek, “internalize the belief that the world is not okay.”
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If You Need To Try Again
It isnt always a good time for parents to talk, says clinical psychologist Rachel Busman, PhD. If you feel like your parents brushed you off before, try asking them again. Sometimes it takes parents a little time to get the message. But Dr. Busman recommends this time setting aside time to talk. Say, Theres something that I want to talk to you about, and its important. When are you going to be free to talk?
Dr. Busman says going to another adult you trust can be helpful, too. An aunt or an uncle can help you talk to your parents about how youre feeling. A trusted adult at school, like a teacher or a school psychologist, is also a good option. Even if youre having problems at school, someone there will want to help you, says Dr. Busman. Its their job to help you feel successful.
Addressing Your Resistance To Family Involvement
Its totally understandable to not want your family to know about your treatment. But there are also advantages to having family support:
- As you can probably tell by now, getting treatment is going to be a lot easier if your family is on board. They can help pay for treatment, get you to and from appointments, and find resources you didnt know about.
- Your family may be more supportive than you know. Any time you open up to another person about your mental health, theres a risk involved. But people cant support you if they dont know you need support. Even if your family reacts poorly at first, they may eventually come around.
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Plan B: Reach Out To Another Trusted Adult
If your parents brush you off, try not to be discouragedparents tend to see the positives in their kids. They dont always understand the severity of the situation right away. The good news is there are other people and places you can go to for support. Try talking to another adult you trust to seek guidance on getting through to your parents. An aunt or uncle, a teacher, a school counselor, or even a coach can help you by talking to your parents on your behalf and advocating for your needs.
There are likely resources at your school or community and if you’re active in your church you should know that many church leaders are trained to help adolescents in need of mental health support.
Taking A Stance On Medication
Medication can be very helpful for depression, but it doesnt work well for everyone.
Some people dislike its side effects and prefer to treat depression with therapy or natural remedies. Even if you think your friend should take an antidepressant, remember that choosing to take medication is a personal decision.
Likewise, if you personally dont believe in medication, avoid the subject when talking with them. For some people, medication is key in getting them to a place where they can fully engage in therapy and start taking steps toward recovery.
At the end of the day, whether or not someone with depression takes medication is a very personal decision thats generally best left to them and their healthcare professional.
Depression can increase a persons risk of suicide or self-injury, so its helpful to know how to recognize the signs.
Some signs that might indicate your friend is having serious suicidal thoughts include:
- frequent mood or personality changes
- talking about death or dying
- purchasing a weapon
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What Is Samhsa’s National Helpline
SAMHSAs National Helpline, , or TTY: is a confidential, free, 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year, information service, in English and Spanish, for individuals and family members facing mental and/or substance use disorders. This service provides referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups, and community-based organizations.