It’s Okay Not to Be Okay: 7 Tips For Talking to Your Child About Depression
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 2.7 million children between the ages of 11-17 were diagnosed with depression in the period of 2016 to 2019. Another study in 2020 states that at least nine percent of African American teenagers reported having symptoms of depression and the numbers have been increasing since then, according to a press release. Unfortunately, many people in the Black community don’t discuss mental health issues and very few will ever seek help for it though these disorders can be disruptive to their lives. You can help break this cycle by talking to your children about depression and working together to manage it.
Let them know it’s a medical problem
It’s common for children to think that what’s happening with them is unique and there’s nobody who can relate. You can help dispel this myth by discussing the fact that depression is a medical condition that affects millions of people, including adults. From a health perspective, it’s no different from finding out that you have any other illness. Most importantly, let them know that a doctor can help them manage it.
Discuss other conditions
It’s possible to have more than one mental health disorder at the same time. While talking about depression, let your child know that some people experience both depression and anxiety. A few of the symptoms to look out for are being worried about the future, wanting to avoid social situations, being afraid of separation from their parents and different phobias. You should also talk about panic attacks.
Listen without judgement
While giving them information, make sure there’s room for them to share their feelings without being judged. Though there are general symptoms of depression, it’s not uncommon for people to have experiences specific to them. What’s important is that they feel safe sharing with you so you can understand what your child is dealing with.
Be patient with their questions
Understandably, your child will have a lot of questions about depression and any other mental health disorder they might have. They might want to know about seeing a doctor, if they need to tell their friends, if their school will need to know and if they’ll need to take medication.
It’s best to do a lot of research so you can answer their questions well. If there’s something you need to find out, let them know that you’ll get back to them as soon as you’ve cleared things up.
Assure them it’s not their fault
Depression can be such a misunderstood condition and many children think they did something wrong to feel the way they do. Worse yet, they don’t understand why they should feel sad when nothing bad has happened. You should let them know that nothing they’ve done is causing their depression and they’re somehow being punished for their actions or thoughts.
Keep talking about it
Depression can be an ongoing illness, so you shouldn’t have one conversation about it and drop it. Studies show that depression can worsen over time—especially if your child is going through puberty. Experts recommend checking in on them regularly and letting them know you’re ready to listen to their issues at any time. It’s also helpful to stress the importance of letting you know if their symptoms have changed.
Give them self-care tips
Once you’ve discussed the symptoms of depression and what can cause them, you should offer some suggestions for self-care. Some activities like getting regular exercise, eating properly, sleeping well and making time for hobbies that excite them can help to reduce depressive episodes.
If your child is having trouble with any of these suggestions, it might also be a decent indicator that you need to see a mental health professional.
When To See A Professional
There are different types of depression and not all of them will require medication to be managed. The best thing to do is keep an eye on your child’s symptoms.
The typical symptoms of depression include feelings of worthlessness, losing interest in things that they found fun, feeling sad, changes in their sleep or eating patterns and having difficulty concentrating. If you notice that things are getting worse or they’ve opened up to you about feelings of suicide, contact a professional immediately.
The number of African American children who are dealing with depression is increasing and it will be up to their parents and guardians to help them. If you think your child is showing symptoms of depression, talk to them as soon as possible so they can get the help they need.