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Thursday, November 24, 2011

10 Tips for Helping a Depressed Child



1. Take a look at your own life.
Are you depressed? Have you got other issues within your family structure? Are there things going on in your life which could be affecting your child? Your child could be more affected by your actions than you realise; take a good look at your own life and get the help you need.
2. Start talking to the child.
Don't talk at them, talk with them. Really, really talk. Start sentences with I feel or I sense and avoid you always, you should, you never etc. It maybe easier to get them talking when you are both busy and slightly distracted e.g. whilst you are both doing the washing up. You want to be available for them to feel safe and open up.
3. Ask and listen.
Ask 'What's troubling you?' and avoid 'What's wrong with you?' They may not know why they are depressed but listen to how they feel without any judgement. Say 'No matter what you tell me I won't be angry' and stick to it. Whatever the response is, listen carefully with your ears, eyes and instincts. Don't fill in the empty silences but let the child come forward - they always will when given the time and space.
4. Respond with courage.
If what you hear is shocking, breath deeply but don't explode; respond with something like 'I/we will help you get through this'. Save your emotional outpouring for another adult. The child is depending on you. Be a safe haven for the child. They weren't born depressed; something has affected them to make them feel this way. Find your compassion. Become the parent you would want for yourself.
5. Get on their team.
When you have an understanding of your child's issues think about who you need to speak to, recruit, confront etc in order to get behind your child's needs? Become like a manager of your child's 'team' and talk to other members of their 'team' (e.g. teachers) to sort out problems inside and outside the home. Your actions will speak louder than words. They will begin to trust you, open up to you and start to come out of isolation.
6. Set the boundaries.
Children feel cared for, cherished and safe when boundaries for behaviour are set with love and respect. They feel bad if they know they are getting away with things they shouldn't. Make boundaries crystal clear even writing them out and sticking them on the wall if you have to.
7. Feed them well.
Bad food encourages depression. Change their diet. Aim for five portions of fruit and vegetables a day. Leave a bowl of fruit on the table or put some fresh fruit salad in the fridge. Lead by example and eat a good meal with them.
8. Spend more time with them.
Depressed children need time with adults who love them. Spend time with them on their level. Do what they want to do. Do some colouring, go to the park, take them shopping, play games with them etc. adjusting the activity to their age.
A guide to a minimum amount of time to spend with them is:
1 hour a day
1 day a week
1 weekend a month
1 week a year
9. Love them up.
Tell them how much you love them and give them the evidence e.g. 'I love the way you laugh because when you laugh I feel like laughing too and that gives me the best feeling in the world.' Show how much you enjoy them by spending more time with them. The best way to help a child who is depressed is to become the protective, loving and supportive parent they need to express themselves.
10. Sign up both of you for one activity outside the home.
Find an activity for both of you to do together. Undertaking a common interest with your child is a great way of showing your commitment to your child. It can be as simple as a weekly walk. This will help them feel better about themselves which will help them come out of isolation.
Follow these ten tips through and watch them blossom!
Alexandra Massey is a best selling author. Her first book 'Beat Depression And Reclaim Your Life' has become a staple for those people looking for help with depression. If you'd like to discover more about Alexandra's work, go to
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