In This Episode:
Depression is an often misunderstood condition.
I think lots of times, the term “depression” get’s thrown around. In this episode I want to talk about what it is, what it is not, what helps, what doesn’t and how it can affect the realm of parenting.
It’s so much more than just “being sad”.
There are many types of depression.
Having a baby, childbirth, can trigger a plethora of powerful emotions.
It can be exciting, scary, heartwarming, and even depressing. Postpartum depression is not uncommon and can leave people feeling guilty and shameful, which makes it even worse.
Lots of love and support for the mom and the baby is vital during this time.
Often the medical team will check in with the parent to see if depressive symptoms are present.
The parent child relationship is so very important. Especially important are the first 3 years of life. This is when attachment is formed. Attachment is a biggie as it really lays a blueprint in a child’s brain for other relationships. Attachment is an entirely other episode, but I bring it up here to really emphasize the importance of seeking treatment if you are a parent and you are experiencing symptoms of depression. It can affect your child’s development in a big way.
Reaching out for support from a qualified mental health professional can make a big difference in your life and the lives of those that love you.
It can allow your quality of life to improve and help you and your child or children to connect in a more meaningful way. When children see their parents suffering, it can take a toll for sure.
There are many different treatments for depression.
As a mental health counselor, I help many people with depression through therapy. It’s important to know that there are different types of therapy too.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, EMDR, Art Therapy, Mindfulness, Dialectical Behavior Therapy, Solution Focused therapy and much more.
I prefer using the whole brain approach. Also there are other things that are great adjuncts to therapy, such as yoga, exercise, journaling, etc... The important thing is that you take action – don’t let it eat up these valuable parenting years. It’s tough and it’s hard to even get out of bed some days, and that’s where the support can come in.
Some people seek medicine to address their depression. I just read Bessel Van der Kolk’s book, The Body Keeps the Score. I love how he describes it in there. Medicine should not be the first response, and when it is used, it should be used with caution and just to make the therapeutic experience more beneficial. It can dull the emotions that are problematic, but therapy ultimately helps the person to heal from it. Some people struggle lifelong with depression.
It’s important to know that trying to convince someone of reasons why they should be happy is not helpful. It can actually make it worse.
It’s also important to mention that depressive symptoms during a time of grief and loss is considered a normative state, and is treated in a different way. Therapy can still be very helpful in these situations.
In This Episode:
Anxious feelings during back to school time are not uncommon especially in times of transition such as kindergarten, moving from elementary to middle school, from middle to high school, and then eventually college.
This time can be really stressful for kids and families. It may look like crying, clinginess, lower tolerance levels that lead to tantrums sometimes, somatic symptoms such as tummy aches and headaches, and crankiness.
Children may present as desperate and beg and plead to stay home. Some will try to bargaining and negotiate. Does this sound familiar?
It is totally “normal” for all of us as human beings to have worries. It’s the way that our brain is wired. However, going to school isn’t optional.
School is a “non-negotiable”. In fact, allowing your child to miss due to worries will often increase your child’s fear.
The chance for successful experience and having them realize that they can surpass the fears doesn’t get a chance to occur. It also limits children in many other ways.
Obviously, they miss the academic portion of school and get behind. They don’t get the opportunity to succeed and master certain skills.
This can be such a biggie! If they get behind in the schoolwork, often school seems like even more undesirable to them. It also has a social impact. At school kids foster friendships, as well as develop and practice social skills.
To set your child up for success, it’s super important to create a schedule and an environment where your child is getting plenty enough sleep, eating healthy meals and moving around physically. It just makes it easier when their body feels rested, nourished, and alive.
Use empathy to let your child know that you care. This makes a big difference. It starts with reflecting the feeling. It may sound like this, “You feel worried about 3rd grade, the thought of going back feels overwhelming”.
Through this approach you are helping your child with emotional literacy, but more importantly sending the message of “I get you... I understand... I know it’s hard... and I care.” If appropriate you can also tell a short snippet of a related story about yourself. But, be careful not to “one up” your child as that’s not helpful. This can go a long way.
If we respond with “there’s nothing to be scared about.” Then kids think, “My mom/dad doesn’t understand.” This can leave them feeling frustrated, hopeless and even more scared. And, this could make it even worse because they then lose the hope for support from their parents. I know this can be hard, especially with irrational fears, but trust me on this one – taking the time to validate your child’s feelings is so very helpful.
It’s also really helpful to try to figure out the root of your child’s concerns. This will help you develop a plan to cope. It also models for your child how to think things through as well.
When someone feels anxious, the alarm system in their brain is usually going off, so thinking is limited at best.
It’s important to know that what you think is the problem, may not be the problem. I see that in therapy frequently, when the child and the parent describe the issue as completely different.
It’s helpful sometimes to reach out to teachers, school counselors, therapists and such for support. They are in the business of helping kids, so they may have information that can make you and your child’s life much easier by helping you get through this problem.
Steer clear of Guilt or Shame when it comes to motivational efforts. Guilt (I’m doing something bad) and Shame (I am a bad person) can leave your child feeling less than and incapable. It not only will hinder them with this issue, but cause much greater issues in the long term.
Pick out some things that your child may like about school and focus on those. But, remember you don’t want to jump right to this, be sure to connect with your child and reflect their feelings first. If you jump right into convincing mode, you’re likely going to be met with deaf ears.
It’s important to mention the reality of how kids can smell anxiety in their parents a mile away. They often take cues from their parents to see how confident, how trusting, how secure they should feel about a situation. That’s why it’s so very important to be calm and collected yourself. This takes some looking within. It can be difficult though, so it’s more important than ever to engage in self soothing and reach out for support for yourself if necessary through a support group, trusted friend, yoga class, therapy, etc... Plain and simple, your child looks to you as “this is how I should react to the world.”
When you drop your child off at school, be supportive but calm and firm. A short and sweet kiss and a goodbye, “I love you. I see that your scared, but I know you’ll be okay here. We can see each other again after school.” helps. Sometimes it may feel heartbreaking to see your child cry and plead for you to stay, but if you continue to stand there and say goodbye over and over again, it just makes it harder on you, your child, and the classroom.
I love those little Worry Eaters for the younger kids. I found mine on Amazon. There are also several books out there.
For therapy options, I love using EMDR with kids and adults. In my experience, I’ve noticed that gets to the root of it quicker by desensitizing and reprocessing. Also, though stopping and therapeutic deep belly breaths can make a big difference.
I’ve also had great experiences with essential oils. DoTerra brand has a blend, Serenity, which is good. I really like Eden Gardens brand though. They are less costly and really good. I use them is session with my clients for grounding and calming. I love lavender, peppermint, bergamot, and lemon.