One of my sons was emotionally volatile, we knew that when we got firm with him he would go into a spiral of shame and hopelessness and attempted suicide. But yet, we needed to ask him to move out, we needed to encourage him to move on with his life. We had no idea where to start.
How do we navigate these rough waters when our child is suffering from depression and when he feels defeated and like he is standing in wet cement. We needed to have a conversation with his therapist and come up with a plan of action for how we could best support him through this so that he didn’t go in this downward spiral…
Maureen Towns is back today to share her journey of how she was able to parent her depressed kids and what symptoms of depression you can look out for and what you can do if you find yourself in this situation.
Meet Maureen Towns
Maureen Towns BScN, MA is a relationship mentor with over 25 years of nursing experience in both public and private health care across Canada. After experiencing mental illness and addiction with her own children, she founded Maureen Towns Consulting to help families struggling to care for their own loved ones.
Her work with parents inspires them to rediscover themselves within chaotic and challenging situations. Maureen hosts the Broken Open Podcast. Born in Ontario, Maureen currently resides in Calgary, Alberta.
In This Podcast
- How do you parent a depressed child?
- You will be frustrated at times
- Utilize therapy
- Possible symptoms of depression and what not to do
How do you parent a depressed child?
It is important, in these moments, to de-center yourself as the constant fixer and connect with your child to understand what it is that they are feeling: make them the priority as well. Ask them what it is that they are feeling.
The first thing I would do … is try and get curious and ask a lot of questions … not in an interrogation way. (Maureen Towns)
You can ask them:
- What is this feeling like for you?
- What are you feeling?
- Can you pin it down to what made you feel different today from yesterday?
- What do you think you need?
- How can I support you?
You can work to improve your validation skills when you speak with your kids so that they do not feel that you are taking their ability to feel away from them, or that you are expressing their pain for them. It is important to find the balance between giving them the space to express themselves and then giving them guidance as a parent.
Depression makes everything feel heavy and difficult and so having and practicing understanding towards your child will help both you and them.
You will be frustrated at times
Know that you’re going to be frustrated, [so] you’re going to be better able to offer that empathy and curiosity if you are looking after yourself, so go back to the self-care. (Maureen Towns)
At any point in time when you are trying to support someone through something difficult, it is true that you cannot pour from an empty cup.
You need to invest time and energy into creating a space where you can relax and take care of yourself so that you have the energy and capacity to show up and care for others. It might feel counterintuitive, but it is necessary and will help you to be there in more ways than one.
Consider speaking with your child’s therapist in order to understand how you can still parent a depressed child with day-to-day things such as completing chores and homework while being aware of their emotional state.
The therapist can give you information and guidance on how to navigate those emotional boundaries without harming your child so that you both can be active members of the family while moving through this difficult stage.
However, it is necessary for you as the parent to also receive your own guidance because a lot of the time, parents are having to teach their children things that they were not taught themselves.
We’re being asked to raise a generation of emotionally literate kids and we were never taught it … so yeah, it’s a struggle. (Maureen Towns)
Practicing patience and understanding with yourself as well as with your children is a vital component of getting through any emotionally difficult patch.
Speaking to a therapist is good for both you and your child because they are trained professionals who can give you critical advice on how to best navigate the moment.
Have an open discussion about therapy with your children, and let them know that you are working alongside them and their therapist because overcoming this is a task wherein everyone is putting an effort.
I really am a firm believer for communicating with a therapist and I would let my kids know that too, I would say: “I’m talking to your therapist about how to best support you … I’m not asking them to tell me [what] you [said] in the session … this is a team sport [and I want to know] how we [can] support each other here. (Maureen Towns)
Therapy is a space where people can learn, and then take those lessons home to practice, that they are human and that they can be honest and vulnerable with one another.
Possible symptoms of depression and what not to do
There are very many different symptoms that people can show when they are going through depression – it varies from person to person, but some common ones are:
- Lack of motivation,
- Lack or loss of interest in previously popular areas in their life,
- Change or decline in personal hygiene,
- Pull back from spending time with family and withdrawing,
- Sudden drop of previously favorite activities,
- Aggression or deflection whenever you question their behavior,
- Fatigue and increase in sleeping
If you begin to notice that your child is showing these symptoms, what should you not do?
1 – Let go of the suck-it-up attitude:
You might want to teach your child resilience by encouraging them to push through it, when they are seriously struggling with something, telling them to suck it up will simply invalidate their experience and cause them to push even further away from you.
2 – “When I was a kid”:
Do not compare their experience to yours, because they were two very different experiences. You might be trying to give them perspective but in actuality, you may be invalidating them even more.
3 – Ignoring your fears:
There might be a voice inside you that is telling you that something could be wrong, but parents often push that fear away because they do not want to believe that their child is suffering. If you have those thoughts of what this could potentially be, listen to them and acknowledge them.
Contact the Lifeline Network: 1800 273 8255
If you need a therapist and you’re in California, contact 1888 263 7124
- Kids and Mental Illness: What Mom’s Need To Know | EU 64
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Meet Veronica Cisneros
I’m a licensed therapist and women walk into my office every day stressed and disconnected. As a mom of three daughters, I want my girls to know who they are and feel confident about their future. I can’t think of a better way to help other women than by demonstrating an empowered and unapologetic life.
So I started Empowered and Unapologetic to be a safe space for women to be vulnerable and change their lives for the better before she ever needs to see a therapist.
Thanks for listening!
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Empowered and Unapologetic is part of the Practice of the Practice Podcast Network, a network of podcasts seeking to help you thrive, imperfectly. To hear other podcasts like the Bomb Mom Podcast, Imperfect Thriving, or Beta Male Revolution, go to practiceofthepractice.com/network.