As a parent, there are few things more difficult than seeing your child suffer and not being able to fix it.
Watching your kid deal with depression in particular can leave you feeling helpless and frustrated. But while mental illness might not be something you can make go away, there are things you can do to be supportive and help them get through it.
To help, BuzzFeed Health talked to Stephanie Dowd, Psy.D., clinical psychologist with the Child Mind Institute and Barbara Greenberg, Ph.D., clinical psychologist and co-author of Teenage as a Second Language: A Parent's Guide to Becoming Bilingual. Here are their tips:
1. First things first, make sure your child is getting the help they need.
2. But also make sure it's on their own terms.
3. Take the time to acknowledge and validate what they're going through.
4. Always ask permission before offering advice. Otherwise, just listen.
5. Talk with the therapist about how it's going, how you can help, and what you can expect.
6. But respect your child's privacy, no matter how much you want to know exactly what's going on.
7. Be patient with your child and the recovery process.
8. And pay attention to changes in their behavior instead of asking how their recovery is going.
9. Celebrate the ways your child is still doing well and thriving.
10. If they tell you they don’t have the energy or the bandwidth or the skills to do something, believe them.
11. But make sure to stay firm on enforcing the rules against negative behaviors just like you normally would.
12. Be open to hearing about your role in things and participating in therapy.
13. Don't compare bad days to good days.
You might get frustrated if your kid had a depressive episode that kept them home from school but then was up to hang out with their friends the next day. But that's how it works sometimes. With depression, there are good days and bad days, and you need to let them take advantage of the good days, says Greenberg. And remember: Good days need to be celebrated, not called into question, so don't say things like, "So you were too depressed to do X, but not Y?"