You Can Do It! Four Ways to Help Your Kids Avoid Depression and Addiction
Giving our kids the best is relatively easy when it means choosing between premium products, setting a bedtime schedule or picking out new clothes for their first day of school. However, giving them the best also entails emotional and intellectual support, not just giving them a roof over their heads. Here are four ways you can support your children as they grow up and help them to avoid insidious physical and mental health conditions including depression and addiction.
Richard Taite is founder and CEO of Cliffside Malibu, offering evidence-based, individualized addiction treatment based on the Stages of Change model. He is also co-author of the book Ending Addiction for Good.
Editor: Nadeem Noor
- Make time for their passions. When it comes to depression and addiction, the best defense is still a good offense. One of the most effective ways you can help prevent the onset of depression or substance use disorders in your child is by recognizing and tapping into the activities that make them the happiest. Focusing on their strengths will naturally encourage your child to view themselves through this lens too, hopefully circumventing feelings of inadequacy in the first place.
- Create an “open door” policy. As a parent, you are your children’s first line of defense against anything that could hurt them in this world, including their own misperceptions about their self-worth. Make sure your children know they can come talk to you about anything, and that you prioritize their well-being. Reward your children for trusting you enough to come to you with their problems, even if what they tell you puts your anxiety levels through the roof. Showing your kids that you love them unconditionally and that they can trust you with difficult experiences and emotions will go a long way in preventing the feelings of isolation and disconnection inherent to depression and substance abuse.
- Take them seriously. There is no point in building trust in your relationship with your children if you choose not to take them and their thoughts seriously. If your child begins experiencing feelings of worthlessness or hopelessness, don’t dismiss these as symptoms of a passing phase. Validate your child’s feelings as real and meaningful, or, if you don’t know what to say, simply practice active listening as your child describes their feelings or experiences. We all need validation.
- Involve them in the process of engaging professional help. Perhaps you have taken the time as a parent to talk with your child on a regular basis, listening to their maturing thoughts and perspectives, and you are beginning to think that more advanced help in the form of therapy may be required. In this moment, the best thing you can do to help your child is to involve them in the process, if they are old and mature enough to understand the need for professional help. Be upfront with your child and ask them directly what their thoughts are about these interventions and if they would be open to them. Is your child willing to engage with a professional in order to feel better? Make sure that you put these questions in a positive way, so that your child doesn’t feel like there is something “more” wrong with them. Ultimately keep in mind that you can’t force anyone to enter therapy if they are truly unwilling; your child will get the most out of any professional help if they genuinely want it for themselves.
Intentionally building your relationship with your child to include trust, open lines of communication and mutual support is one of the best ways you can encourage your child to lead a healthy, confidant life. While you can’t fight your children’s battles for them, you can put in the effort to be sure they know you believe in them, and that they can make it through whatever life throws at them stronger and more resilient than before. With loving, supportive parents behind them and a healthy sense of self-worth within, there’s no limit to what your children can do.