Dark clouds draping a veil on the heart as nonexistent voices clutter the mind. That’s a more poetic description of depression, and it is also the most vivid picture that words can paint of what happens when someone is experiencing depression. Mayo Clinic defines depression as “a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest.” The clouds of negativity can affect how a person feels, thinks and behaves.
Mental health issues are common amidst the population, and it is something that many adoptees can harbor. We have discussed in a previous blog post about Positive Things to Say to Someone with Mental Health Issues. Let’s continue that positivity and focus on how adoptive parents can provide their child with healthy ways to cope with depression.
What is Depression?
Before diving deeper into healthy coping mechanisms, you should understand some important characteristics of depression. It knows no age restrictions. Anyone can be affected. Causes of depression vary from biological progression to hormones. Adoptees might struggle with this because they feel that they are different from other children due to their origins.
Symptoms and signs of depression in young children and teens can manifest through sadness, pain, rebellion against parental orders, eating disorders, and losing or gaining weight. For teens and adults, the danger of turning towards toxic coping mechanisms is high. They will also more likely avoid any and all social interactions to retreat within themselves. Sometimes, the symptoms won’t be severe enough for you to notice.
It is crucial that you check in frequently, even when you are certain they are okay.
Healthy Ways to Cope
Disclaimer: The list below focuses on adolescents to teens. Some coping mechanisms might not be suitable for infant care.
Even if you feel that you are pouring all your efforts into making your son or daughter feel better, you might not see immediate progress. Have patience. Take things at a comfortable pace and keep going even when the light at the end of the tunnel seems dim. Here are six healthy ways to cope with depression:
1. Acknowledging Emotions and Feelings
This is probably one of the most crucial skills for you as a parent to have, and also something your child should cultivate as well. Talk to your child and let them know that you are a safe person for them to talk to. Opening the lines of communication will help them discuss their emotions and feelings, and will help you understand your child more. If they don’t open up right away, be patient. It may be difficult for them to find the right words. Some pushback is natural. Remind them that you are there to listen, and that you will love them no matter what. If you sense they are uncomfortable speaking with you altogether, gently offer to find a counselor for them.
Consulting a specialist is always recommended to parents, especially as a first step to understanding their children’s conditions. Once there, they might recommend some possible treatments or medications to take. If your child feels distressed or forced into treatment in any way, they will respond negatively. If they are old enough, let your child have a say in what they want to do.
Some treatments include taking supplements such as fish oil and folic acids, which scientists have studied and determined to be effective in supporting those with depression. Results and reactions will vary by individuals, make sure to talk to their doctor before starting any treatment. If your child is already taking supplements, make sure that they keep up with doctors’ appointments and not fall behind on their medicine.
3. Talk to a therapist
Along with medical treatment, talking to a professional well-versed in dealing with mental health issues is also an option. They will be able to provide your child with the necessary support and tips to deal with their depression. This will be a space where your child is free to speak their feelings or say anything they might be hesitant to talk to you about. Don’t feel offended by that, instead, see it from their perspective. If your child feels shy about the idea because they are talking to a stranger, you can join the sessions to make your child more comfortable.
4. Create a low-stress environment
Your child’s mind is already a hectic place with raging storms and never-ending voices. In the physical world, you can help declutter the mess by creating a low-stress environment. This doesn’t have to be anything elaborate or big. It just needs to be a place where they can unwind and forget about the world for a second. For example, adding some plants to their room or allowing them time to read or listen to music. Throughout the house, if this hasn’t been done already, you can share responsibility by dispersing chores to maintain some order. Having a schedule can also help to regulate their eating and sleeping hours, something they might neglect themselves.
5. Set small goals
Tasks such as getting out of bed can be daunting to your child. They feel as if they are not worthy or capable of accomplishing anything. This only adds to their negative mentality. To help them cope, work with them to create small goals to carry out every day. Have a list and place it next to their bed or anywhere they will most likely check. Make a game out of it but don’t make the rewards a habit. They should be able to achieve these goals with their own will.
6. One-on-one time
The feeling of being included is indescribable. Everyone wants to feel like they are part of something, and your child is no different. They are still the same and they don’t want their depression to dictate your attitude towards them. So it would be worthwhile to ask them to a movie, grab a cup of coffee, or even just to get groceries. At the same time, if they truly don’t feel comfortable with the idea, don’t force them.
This could also mean learning a skill together. When we are faced with a new challenge, our brain’s dopamine level will change and it is associated with happiness, fulfillment, and satisfaction. Spending time doing mundane things will reassure them that they are not strange because of their depression.
There will be days when your child will dislike themselves. Those are the days when they’ll need you the most. These healthy ways to cope with depression can hopefully give you some ease. But your child might need more support. Love them just the same, unconditionally and honestly. Help them love themselves and see the goodness that you see. Walking along with your child on this journey to heal might also take a toll on you, so remember to take care of your health as well.
Adoption Choices of New York
For more information on adoption or if you are currently in the process of adopting a baby and have any questions or concerns, feel free to contact, Adoption Choices of New York.
About the Author
Lisa Truong is an undergraduate journalism major at the University of Denver. She is minoring in writing and Chemistry. She has been commended by professors for her news stories as well as creative writing.
During her freshman year, her essay “See Ya on the Other Side” was displayed at a writing exhibition sponsored by the University of Denver. That essay later went on to be published in Many Voices One DU, a book also sponsored by the university.
Lisa frequently volunteers to be a leader at the Daniels School of Business for their quarterly Ethics Boot Camp where students learn about the importance of character in business. In her free time, Lisa enjoys watching animated movies with her mother, listening to music, going for bike rides, and eating breakfast food.
“Depression (Major Depressive Disorder).” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, February 3, 2018. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/symptoms-causes/syc-20356007.
“Depression: Supporting a Family Member or Friend.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, November 28, 2018. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/in-depth/depression/art-20045943.
Griffin, R. Morgan. “10 Natural Depression Treatments.” WebMD. WebMD. Accessed October 5, 2019. https://www.webmd.com/depression/features/natural-treatments#2.
Schimelpfening, Nancy. “10 Ways to Help Someone With Depression.” Verywell Mind. Verywell Mind, September 17, 2019. https://www.verywellmind.com/how-to-help-someone-with-depression-1065117.