As your son or daughter goes through the process of diagnosis and treatment for anxiety and/or depression, they may feel at times overwhelmed. Knowing you are there for them can help. As they feel your encouragement and faith in their ability to overcome this challenge and your trust in their treatment team, your child’s hope for a different life can be fortified.
Knowing how to support your loved one in a helpful way during their treatment for anxiety or depression can be difficult, as often those struggling with anxiety and/or depression feel a high level of shame (the feeling that they are not a good person, undeserving of support or unloveable). Here are ways to show your support and let your son or daughter know that he or she is loved, valued, and respected.
1. Learn More about Treatment for Anxiety or Depression
Become the depression or anxiety expert in your household. Doing so will help you make an informed decision regarding what treatment to seek for your child and know how to support your child during treatment. Research, read, learn from the many resources available on anxiety and depression, from blog posts, podcasts, and videos, to eBooks. Learning as much as you can from your child about what the struggle has been like for them can help them feel your support. Learn as much as you can about anxiety or depression symptoms, treatment, and support. Attend a class or support group for caregivers of children with mental illness. The National Alliance for Mental Illness’ website lists classes and support groups throughout each state.
2. Foster Your Child’s Health and Well Being
Research shows that alongside medication and/or therapy, a healthier lifestyle can assist in improving anxiety and/or depression symptoms. These factors include:
- Exercise: Encourage your child to be active; better yet, make it a family affair. It can be as simple as walking the dog each day after dinner or playing basketball in the driveway. Regular exercise can be effective in improving not only one’s physical health but one’s mental well-being, confidence, and be a positive coping skill. According to the Mayo Clinic, exercise can help lessen the severity of anxiety and depression symptoms by releasing neurotransmitters, endorphins, and endocannabinoids which are essential for feeling calm, confident and happy.
- Sleep: More than 50 percent of sufferers of anxiety, depression, and mental illnesses struggle with chronic sleep problems. According to Harvard Medical School’s Health Publications, “Neuroimaging and neurochemistry studies suggest that a good night’s sleep helps foster both mental and emotional resilience, while chronic sleep disruptions set the stage for negative thinking and emotional vulnerability.” Teenagers need 8 1/2 to 9 hours of sleep each night. Encourage good sleep hygiene by discouraging your child from consuming caffeine or sugar in the evenings, having a consistent sleep and wake schedule, and turning off electronics, including TV, computers and cell phones prior to bed. (University of Maryland Medical Center)
- Nutrition: A healthy, well-balanced diet fosters a sense of health and wellbeing in children. Encourage your child to make healthy food choices. Eating several smaller meals throughout the day can minimize blood sugar spikes and keep his or her energy up.
3. Encourage a Healthy Support System
A strong social support system can help your child’s treatment process. While your son or daughter may feel tempted to remain isolated, connecting positive influences can help them overcome their current emotional state. While some teens and young adults choose to remain isolated from their close friends, others will seek out peers that have a negative influence on them. Getting in with the “wrong crowd” is a red flag sign of anxiety and depression, and can be detrimental to your child’s healing process.
Encourage your son or daughter to hang out with uplifting and encouraging friends who are positive influences. If he or she has difficulties making friends who are positive, uplifting people, offer to enroll him or her is a social activity that he or she would enjoy, such as an art class, sports team, or after school club.
4. Be Involved with the Treatment Process and Team
As a parent and caregiver, you are a part of the treatment team, along with your child and professionals. Meet with the treatment professionals to understand their recommendations, ways you can help and openly discuss any concerns. Encourage the collaboration of professionals by signing permission for each to speak and requesting they do so. If appropriate, join your child’s therapy session to learn how you can support your child. Be sure to notify your child’s healthcare provider or mental health professional if his or her anxiety or depression symptoms do not improve or if they increase.
To learn more about how to help your child with depression or anxiety, download our white paper, Depression and Anxiety in Teens and Young Adults below.