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In recent years, there has been a groundswell of activism and campaigning to reduce the stigma of depression and mental health anomalies. A number of celebrities and public figures have come forward to tell their stories of struggling with depression.
Though we accept what we hear about adults dealing with depression, it’s difficult to recognize the early warning signs of depression in children. When a child or teen is withdrawn, sullen or frequently sad, adults often assume “It’s just a phase he’s going through.”, or “She’s just hormonal!”
Maybe your child is growing through a difficult time, or their emotions are being affected by hormones. Maybe there is a long term mental health condition which you should recognize, and work with your doctor to determine the best course of treatment.
Here is some guidance we’ve curated from professionals on how to determine:
Australian author Matthew Johnstone published a compelling book living with depression called “I Had a Black Dog”. It has become a global phenomenon, and inspired an awareness campaign from the World Health Organization. It identifies depression as a mood disorder, but one which can be managed by therapy, medication or a physical wellness programs.
The “Black Dog Book” identifies many of the symptoms of living with depression like:
If you find your child is expressing concerns about these symptoms, or if you observe them exhibiting these signs, try and start a dialog with them. Try not to be too confrontational about it, as your child may retract and hide their feelings. Concealing depression symptoms is another sign of clinical depression. Discuss your concerns with your child or teen supportively, not accusingly.
If your child or teen is exhibiting some of these symptoms suddenly, or for a short term basis, they may just have a case of “the sads”. They may just need:
There may be something happening at school, with relationships with friends or romantic interests that are causing “angst” or sadness. Try to help your child through what they are dealing with. If the symptoms persist, consider speaking with your family doctor about forms of treatment. There are also support resources at the school, either to “compare notes” on symptoms you are seeing, to get referrals to community programs, or talk to counsellors about options.
If you are noticing some of these warning signs of child depression, don’t despair. If you have been experiencing signs of sadness or stress yourself, your child or teen may be picking up on your emotional cues. Recognizing whether your son or daughter is suffering from a mood disorder, or just a temporary bout of the blues is important.
If your physician diagnoses your child as being mildly or deeply depressed, there are a number of pharmaceutical options which your doctor may recommend to treat their condition. Early detection often helps to diminish depression, and alternative approaches to medicine are often effective.
Other therapeutic options include:
Regardless of the long term plan, starting with your family doctor is often the best first step. Other community resources like the CMHA, YMCA or peer groups might be a good next step. Your child’s future can be made drastically better if you open up a dialogue with them, help them feel safe, and work towards a mentally healthy future.
Echo Editor May 3rd, 2018
December is often a month filled with paradox
Though many of these challenges face Canadian families all year round, they usually come to the forefront of our minds around the holidays. Charitable organizations have but four to six weeks to capture the hearts, minds and wallets of those more fortunate.
It takes more than just donations to organizations like the Salvation Army, Daily Bread Food Bank or the The Hospital for Sick Kids Foundation. It takes activism, volunteering and advocacy from all Canadians. Working on a build for a local Habitat for Humanity, or spending time with seniors at a nursing home can be inspiring all year
Making a pledge to dedicate yourself to a cause at this time of year is good for the heart. Keeping that pledge will be good for your soul.
All too often, we pass a mother and her child in a grocery store, and we don’t know she could barely gather enough money for a few days worth of food.
Maybe you and your children meet someone who has just received long term disability status. They could have been denied insurance coverage, or can no longer work because of pain, or injury. Reaching out with support to people in crisis extends beyond that individual to their loved ones.
These people in need, and many others in dire circumstances, may be calling out for help, though we miss their calls. We are often distracted by stories in the media about celebrities, our own material pursuits, or we’re distracted by other trivial matters which seem important at the time.
There are many examples of people paying their good fortune forward which we hear about every day. Small gestures from children can bring joy to an elderly person’s life. Forgiveness between loved ones or friends. Giving of your time, in circumstances like working with special needs children or adults can go just as far as financial donations, in the right spirit.
Communities like Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Canada not only helps boys and girls by providing role models. They, like all organizations that care for children, provide needed respite for mothers and fathers who need time to work, rest, or learn better ways of parenting. Volunteer as a Big Brother, Big Sister or even for a Junior Achievement class and make a difference in a young person’s life, and that of their family.
As the saying goes, it takes more than just a mother and a father to raise a child to adulthood. Providing moral guidance and support, not judgement, is in the best interest of a person growing up.
You won’t likely find many legitimate opportunities to help families on your own. Crestwood has partnered with a number of service groups and charities which cater to the well being, safety and security of the most vulnerable Ontario families among us.
Talk to your child about the benefits of being active in their community, and the role of Crestwood in it.
Encourage your children to learn about power of activism such as:
The opportunity to learn about helping others when a child is young can translate to a lifetime of service, support of community, and engagement in making Canada a better place to work, live and play in. Together with Crestwood, let’s help families in Toronto, and across Canada.
Echo Editor April 9th, 2018
If you’re headed off to college or university in the near future, you’re probably pretty excited, but nervous, too. It’s natural to get the jitters before embarking on any new experience, but with a few tips, you’ll be well prepared for the life-changing journey that lies ahead. Here are a few things you can do in advance to get ready for college or university.
Yes, you might already be signed up for the meal plan and have the local pizza parlour on speed dial, but living away from home also means you’re an adult now. You’ll likely need to take care of yourself more than you’ve had to while living at home.
Before you leave for school, learn to make a few things you like to eat. Ask your parents to teach you a few tricks, buy a recipe book, figure out what pots and pans you’ll need. Experiment in the kitchen. It would also be a good time to learn to wash your clothing.
Do you wash the lights and darks together or separately? Which items of clothing need to hang to dry and which can go in the dryer? These are all good things to figure out in advance—before you accidentally shrink your favourite shirt at school. While you’re in this mode, do you know how to clean a washroom, vacuum and make your bed? This is a great time to learn.
If you don’t already have a credit or debit card and have your online banking account set up, this would be the perfect time to get your financial situation sorted out. Not only will you be responsible for shopping for things like food and books, you might also have bills to pay if you’re living off campus. Ask your parents for help or visit your local bank to get set up.
While you’re thinking about finances, establish a budget for yourself. How much money will you need each month? Where will the money come from?
Do you need a part-time job this summer to help pay for the year ahead? Do you need a job on campus? Be realistic and start thinking about how much you’ll need for food, entertainment, tuition, books and other items you might be required to pay for while living on your own.
Have you already been accepted to residence? Have you decided to live off campus? If you’ve got that sorted out, that’s great. You’re ahead of the game. If you are still in need of accommodation, this would be the time to get cracking.
Do your research. Where do most undergraduates live and why? You’ll likely want to be near your classes so you aren’t running a mile across campus to make it to school on time. Or perhaps you want to be near the shops or entertainment scene? It might be convenient, but it could also be distracting.
Will you have a car? Where will you park? Take a tour of the campus to get your bearings. Speak to other students who are already in their first or second year. Contact the school for advice if you’re unsure.
Did your college or university residence give you a packing list? Do you know the dimensions of your dorm room? Certain things will likely already be provided, such as a bed, closet, desk and some shelves. What else do you need to live on your own? Toiletries, a shower curtain, bath mat, cookware, pantry staples, cleaning and laundry supplies are some ideas to get you started.
Don’t forget your clothes. Will you be visiting home often or will you need to pack for several months in advance? Will you be joining a club, hitting the gym or trying out for a team? You’ll need to plan accordingly and bring all the necessities.
Do you have a laptop, printer and whatever other office supplies you’ll need to complete your course assignments? What about a phone, chargers and all the cords you’ll need to connect your electronics?
Put together a list and figure out which items you know you’ll need and which you might not need. For instance, you might be able to submit essays and projects online, while others professors will require a hard copy.
Talk to older students and seek their advice. Think about the things that will keep you organized. Do you need an agenda, calendar or bulletin board? Make a list and check it twice!
You will make friends, you will find your way to your classes and you will have fun. This is definitely a new phase in your life, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the unknown. If you’re prepared in advance with all the essentials, you’ll have one less thing to worry about when you arrive on campus your first day.
Echo Editor April 3rd, 2018
Being a teenager is difficult. Their bodies are changing and growing. Their hormones can make their emotions hard to control. They are meeting new friends, forming new relationships, having new experiences. There are also raised expectations that can feel daunting to meet.
All of this can cause teenagers to have low self-esteem. A teen with low self-esteem will feel unloved, have negative feelings about themselves, avoid trying new things, be easily influenced or blame others for their failures.
We want our teens to have high self-esteem, which is important for their success in life. When a teen has high self-esteem, they view themselves positively, act independently, try new things, are proud of their accomplishments and are better able to handle their emotions.
So how to we ensure our kids grow into teens who have high self-esteem? Luckily there are many ways in which parents can help facilitate a positive self-image in their teens.
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Praise your child. You don’t want to come off as insincere and compliment everything they do at every turn. This will backfire, particularly for children who have lower self-esteem and don’t accept compliments easily. But you can make a point of letting your child know when they did a good job or that something they did caused you to feel joy or pride in them. We are so often quick to criticize—if only to help our children improve—but well-deserved praised can be very meaningful and heartfelt.
Involve your teen in discussions. Ask your child for their opinion and show them what they think matters. Whether you’re discussing the news or where to go for lunch, seek their thoughts and encourage them to voice their opinions. Teenagers tend to have lots to say and showing them you value what they think will go a long way toward building their self-esteem.
Offer constructive criticism. Rather than putting your child down or making them feel ashamed of their mistake, think about how you can frame it in a more positive light. For instance, rather than telling them how disappointed you were in their test result, let them know that this is a good starting point and that if they spend a little extra time studying, you know the next mark will be better.
Teach them you have faith in their abilities. Help them set goals and achieve them. Rather than focus on the negative, teach them how to reframe it in a positive way.
Encourage your teen to discover their interests and talents. There’s no better way to feel good about yourself than when you’re doing something you enjoy and at which you excel. Finding that hobby or talent can be tricky, but don’t give up if they don’t find it right away.
Have them try something new, play with them, say “yes” if they come to you with an idea of their own. This is also a great way to make like-minded friends, expand their skills and even get some exercise if sports is what they enjoy.
Teach your child to practice making positive statements about themselves. It’s so easy to get down on yourself. Too often, we find ourselves saying negative things about ourselves. Teens in particular might tell themselves they are “uncool,” “unlikeable,” “unattractive” or “not smart enough.” This will only harm their self-esteem and can lead to depression and anxiety.
It’s so important to encourage our teens to practice saying positive things about themselves and to look at situations in a more positive light. For instance, rather than allowing your teen to be upset that their team lost the baseball game, encourage your teen to think about all they fun they had playing. Remind them that they tried their best and that their next game represents a whole new opportunity to have fun, try hard, and maybe even win.
Remind your child that everyone is good at different things. It’s easy for teens to compare themselves to other teens. They tend to notice if others are better at them in certain subjects and feel bad about themselves in comparison.
Encourage your teen to think about all the things they do well. Let them know it’s great for them to be proud of their friends for their accomplishments. Their friend is sure to compliment them right back when your child excels at something else. This is a great way to spread the goodwill and ensure your child and their social group becomes supportive, rather than competitive.
View mistakes as valuable. We can’t excel at everything and be our best all the time. Sometimes we make mistakes or experience a failure of some sort. If your child is feeling down, encourage them to view mistakes as learning opportunities. What do they think went wrong? How can they improve or act differently to have a more positive outcome next time?
Growing up is about making mistakes and learning from them. It’s how you progress. Let your teen know you’re proud of them for trying and for learning from their mistake.
Self-esteem is very important and we all want our teens to grow into adults who think positively about themselves and can be happy with their place in the world. With these tips, you’re sure to get your teen off to the best possible start.
Echo Editor March 1st, 2018