Today’s guest post is from Angela Prickette, a recent college graduate. She currently works independently as a freelance writer and photographer. She enjoys snow skiing, hiking, and rock climbing.
In the past few decades there has been a significant increase in the amount of teenagers and adults diagnosed with anxiety and depression. Often the development of these disorders can be traced back to childhood. When raising a child, parents should be mindful of the ways they can protect their child from developing depression, anxiety or related illnesses.
One of the biggest benefits parents can provide their children with is the chance to play independently with peers. Unstructured play time not only fosters creativity, but also helps children develop the coping skills needed to face various challenges that they will encounter. Parents who shelter their children by over-controlling their play, though often well-intentioned, are actually doing their children a disservice in the long run
“Social interaction with peers is also a crucial part of developing resiliency and life skills as a child,” according to author Michael Myles. Playing with peers helps children see their is life outside of themselves and learn to care and respond to the needs of others. Establishing this mindset early on can help children learn to adjust to being in groups and it actively fights the anxiety that some people struggle with when being in groups or with new people.
For parents who struggled themselves with any form of depression or anxiety, it is very important to model shared decision making for children. What is shared decision making?
It is simply approaching medical decisions as a team, with communication from patients and care professionals. Using this approach and being intentional about doing so, helps children see that it is okay to seek help, but also important to have input. Children who see their parents using shared decision making for their own health care will understand how to be proactive in getting help while avoiding learned helplessness or taking the standpoint that people are just victims of depression or anxiety.
Another important thing to model for kids that may help prevent depression or anxiety is coping with stress in healthy ways. Seeing parents use techniques like exercise or lists, rather than stress-eating or over indulgence can help kids learn to focus on healthy habits for themselves. Also, when parents are upfront about stressful life situations and able to talk them through (when age-appropriate) it can be a powerful example for children. Children take so many cues from adults, including how to deal with stress, make decisions and show resilience.