Tuesday Topic: How Do I Help My Child with Depression?

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It’s been far too long since we’ve done a Tuesday Topic. Today I have a great question from Margaret,

I am curious how people support kids with depression and how they keep it from seeping into their own lives?

How do I encourage my depressed kid to try new things, get exercise, get out of bed? When do I leave well enough alone? How do I negotiate all this without feeling hopeless myself? (We are already getting professional treatment for our adopted teen daughter.)

I see two questions here:

How do we help a child who has depression?

How do we keep from becoming depressed ourselves?

Does anyone in your family struggle with depression? Would you take a few minutes to leave a comment for Margaret? You may think that what you have to say isn’t important, but you can’t know what might be just what another mom needs to hear. Feel free to address one question or both.

Even a word of kindness and encouragement is a gift.

If you have a Tuesday Topic you would like me to post, email it to me at lisa@onethankfulmom.com   Please put “Tuesday Topic” in the subject line; it will help me stay organized. I would love to get back to posting a new question each week, so send them my way.

Have a wonderful day, friends. Be sure to enter the giveaway for Ann Voskamp’s new Advent book, Unwrapping the Greatest Gift; we can’t wait to start reading it on Dec. 1st.

Encourage one another,


This post may contain Amazon Affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Let me introduce myself. Russ and I are the parents of twelve children by birth and adoption, and sometimes more through foster care. I'm the creator of One Thankful Mom which has been as much of a gift to me as to my readers. In 2011 I became a TBRI® Pracitioner* and have lived and breathed connected parenting ever since. I'm deeply honored to be the co-author, together with the late Dr. Karyn Purvis, of The Connected Parent; it is her final written work. I love speaking at events for adoptive and foster parents. I'm also the co-founder of The Adoption Connection, a podcast and resource site for adoptive moms. I mentor and encourage adoptive moms so you can find courage and hope in your journeys of loving your children well.


  1. Carmen
    November 11, 2014

    I am looking forward to reading people's comments on this one! For our son, just taking the time to talk with him seems to help make him feel loved, even though we say the same things over and over. It is really hard for me to not get sucked in to his negativity, but I don't want the whole atmosphere of the home to be sad and upset! It's a hard thing.

  2. Acceptance with Joy
    November 11, 2014

    This is a very, very important topic. We have all struggled with it at our home. I think in general, adopted/foster kids have reason to be depressed from all they have been through…. and the adoptive/foster parents experience depression because parenting these children takes the juice out of you. We wear out.

    For me: I use my blue light daily. I got it from Amazon, but you can get them at Costco. I don't need it so much in the summer when we have a lot of light, but starting in September I try to use it before 7 am for 15 minutes.

    Exercise is important.

    Relaxing and taking time to recover – time away, or just time alone, or out with a spouse is so, so helpful.

    Reading Scripture – the Proverbs and other encouraging passages helps to lift the mind to higher things.

    Taking a little Vit D everyday is necessary for a lot of people. And the B vitamins to help cope with the stress.

    I have the books: The Lost Art of Thinking by Dr. Nedley, and also his book, Depression the Way Out. Such amazing resources that have blessed me so much!! If you can only afford one book, go with Lost Art of Thinking.

    Personally, I have dealt with depression on and off since the children became ours. The exorbitant amount of energy it takes, and the emotional stress takes its toll. I am so very worn out…. probably in adrenal fatigue and am finding that a 15 minute crisis with a child can lay me out flat for 2 days of crippling pain, and exhaustion. This is turn brings the need to combat depression…

    For my kids: I keep them exercising even when they balk me. I push fluids, because the brain struggles when it is dehydrated. I use some essential oils to help my one child stay calm which keeps him from having the up and down swings. I find that keeping them busy with plans and projects is helpful, even if I have to ask someone else to help them…. I can't do it all 🙁

    1. Laura
      November 12, 2014

      Thank you for sharing so much. I agree with many of your suggestions. Sorry to hear about your adrenal fatigue – that must make it even more challenging at times. What are the essential oils that you have found to be helpful?

  3. Mary Adams
    November 11, 2014

    I struggled with depression before I became a mom. Having a kiddo who struggles with depression, I have become even more well acquainted with the issue. I think if you struggle with depression and have a kid who struggles with depression and you can only manage therapy for one of you, you should be the one in therapy. It is amazing how much of a difference it makes in my ability to positively impact him when I am doing well myself. So I have spent a lot of hours in individual therapy with a great therapist who is familiar with adoption, attachment and trauma from years of work with adoptees and adoptive parents. I also started seeing a nurse practitioner who specializes in functional medicine to address minor health issues that impact overall health and mood. I am very diligent about holistic self-care, covering mind, body, and spirit. I take time away by myself and picked up a couple hobbies that nourish me. My husband and I spend time nourishing our relationship, which helps keep us on the same page and helps ground me.

    THEN I am in a place where I can respond with compassion and empathy to my son. I can think with a clear head and heart to respond to his needs, which change from time to time. For a long time, he had no awareness of his emotions, but it was obvious due to his physical symptoms with no medical cause, that there was a lot of inner turmoil (dissociation). We and his therapist have been working with him to become aware of his feelings and his body. Only when he is aware of them can he make any choices regarding how to deal with it. My kiddo is 16, so the number of things I can influence is dwindling. It really has to be his choice.

  4. Michelle
    November 11, 2014

    My husband has been helped by taking supplements from True Hope. As long as he is faithful with the program they prescribed, he is completely symptom free. While he felt a little better almost right away, it seems that the longer he is on them, the better he feels.

  5. Rebecca
    November 11, 2014

    Depression is so very hard. I would just encourage you to breathe, take each day as it comes, resist the temptation to over-worry or look too far ahead. Encourage your child to do the same. For myself I find life most overwhelming when I forget that none of us grow in a straight line. When I remember my own life breakthroughs, it helps me have patience with others who aren't there yet. Grace and peace to you, dear mama.

  6. Ann Hodgman
    November 11, 2014

    Very much with you in spirit, as I suffer from serious treatment-resistant depression. So do many members of my family, both children and adults. There are great suggestions here, but no one mentions actual prescription antidepressants. Please don't rule them out! They are, without question, far more effective than any alternative supplement (although, at the suggestion of my psychiatrist, I take D and folic acid supplements).

    If your child had Type 1 diabetes, wouldn't you try to make sure s/he received insulin for the rest of his/her life? For many people, antidepressants must be viewed the same way, since for many people, depression is a lifelong condition that can be managed but not cured. I know that I wouldn't still be here without prescription anti-Ds.

    I agree that if you can afford therapy for only one person in the family, you should choose yourself. "Put the oxygen mask on yourself before assisting the child." Two books that my kids and I have found helpful are Learned Optimism and Learned Optimism For Kids, both by Martin Seligman. (Remember that when you find a helpful book, you should reread it every now and then.) And yes, vigorous exercise is an essential mood regulator–even for kids who resist the idea. A friend of mine signed up her depressed fifth grader for swim team. "You don't have to go to meets, but you have to go to practices" was the family rule. Other parents I know have started the whole family on a running program–themselves included.

    1. Mary Adams
      November 12, 2014

      I didn't mention that in my post, but I agree that medicine can be an important factor. I am not currently taking one. I decided that I was going to give the recommendations of my NP 3-6 months (I am on a combination of hormone therapy and supplements), and if I didn't feel significant improvement, then I would start. This time, I did feel significant improvement so didn't go that route. And sometimes the kiddos are the ones that need it, and that's fine, too.

  7. Laura
    November 12, 2014

    So many great points and suggestions on such a hard topic. I work as a therapist and am appreciative of your responses. I've noticed depression symptoms in my 9 year old son lately and have spent a lot of time in prayer. My husband and I have both struggled with depression off and on. As an adult (and for teens), the Genesis Process is very helpful in overcoming addictive behaviors (including what we do to cope/avoid feeling depressed) and discovering what is the root of the issues. It fits very well with EMDR therapy. I believe God is able to heal us from all things although the journey may be long and full of emotions – even those that we don't necessarily like to feel.
    Another book suggestion is The Power of a Praying Parent by Stormie O'Martian (there is a specific section for Inviting the Joy of the Lord and another on Destroying and Inheritance of Family Bondage – including depression)
    Thank you Lisa for posting this Tuesday Topic!

  8. reb
    November 13, 2014

    Hi…God's word through Derek Prince…
    God, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ1—according to Your Word—I am asking You to deliver me from this spirit of heaviness.2
    Thank You, Lord, that all things work together for good in my life, because I love You and I am called according to Your purpose.3
    In Jesus’ name, I bring into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.4
    I put on as a helmet the hope of salvation.5
    Now, may the God of hope fill me with all joy and peace in believing, that I may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.6
    Holy Spirit, guide me into all truth7 and deliver me from all the lies8 of the evil one.9
    I will not be conformed to this world, but I will be transformed by the renewing of my mind, that I may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.10
    Thank You, Father. In Jesus’ name. Amen!
    1Joel 2:32 2Isaiah 61:3 3Romans 8:28 42 Corinthians 10:5 51 Thessalonians 5:8 6Romans 15:13 7John 16:13 8John 8:44 9Matthew 6:13 10Romans 12:2

    IN THE 1950s, I had a problem of recurrent fits of depression that would come over me like a dark, heavy cloud. The more I prayed and fasted, the worse it got. One day I had come to the end of my solutions when a phrase in Isaiah 61:3 captured my attention: “a spirit of heaviness.” I suddenly realized I was dealing with a spirit—not with mental or psychological conditions in myself.
    Recognizing the identity of my enemy was a tremendous step forward. I found an- other verse that I believed would bring the solution to my problem: Joel 2:32. I put this and Isaiah 61:3 together and prayed a very specific, scriptural prayer (see over).
    After I prayed, I was delivered. The pres- sure was lifted. But it’s one thing to be de- livered; it’s another thing altogether to stay delivered.
    God began to show me that He had set my mind free from this demonic pressure, and it was now up to me to reeducate my mind.
    I had to train my mind to hope (keep a confident expectation of good). It didn’t come in five minutes, though; it took more than five years. But it’s been worth every bit of training that I’ve put into it.
    Take the helmet of salvation—the helmet of hope. Put it on. Cover your mind. Pro- tect your thoughts; bring them under con- trol and in line with the Word of God. And experience the glorious results!
    —Derek Prince (1915–2003)
    Taken from CD4016: “The Helmet of Hope.”
    Derek Prince Ministries
    P.O. Box 19501 • Charlotte, NC 28219 http://www.derekprince.org

  9. Cici
    November 13, 2014

    Vitamin b-12, b6, folic acid and vitamin c has helped our family significantly. We also use essential oils – they are great because they have a more immediate impact. AndrewSaul.com has some great information on vitamins and depression. I highly recommend reading the materials on his site doctoryourself.com

  10. Teresa
    January 1, 2015

    I have 11 adopted children. 4 years ago we changed our diet and that changed everything!! My oldest, 12 years at the time, was talking about killing himself. Our family went on the gaps diet and his symptoms are completely gone. it only took a few weeks to see a drastic improvement in his depression. I also agree that often supplements can be a huge help. My family has found B12 and folate (not folic acid) to be extremely helpful.


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