Category Archives: Depression

The Dark Cloud of Childhood… Bully

Big blue eyes stare at me with huge tears falling down his cheeks. It surprised me and then made my heart sad. What started off as watching a new movie for the family, turned into a sad little boy telling me about something that had happened last school year, and now worries him for the future. So I asked what had happened. He called him his arch enemy, the biggest bully he’d ever seen. He would follow him and push him down time and time again.  When he finally told the duty, the bully said that he was lying, and guess what… She believed him. He then said he spent the rest of the year trying to avoid him, and when things did happen the duty would still not believe him.

Is this hard to hear? Yes! Is it something that I wish he had told me before? You bet!

My son has a big heart. He is the kid that will watch the movie and hope for the bad guy to turn good. Hence his love for Darth Vader and the celebration that he turns back to the light. He prayed for the Denver Broncos to make one touchdown (even though he’s a total Hawks fan), because Peyton Manning looked sad.  When they did, he stood up and hollered and said “Yes, I prayed for that!”  Even though his father and I looked at him in shock, we were proud that he was looking out for the other team.

He’s one of the youngest in his class and gets easily excited, over energized, easily distracted, loves to hug, and forgets his size is intimidating, and he wants to be everyone’s friend. He can be easily razzed which I know is not a good trait to have around other kids.  Which is why I have always feared for him having this problem, and bummed when I find out that he has.  However, as his ever adoring parents our biggest fear is him feeling that he is alone in all this and not letting us know.

After he told me the whole story, I assured him the best that I could. I talked to him about the things I encountered as a kid, and then said how many people also have experienced being bullied. I also talked to him about things that we saw in this particular movie was a made up story, and the chances of the exact thing happening to him wasn’t likely. I can’t promise him though the particular experience wouldn’t happen again, so it made me think what I need to do to help him through the years. Be there, listen, support, give advice, and step in when needed.

This particular topic is probably fresh in many parents minds this month, and being that Discover! wants to help relay information that can help, here we find ourselves. October is an official month to become aware of bullying, therefore we plan on doing a mini series on it.  So let’s get started!

What is Bullying?

Most people know the answer to this question.  Everyone has been teased by a family member or friend in their life.  This teasing is usually not harmful because it’s meant to be playful or funny and both or all parties are enjoying it.  However when the teasing is done to hurt a person, or becomes constant, and needs to stop… then it is bullying.bullyingBullying is when a person targets another by either physically, verbally, or psychologically attacking them.  Pushing, name calling, forcing a person to hand over money or other items, threatening, ganging up on, and spreading rumors are all ways that we have witnessed this nasty process taking place. Now children don’t even need to be around each other.  The internet has broadened the playground in a virtual way, causing the same emotional damage, allowing bullies to pick on people they may know through school or perhaps perfect strangers.  However, there are no duties or fences to limit their reach, and unfortunately the boundaries are endless and supervision is almost nil.

Don’t Brush it Off

Bullying is to be taken seriously though. Many parents look at it as something that kids just go through. In many ways that is true, however children today deal with it and are exposed to it far differently than we ever were.

When we were young we were around our bullies at school every day. We got breaks from them though! We didn’t see them at the end of the day after school or sports, nor did we see them on the weekend or when we were out for school breaks. Now there are kids on social networks, they have cell phones, and they are able to talk or communicate with their friends all year long.

Those that may not be on social networks are not any less likely to be exposed to it. They may be in a neighborhood, daycare, live with, or be involved in another group setting where they find themselves in the proximity of a bully all the time as well. No matter the method, we have seen tragic things come about in some incidents, where children have taken their own life or lives of others in a desperate attempt to escape it.

What are the Signs

If your child doesn’t let you know, then here are some things to keep an eye out for.

  • Your child may start acting differently. They may have a loss of appetite, become anxious, lose sleep, and stop enjoying the hobbies or activities that they usually enjoy.
  • Their attitude may have changed. They may seem more easily agitated or depressed, and start to avoid situations like saying they are sick and can’t go to school, or not want to ride the bus, or want to quit a sport or club.
  • You may notice it yourself when you see them interacting. A bully may try hiding often from your child. They may purposely break, hide, or take your child’s toys. You may notice your child asking them to stop and the other won’t listen. Your child may start to stop play and seek you out, either for help or act as if they don’t want to play with them any further. You may also notice that when in a group setting that your child’s typical best friend starts to exclude them while playing.

Why do Kids Bully?

It can be very hard to understand why kids do this to each other.  Child development researchers have said this. Some children look for other kids that are weaker or different so then they can feel important, cool, or more powerful. In some cases, they also may be bullying because they are mimicking how they have been treated themselves. They may live in an environment where it is common to argue or call each other names. It’s also common to see bullies on television. They can see how people are treated or talked about, which in-turn promotes them to do the same.

Why Kids Bully

Why Do Kids Not Tell Us?

  • Children often feel guilty, embarrassed, or ashamed. They may worry that you will be upset or disappointed in them.
  • Sometimes kids think that it is there fault. They may feel that if they started acting differently the bully would stop.
  • They may be afraid to talk, because if the bully gets confronted or in trouble, they think the bullying towards them will get worse.
  • It’s also possible that they may think that you won’t believe them or you won’t do anything about it.
  • They may also be afraid that you would urge them to fight back when they are too scared to do so.

depressed child 4What do I do?

  • Tell your child that is is okay to let someone know what it happening. That they can tell you or another adult they trust.  Like a teacher or counselor, family member, or a family friend.
  • When they are telling you what has happened, listen calmly and comfort them.  They may fear that you have a bad reaction, and even if you react angry with the bully, they may think you are angry with them.  So be calm.
  • Let him/her know that you are so grateful that they shared what happened with you.
  • Tell them that they aren’t the only ones going through this and that everyone goes through something similar at some point.
  • Make sure to point out that what the Bully is doing is very bad behavior and that it’s not your child’s fault.
  • Assure them you are there for support, and that you will help them in any way to figure out how to get through the situation.
  • Contact the school, daycare, or club about the situation. Depending on the age of the child, and the extent of the bullying, your actions may be different.  Working out a solution with someone, such as a principle, counselor, or teacher is advisable.
  • Some parents may want to speak to the bully’s parents, as tempting as that may be, it’s better to have the school officials do so or have them present if you decide to contact them.

What Kids Should Do

It’s tempting to tell kids to defend themselves.  However this can lead to more trouble for both your kiddo and possibly yourself.  So what should you tell them to do? I know I’ve told my son to avoid them, and to make friends with other kids that are nice and hang around them all the time, you know the term “you are more safe in numbers.” I know I have also told him to let someone know.

So here is what you can tell your little ones.

  • Use the buddy system: If your child finds that it’s common for the bully to always approach them in a certain place try to find ways to avoid those situations, or have a friend that can come with you.  Also tell them to do the same for their friend.
  • Don’t give a rise: It’s natural to get worked up when something is happening that you don’t like, but chances are that is exactly what the bully wants to see.  Seeing your child upset makes them feel like they are more powerful or cooler then they are. Help your child to not react by crying or looking upset. Suggest that they walk away, breath, count, or find a calm quite place to sit and write down how they are feeling.  These are all ways to help not show the bully that their feelings are hurt.  This may be a time that you also teach them about the “poker face,” where they just walk away with a face that looks like nothing happened until they have been able to get away from the bully.
  • Ignore and walk away: Let your kiddo know that it’s okay and that they are allowed to firmly tell the bully to “Stop!” and then walk away. However, if that method does not work they can pretend that they didn’t hear or are uninterested in what they said. When they ignore the bully, they are basically conveying that they don’t care what the bully does or thinks. Eventually the bully will get tired of being ignored and hopefully become uninterested.
  • Tell someone: In order for something to be done, they need to know that it’s okay to tell someone.  Teachers, principles, counselors, parents, and many other staff workers can all help stop bullying.
  • Let’s talk: It’s okay to talk about it to an adult you trust, sibling, or other family member. They can help you with advice and help you feel better.

Make them Feel Strong Again

As mentioned before, the emotional damage that happens from bullying can be deep and hard to recover from. You can help them by letting them know that true friends are ones that are kind to them and make good choices. Also encourage them to take part in extracurricular activities like sports, clubs, church groups, or other activities they may enjoy.

Most importantly listen! Find out what happened in their day, both good and bad. Discuss ways that they can tell you something is going on without explaining, like a code word. When I was growing up my mom always told me that I could say that I wasn’t feeling well when something was wrong and she’d come and get me. Believe me I used this when I felt out of place on a few occasions, and I was grateful for knowing that I had my mom to bring me home. This will help them to learn that you’ve got their back, and knowing that they have a strong relationship with you, helps make a strong foundation for their well being.

Here’s our first article on bullying.  We know that it’s a lot of info to process and we hope that it has helped.  Hug your kiddos tight Discover! parents!

 

Rescources National Association for Child Development, Helpguide.org, and Kidhealth.org, and PBS Kids

 

 

When Sad Doesn’t Become Temporary

There is a lot going on in the world today.  Even though America is fast paced, when you compare it to what the rest of the world is going through, we seem to have a calmer more sheltered lifestyle.

War in Ukraine, Israel, and Iraq.  Ebola in Africa as well as our very own health crisis on the south boarder.  All of which are huge and terrifying.  More news this week that has spread like wild fire , and yet was not as huge as the circumstances listed above but still a big loss to many.  The loss was a man that both young and old have either seen or heard at least once in their lifetime.  This person who at dark and dreary times, like the world is experiencing today, could still in the mist of things make people laugh and feel at ease. Many of you probably know who I’m talking about.  AladinRobin Williams, who was either the voice or actor of dozens and dozens of movies, and kept us just as easily entertained on tv shows, stand up, and his many interviews.  Even though many of us never met the man, we felt we knew the man, and even then we didn’t really know what he was experiencing.

‘Researchers from Oxford University and Bershire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust say that manic thinking helps join together ridiculous ideas that spark humor.”  With their findings, they took a look back into time by comparing historical figures that displayed the characteristics of a person suffering from manic depression (bipolar condition).  Painters and play writers were some of those that during their time were considered mad.  Comparing to present day, a person that can exude a manic personality, also has the ability to be incredibly creative, and create original humor.

rwSo a person is funny and you think, “Wow I really like that guy/gal, we should always have them over!”  Then you move on with your life not knowing that that trait, the humor, completely deflected you from truly getting to know the real person.   I’m sure you are reading this and wondering how it relates at all to our kids.  Please be patient, because I will explain.

Eight percent of children will experience depression, 3.4% of this eight percent are in primary school.   Studies have also indicated that 70% of children experiencing it will experience it again within five years.  One in Eight teenagers will experience a low.  Adults diagnosed also appear to have a  similar percentage.  The National Institute of Mental Health showed that  in 2012 6.9% of adults experienced depression.  You may think well that is not a lot, however that represented 16 million adults!  That is an incredible amount of families who have been effected by this disease.

upset boy leaning against a wallWhat can we do?  First we must understand it.  Depression is a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest.  It affects how you feel, think, behave, and can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems.  Persons who suffer from depression may have trouble doing normal day to day activities, and even feel that life is not worth living.

Depression is NOT a weakness, it is also NOT an attitude you can just snap out of.  It is NOT a disease that goes away.  It is also a disease that should NOT be taken lightly.

Children can suffer from depression and be even more confused than adult as to why they are feeling so sad.  Rather than just summing up a child’s personality to grumpy or melancholy, perhaps we should start to teach them how to cope with the feelings that they are experiencing.  So their future dealing with it will be brighter.

It is normal for children, especially teens to experience mood swings.  However when the depressive state lasts weeks or longer, and then effects the way they function, it is likely that they are experiencing depression.

depressed child 2Symptoms (According to American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry):

  • Frequent sadness, tearfulness, and/or crying
  • Hopelessness
  • Decreased interest in activities or inability to enjoy previously favorite activities.
  • Persistent boredom; low energy. The child seems to have an inability to have joy.
  • Social isolation, poor communication. Example: A child is given the opportunity to play with friends, and seems to prefer to be alone.
  • Low self-esteem and guilt. The child feels they’re not good or not worth very much.  When the child is asked, ‘Are you important to somebody?’ Depressed kids often say no.
  • Extreme sensitivity to rejection or failure
  • Increased irritability, anger, or hostility
  • Difficulty with relationships
  • Frequent complaints of physical illnesses such as headaches and stomachaches.
  • Frequent absences from school or poor performance in school.
  • Poor concentration
  • A major change in eating and/or sleeping patterns
  • Talk of or efforts to run away from home
  • Thoughts or expressions of suicide or self-destructive behavior

child psychologistHow to Help

As a parent, you can recognize when something is bothering your little one, and they aren’t quite able to shake the feeling off.  If you suspect that your child is suffering from depression and your efforts haven’t changed their behavior, your next step is to call in some help.  Rather than being quick to medicate, you must first know what the kind of depression is that they are suffering from.  Yes there are different kinds!  To find out the diagnosis,  you must visit your pediatrician who will either refer you to or you may choose to immediately visit a psychiatrist or psychologist.

What NOT to do

  • Don’t just think that it is a phase they will grow out of.
  • Don’t tell them to depressed child 3‘grow up’, ‘man up’, or ‘stop being a baby.’
  • Don’t call them names or try to make them feel bad or guilty for what they are feeling.
  • Don’t compare them to others or point out their faults.
  • Beware of extreme parenting  advice, that would compare them to bad kids, and sum up their actions to being lazy, disobedient, or losers.
  • Also be aware that there are those that think depression is a made up clinical definition of a person that is trying to defy all the happy people in the world.  Unfortunately, I came across this while researching the topic.

What to do (provided by healthy children.org)

  • Start a conversation. “You’re feeling sad, you’re feeling depressed, what can we do about the problem? What would you find helpful?”  This helps you to start the conversation and lets your child know that you are there to listen.
  • Seek supportive counseling:  Treatment takes time and the patient is often the last person to see that it’s working.
  • Reduce stress:  Look at what all your child is involved in.  Is there something that can be taken out of their day or that they really want to not be involved in anymore.  It could be that those activities are adding to the problem.  Example: Extra curricular activities, or social media.
  • Educate your family about what depression is.
  • Using positive metaphors “Little steps uphill, big steps down hill.” “Long journeys start with a single step,” or “The glass is half full, not half empty,” “Take it one step at a time.”
  • Help them relax.  This can be relaxation techniques or visualization.  Where the child practices breathing and imagining that they are in a calm pleasant place.   You may already know what your child finds relaxing.  It may be exercise or a sport that they love that helps them unwind, or a hobby like writing, reading, or crafting.
  • Develop problem solving skills: Help them identify small steps that can be made to overcome a situation.
  • Suggest that your child write down down a list of difficulties and prioritize them, and concentrate on the small ones first.depressed child 4
  • Rehearse behavior and social skills:  If they are experience a low mood triggered from a certain situation or person.  Discuss, develop, and practice the ways he/she can avoid or react to the situation or person.
  • Encourage your child to practice doing things and thinking in a way that improves their mood.
  • Emergency list: Create a list of telephone numbers that he/she can call upon when hitting a low or having a moment where they are in distress.
  • Remove weapons and potentially lethal products from your home.
  • Watch for risk factors for suicide, such as increased agitation, stressors, loss of rational thinking, and an expressed wished to die.
  • Locate numbers for suicide or depression hotlines, on-call telephone numbers for your physician, or contact information for the area mental health crisis response team.

Chehalis

Crisis Line Human Response Network: 360-748-6601 or 1-800-244-7414

Lewis County Crisis Line, Cascade Mental Health Care 360-748-6696

rw 2
Koko the gorilla hugging Robin Williams, after spending the day with him. Another example of this man’s ability to cross boundaries into someone’s heart. http://www.koko.org/koko-tribute-robin-williams

As you can see there is a lot that you can do.  It looks like a lot more work than what NOT to do.  However that is what parenting is all about… A LOT of work!  Please be mindful of this disease, listen and help when you see the need.  Even if it isn’t your own child.  Lets help to avoid the loss of any of our future greats!  With heavy heart hug your little ones and be patient. We give our deepest condolences to all that have lost loved ones to this terrible disease.

Resources: Healthychildren.org, Kidshealth.org, University of Oxford, and National Institute of Mental Health.