Do any of the following situations sound familiar?
- A toddler sulks all day for no discernible reason.
- A grade-schooler whines nonstop about “nothing ever going right for me.”
- An adolescent spends the day brooding in her room.
We all get down—on ourselves, our lives, or the world—at times. If you want to minimize those times for your family, make a habit of practicing the following.
One common cause of perpetual unhappiness is trying to force oneself into the wrong intellectual, emotional, or vocational niche. We accomplish far more by building on our strengths (and teaming with others who possess complementary strengths) than by battling our weaknesses.
Besides encouraging each family member to focus on pastimes and goals that match their natural passions, know everyone’s “stress and depress” points: What (and when) are their natural energy levels? Are they introverted or extroverted? What’s hardest not to take personally? Make a point of being empathetic and not pushing anyone beyond their coping abilities.
Make Time For Rest
It’s a fact: unless you learn to rest before you’re exhausted, you’ll find yourself too exhausted to rest properly, and will be insomniac or just plain miserable. Set reasonable bedtime hours for every member of your household (including adults), and, on busy days, leave time to sit back and daydream every couple of hours.
Take Time For Fun
Whether your idea of leisure time is reading a book or playing touch football, everyone needs “playtime” to keep stress down and maintain a sense of personal control. Give everyone ample time to enjoy themselves privately; and once a week or so, plan some family-group activity everyone enjoys.
Keep the Communication Lines Open
People who feel “no one understands or listens” are chronically discouraged people. When your child wants to talk, listen with your eyes, ears, and brain. (If there’s anything worse than snapping “Don’t bother me,” it’s giving someone the go-ahead to talk, and then obviously ignoring them as you continue with what you were doing.) And recognize how important something is to them, not just how important it seems to you.
Know When to Get Help
Occasionally, no matter what you do, someone develops a case of “down in the dumps” that won’t go away. If someone seems to be in an unending funk—and especially if they lose interest in favorite activities, or talk about wanting to die—make an appointment with a professional therapist. Sometimes, a depressed person needs medication; sometimes, there’s a deeper issue that needs major work. And sometimes, it happens that one of your children just has a lower-key temperament and nothing is seriously wrong—in which case, an objective opinion will take a load off your mind and open doors to better understanding between yourself and your child.
Even where depression has medical causes, it doesn’t have to rule or ruin anyone’s life. Follow the above tips, set a good example, and I guarantee the mood in your household will be more ups than downs!