Kids who live with depression, anxiety and/or OCD spend an extraordinary amount of time in their head. Ruminating over negative thoughts, worrying about past and future situations and focusing on scary and sad feelings leaves many children and teens zapped emotionally and physically. They are too consumed by what is happening in their mind (real or not) to focus on what is occurring outside of themselves.
It doesn’t matter how joyful and exciting you make their surroundings if they are wrapped up with intrusive or troubling thoughts; their focus will remain inward. What I can say about it is this: You need to get your kids talking. Engaging in conversation pulls the brain out of worry/ruminating mode and into functioning mode. Talking allows the brain to change focus. Their depression and anxiety will not dissipate with one conversation. But the brain will learn to switch gears every time you engage it in an alternative activity.
You don’t need to be a miraculous linguist or a therapist or doctor. You just have to be a present and caring adult. One of the easiest ways to get conversation rolling is to take a drive. Car rides are less threatening. Think about it. No eye contact. Just a window and the open road. Many parents will report their kiddos let all their emotions go in the car and there is a reason for that…it feels safe. The same can be said for conversations that occur over quiet card games or puzzle making sessions. It is simply less intimidating to talk when your hands and eyes are otherwise occupied.
On another note, please remember you don’t have to sweat the topic. A particular subject of interest isn’t needed. Just let them know you are there and you are listening. No phones and no television – just you and only you is all they want. They don’t want you to “fix” anything. They are like big people. All they want is to be heard and that is it. Often voicing what concerns them is enough to allow the child to let go and move forward.
In closing, I could give you a script of what to say and how to respond but I think that many times that lends itself to artificial conversation. And a child can read fake from a mile away. Trust yourself and your ability to connect with your child and everything will fall into place. Just keep your kids talking and you will not go wrong.