Protecting Your Child From Depression, Part 2

Children receive a series of immunizations to protect them from various diseases. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could immunize our children against depression? After all, a growing number of people struggle with depression…and, at a younger age. I realize there is no magic shot to prevent depression. Still, wouldn’t it be great to protect your children from depression? To find a way that even if they did experience depression, it would be less severe and shorter-lived?
Well, there may be a way to do just that! No, the answer is not a shot—it’s more of a lifestyle…skills you can teach your child to help protect them from depression. Last week we talked about how teaching children that their actions make a difference can help protect them from depression. Here are two more ways to protect your child from depression.
One, teach your children to help. People who experience depression ruminate about the negative in their lives. They become so absorbed in their own internal pain that they lose touch with what’s going on around them. “Getting out of themselves” and involved in the lives of people around them often helps them escape the self-absorption of depression.
So, to help protect your child from depression, teach them to reach out to others. Give them opportunities to help other people. This may be as simple as helping an elderly woman from the neighborhood rake leaves. There are many opportunities for children to serve—make it a family event. Help at a soup kitchen or go on a mission trip. Shovel snow for an elderly neighbor. Adopt a grandparent at a nursing home. Volunteer to help take a group of people with mental retardation on an outing or go to a local hospital and rock premature babies of mothers addicted to drugs.
These opportunities help children develop a desire to reach out to others and help. In addition, they create new ways of looking at the world around them, helping them to realize the good. One more thing, these activities help children learn that “having a treat” may give momentary happiness, but helping a person in need provides true gratification.
Two, teach your children gratitude. People who experience depression tend to overemphasize the bad events from their past and overlook the positive events. As a person dwells on the negative events from their life, the events seem to grow and overwhelm them. 
One way to counteract this is to develop a strong sense of gratitude in your life. Practicing gratitude helps a person to focus on the positive events in their life—which are much nicer to feel overwhelmed by. In addition, practicing gratitude helps a person grow more aware of the positive events in their past and experience greater contentment. So, teaching your children gratitude may help protect them from depression.
How can you teach gratitude? Spend time each evening talking with your children. Ask them what they enjoyed most during the day. Each night, make a list of five things for which they are thankful. Write these things in a “Thanks Journal” and review the journal every once in a while, reminiscing about the events and material blessings recorded. In addition, model a thankful attitude yourself. Thank other family members for doing things like cooking, cleaning, or laundry. Make it a family pursuit to thank each family member for at least one thing every day. Have fun with gratitude.

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