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8 Acts You Might Be Doing To Kill Your Kid’s Creativity

8 Acts You Might Be Doing To Kill Your Kid’s Creativity

It’s a sad truth that some of the world’s best minds are stifled at a young age simply because society has forced them into doing so. Parents are not to blame for this, per se, as for the most part they are doing what they’ve read or been told is right. However, some actions parents take in regard to raising their children unfortunately might be doing more harm than good.

1. Giving Extrinsic Rewards

Okay, it’s definitely easiest to promise an extra scoop of ice cream if your child completes his homework, or practices her piano for a half hour. But by doing so, you’re ingraining two detrimental notions within their growing minds: One, that they should only do work if there is a reward offered; and two, that what they’re doing is actually work. Yes, I understand homework is not the most fun thing in the world to do, but by doing it, and doing it right, it will make learning the next step that much easier. If a child associates playing an instrument with hard work, he won’t be free to get creative with it. Instead, reward a job well done with a more fun piece of music, or a math puzzle that relates to the night’s homework. Every task has some menial part to it, but the reward for completing tasks should relate specifically to the skills built while working through the menial parts.

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2. Over-scheduling

In an effort to making their kids an expert at something, parents often sign their children up for way too many things. Karate, soccer, swimming lessons, and art classes? All this will do is make them a jack of all trades, and master of none. Too often, kids feel like they “have to go to baseball practice tonight,” instead of actually looking forward to it. How many of us, as adults, would want to be up and about until 9PM after a long day’s work, and still have to come home and do more work before bed? I know there are people that function that way, but the truth is they are probably cyborgs. The most successful minds in history have spoken out about the benefits of downtime. It’s when the mind is free from stress and having to follow a regiment that it is able to reflect on the day’s events, and prepare itself for the following day. With no downtime, children go through life never truly being prepared.

3. Limiting choices

On the other hand, giving a child too little to do will also stifle her creativity. I’m sure many parents have experienced this: You go out and buy an expensive toy, playset, etc. that comes in a huge box, and hours later find your kid playing with…the box. Of course, you’re not happy about it because you just spent $200 on cardboard. But to that child, it’s not a box; it’s a spaceship, a train, or a dollhouse. The lesson here is, children see the world differently than adults, and by forcing our narrow viewpoint upon them, we kill their imagination. I’ll let Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson explain this a little further.

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4. Shadowing or hovering

As a kid, I remember absolutely hating when a teacher would circle the room and check over my shoulder while I was completing a task. I always felt like I had better be right, or else I’d be completely embarrassed and never want to show my face in class again. It also made me feel incredibly rigid, so I would make sure I was doing the work her way, and wouldn’t deviate from the set instructions given. Children need to feel free to go about things in their own way, and find their own solutions. If children are constantly just repeating instructions, there will never be any innovation in their thought process.

5. Making them fear failure

Simply put: everyone fears failure. But without failure, success wouldn’t feel as sweet as it does. Unfortunately, we ingrain in our children the idea that failure is a dead end road, with no turning back. This can’t be farther from the truth. In fact, failure is simply a bump in the road to success. You wouldn’t turn back to home if you hit a pothole, right? (I mean, unless you get a flat, but stay with me here). Often, finding the right way to go about solving a problem is all about finding the ways not to go about solving it, and changing your approach. Children need to understand that failure is inevitable, but is able to be conquered. The only way failure wins is if they stop trying altogether.

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6. Rushing them

A notion that is sadly overlooked in today’s society is the idea that children are simply new to life. They truly do not have the experience adults have to understand concepts, and they lack the background knowledge we have that makes it easy for us to connect ideas and come to conclusions fairly quickly. Their brain is a muscle that takes time to form connections, and by rushing children through tasks we make it almost certain these connections will not be made. Let them accomplish goals at their own pace. It might take a little longer than expected, but the connections made will last a lifetime, and they will have a much easier go of it the next time they encounter a similar problem.

7. Making everything a competition

Okay, let me start out by saying I’m not all for the “everybody gets a trophy” thing. But placing the idea that they have to “beat” everyone else puts way too much pressure on children. You’ll notice that even the most famous sports stars aren’t simply obsessed with beating the other team; they’re focused on playing their best, and when they do, they end up winning the game. The only person a child should ever feel like he’s competing against is himself. He should approach every obstacle with the goal of being better at it than he was the day before. Not only will he continue to grow on a daily basis, but he will also be humble about his advances, instead of looking at “how much better” or “how much worse” he is at something than everyone else.

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8. Not being creative yourself

There’s a saying in the adult world: “If it looks stupid, but works…it’s not stupid.” A lot of us are afraid of looking…well, looking like children, when it comes to finding solutions to a problem. By stifling our own creativity, we stifle our children’s. We should be the ones who find new ways of doing things, so our children know it’s okay to go off the beaten path once in a while. We should create drums out of empty paint cans and milk jugs instead of throwing them away; we should make our own wrapping paper or greeting cards instead of buying them. It sounds corny, and it is. But the truth is, that’s what our children need. They need to see that we’re not afraid to drop the act and get silly, that it’s normal to be abnormal. When we force ourselves to walk a straight line, our children will follow. When we choose to skip and zig-zag around it, they’ll be right behind us.

Featured photo credit: Flickr via farm7.staticflickr.com

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Matt Duczeminski

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Last Updated on January 12, 2021

Signs of Depression in Children (And How to Help Them to Overcome It)

Signs of Depression in Children (And How to Help Them to Overcome It)

Children, just like adults, can be depressed. Sometimes seemingly normal children with no major life issues can become depressed. It is the result of a chemical imbalance in the brain that causes clinical depression to occur. There are specific signs that you should recognize in your child if they are depressed. Getting them help and treatment is crucial to their mental wellness.

In this article, we will look into the signs of depression in children and how parents can help them to overcome it.

Signs of depression in children

The DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder) is the widely accepted instruction guide that professionals utilize for diagnosing mental disorders. The DSM characterizes a Major Depressive Episode as depressed behaviors that consistently last for two weeks or longer. Therefore, if your child has been “down in the dumps”, feeling hopeless or having sadness for more than two weeks, it should be cause for concern and investigated.

Below are signs of depression according to the DSM manual. The individual must have at least five of these behaviors present for a period of two weeks or longer to be officially diagnosed as having MDD (Major Depressive Disorder). Below is a summary/generalization from the DSM manual:

  • Feelings of deep sadness or depressed mood that last most of the day (for two weeks or more). For children they can present as irritable rather than sad.
  • Diminished interest in activities (again majority of the day or all the time).
  • Significant weight loss (not through dieting), or a decrease in appetite. In children, they fail to make expected weight gains while growing.
  • Difficulty sleeping (insomnia).
  • Either a slowing of psychomotor abilities/actions or an apparent agitation of these psychomotor abilities. This means that they either have moments that lack purpose and seem to be done because of agitation and tension or there is a significant slowness/retardation of their speech and physical actions.
  • Fatigue and loss of energy.
  • Feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt every day.
  • Difficulty thinking, making decisions, or concentrating every day. This may be reflected in their grades.
  • Preoccupation with death and dying or suicidal thoughts.

Please note that if your child is suffering from the loss of a loved one and is processing through the stages of grief, it is normal to have these signs of depression. If they seem to be stuck in the depression stage, then it is time to pursue grief counseling to help them along in the grieving process.

However, if they are not suffering from a bereavement or a medical condition that would cause the above symptoms, then they should be taken to a professional for possible diagnosis and treatment of MDD (Major Depressive Disorder).

How to help your child with depression

Depression is not to be taken lightly. Especially if suicidal thoughts are present. The child’s feelings and emotions are real and must be taken seriously. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), suicide is the number two cause of death for individuals between the ages of 10 and 34.[1]

Professional help is recommended if you believe your child fits the criterion for MDD (Major Depressive Disorder). You can take your child to their paediatrician for an evaluation and referral. Depending on the severity of the symptoms, they may benefit from medication such as anti-depressants.

Most professionals do not dispense medication as the first remedy for depression. Instead therapy is the first line of defense against depression, with medication being paired with therapy if the therapy is not enough or the symptoms are severe enough.

Testing

There are assessment tools that professionals can utilize to help in properly determining whether your child is depressed. The three tools used in assessing depression in children are:

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  • The Children’s Depression Rating Scale (CDRS)
  • Children’s Depression Inventory (CDI)
  • Clinical Global Impression (CGI)

Taking your child to a professional mental health counselor, psychologist or psychiatrist can help ensure proper testing and assessment occurs.

Therapy

There are many types of therapy available today. It is important to find a professional that specializes in childhood depression and the treatment of such.

Cognitive behavioral therapy is one of the leading therapy methods in treating childhood depression. For younger children, play therapy is useful in treating childhood depression as children are often able to better communicate through play than conversation alone.

What parents can do at home to help their depressed child

Besides seeking for professional help, there are a couple of things that parents can do at home to help their depressed child:

1. Talk with your child about their feelings in a compassionate and empathetic manner.

It can feel high pressure to sit face to face and ask your child about their feelings. However, going on a walk, playing a board game or playing alongside your child (chose whichever is age appropriate for your child) can allow them to relax and open up about their feelings.

Ask your child open ended questions that require more than a simple yes or no to engage in more meaningful conversations. Never judge while they are being open and honest with you because it will inevitably cause them to shut down and move away from being open with you.

It is okay to allow for periods of silence during the conversations because sometimes the child is processing their thoughts and emotions during your time together. You don’t have to fill the space and entire time with talking as silence at times is helpful.

2. Provide activities that help them relax and de-stress.

For smaller children, there are simple ways to help them relax.

Provide play opportunities that they find relaxing such as coloring, painting, working with Play-do or clay, or playing with sand and sand toys. Again, find activities that interest your child and are age appropriate are helpful in making them relaxed.

3. Limit screen time.

Technology is not helpful in making your child less depressed. It can often be an escape that keeps them from further opening up about their feelings and emotions.

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Limit time in front of the TV, laptop, smart phone, video games and tablets, etc. Any electronics that seem to prevent your child from face to face interactions should be limited. Ask Dr. Sears cites that researchers have found kids who have higher levels of screen time are at greater risk for anxiety and depression.[2]

Provide alternate activities to replace the screen time such as hiking, crafting, drawing, constructing, biking and playing outside, etc. Some children may be so dependent on their screen time as their source for entertainment that they may need you to participate in alternate activities alongside them in order to get engaged in the activities.

You can’t simply tell your child to go outside to play if they are suffering from depression, lack friends and are used to sitting down and playing video games each day after school. Go outside with your child and do a nature hike or take your child to a playground and have fun together to get them engaged in these alternate activities.

4. Promote outdoor time and physical activities.

Encourage your children to take part in activities that especially involve nature such as nature hikes. Do these activities with them to help them engage in the activities. Again this is an opportunity for open conversations to occur and quality time to take place.

5. Help your child when problems and difficult tasks arise.

Assist them by helping them break down the task into smaller and more manageable parts. Children with depression often have difficulty taking on large problems and tasks and find them overwhelming. Helping them by breaking down the task into smaller and more manageable tasks will assist in helping raise their confidence when the small tasks are mastered.

Small tasks mastered lead to bigger tasks being mastered over time. It is a process over time, patience and a willingness to work alongside your child. This does not mean doing the task or taking on the problem solely yourself. Many times all the child needs is for you to break down the larger task into smaller more manageable tasks and for you to patiently talk your child through the completion of these smaller tasks.

6. Help your child reduce life stress.

When children are depressed, they have greater difficulty handling life activities in general. Cut back on activities that cause stress to increase and look for ways to help reduce stress in your child’s life.

7. Foster a positive home atmosphere.

Reduce or eliminate negative attitudes, language and conversations. Also avoid raised voices, passive aggressive behaviors and any form of physical violence in the home.

Make your home a safe haven for your child instead of an atmosphere that is ever volatile (in words, emotions or physically). Make it a calm environment that makes your child feel safe and secure mentally, emotionally and physically.

8. Help your child see the positive in life situations.

Point out the positives in a situation rather than the negatives. Help them see the bright side of any situation.

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Be a model of seeing the positive in life by speaking words that are uplifting, encouraging and positive. Resist the temptation to voice negative thoughts that come to mind as your child can feed off your emotions and words.

9. Believe your child when they talk about how they are feeling.

Listen to them patiently and take their words seriously. Do not discount or minimize their feelings. Express empathy and compassion when they do open up about their feelings. Help them utilize “I feel” statements in expressing their emotions.

10. Keep watch for suicidal behaviors.

Such behaviors include your child/teen researching this topic online, them giving away their possessions and a preoccupation with death.

Seek professional help immediately with the presentation of suicidal behaviors or thoughts. Keep this number on hand and use it when in doubt: National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Phone Number 1-800-273-8255.

11. Keep all prescriptions, alcohol, drugs and weapons locked and away from children and teens.

This is a given for all children, but even more imperative for children who are depressed as they have an increased likelihood to abuse drugs and alcohol. They also have an increased likelihood to attempt suicide. So keep weapons and tools such as ropes and knives that can used for suicide out of the child’s ability to use.

12. Spend quality one-on-one time with your child.

Make the time during your day, every day, to spend quality time with your child. You may have limited time and cannot provide an hour or more a day to dedicate to one-on-one time with your child, but you should provide a minimum of 20 minutes a day with your child spending quality one-on-one time together. Try the suggested activities listed in point #3.

13. Be an encouragement and supporter of your child.

Show love and not frustration or anger because of the situation and your child’s condition. Help keep your attitude positive so your child can also see the positive.

Provide daily words of affirmation that are not based on end results (such as a grade or a win) but instead praise the effort they put forth. If you praise the outcome, they will be disappointed when their efforts don’t pan out. If they are praised for their efforts regardless of the outcome, their confidence is built based upon something that they can control (the effort they put into things).

14. Help your child to live a healthy lifestyle.

Sleep is a very important factor in your child’s mood. Not getting enough sleep can cause an entire day to be upset. According to Sleep Aid Resource, children between the ages of 3 and 18 need between 8 and 12 hours of sleep each night:[3]

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    Ensure your child is eating a healthy and balanced diet, getting physical activity/exercise daily and plenty of sleep time.

    15. Help your child foster positive relationships and friendships with their peers.

    Set up play dates for your younger child and encourage older children to invite friends over to your home.

    16. Talk about bullying.

    It can be one of the causes of your child’s depression, so discuss their life outside of home and their interactions with their peers. Help them recognize bullying and discuss how to handle bullying properly.

    17. Help your child follow the treatment plan outlined by their doctor, counselor, psychologist or psychiatrist.

    Make sure you know the treatment plan that your child’s health care professional has outlined for child. This may include counseling session recommendations, medications and recommendations to follow through with in the home. Completing the plan will help provide optimal results for your child in the long run. A plan doesn’t work unless it is followed.

    18. Recognize that professional treatment takes time to show results.

    Don’t expect results for the first few weeks. It may take a month or longer, so be patient and understanding with your child.

    Depression in children is curable

    Depression in children can happen for a variety of reasons. It is quite treatable.

    Professional help is recommended if your child can possibly be diagnosed with a depressive episode. There are interventions that can be implemented in a professional setting, at home and at school. The key is having a plan of action to help your child.

    Ignoring the problem or hoping the depression will just go away is not a good plan. Treatment is imperative to curing depression in children.

    The first step is talking to your child’s paediatrician to get the ball rolling. He or she will refer you to specialists in your area that can help your child overcome and conquer their depression one day at a time. With you by their side, each step of the way you will get through it together and it is quite possible for your relationship with your child to be strengthened in the process as well. That can be your silver lining or positive outlook on the situation at hand.

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] National Institute of Mental Health: Suicide
    [2] Ask Dr. Sears: It’s a Virtual World: Setting Practical Screen Time Limits
    [3] Sleep Aid Resource: Sleep Chart

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