Advertising
Advertising

Love One Of Your Children More? Beware Of Your Parenting Style

Love One Of Your Children More? Beware Of Your Parenting Style

If you have at least one sibling, you know all to well the pains of sibling rivalries stemming from vying for your parents’ affection.

Most parents have a favorite child and EVERYONE knows it.

Christine Northam, a counsellor at Relate, says favoring one child over others is actually extremely common and normal. And having a favorite doesn’t make you a bad parent. It makes you human. The true difference maker and key factor dictating how much damage is done to “the others” is your parenting style.

Why do we have favorites?

No parent intends on connecting with one child more than the others, so why does this happen? This is an intriguing question with equally intriguing answers.

Advertising

You favor the one most likely to take care of you later

Sounds completely asinine and a little twisted doesn’t it? Well, researchers from Cornell and Purdue Universities conducted a study and concluded this was the top reason parents had for favoring a specific child over another. The child that was perceived most likely to care for mama in her twilight years earned first prize.

You favor the child that is most like you.

This one is pretty obvious. We love to see ourselves in our children. We see evidence of this in the ever popular “mini-me” phenomenon. It’s a bit narcissistic but definitely understandable.  Take for example the sports fanatic father who excelled (or dreamed of excelling) at sports, he will most likely dote on the “jock” in the family.

Researcher Megan Gilligan, a former Purdue graduate student who collaborated on favoritism the project, said one of the biggest predictors of who parents’ golden child will be is their perception of similarities between themselves and their favorite offspring. It’s the one they feel has beliefs and values most similar to their own.

Birth order can play a significant role in who parents favor

Scientific research published in the journal Demography shows that the birth of a first and a second child briefly increases the level of their parents’ happiness, but that a third child can have a negative effect.

Advertising

Transversely, the baby of the family could be the one favored if the parents desire more children but cannot have more.

Other Reasons:

The list of reasons why parents plays favorites goes on and on. Favoritism can result because of a child’s gender, intelligence, behavior, physical attractiveness (yes it’s true), shared interests and personality/disposition.

At the end of the day the why is not nearly as important as what we should do about it. This is where awareness of one’s parenting style and the ability to tailor it to suit the needs of each child becomes vitally important.

Favoritism Hurts

Favoritism demonstrated over a long period of time can be extremely damaging. It’s a parent’s responsibility to regulate themselves and their partner to make sure that one child isn’t given more attention than the others.

Advertising

If parents fail to adapt their parenting style and continuously shower one child with excessive affection, the repercussions for the other children can last for decades. The lesser-favored children build up feelings of inferiority, which can translate into lower self-confidence as adults.

Favoritism can ignite and perpetuate intense sibling rivalries. It can stir up feelings of animosity, anger, bitterness and jealousy between the more favored sibling and the others. The sibling relationships could be forever damaged due to the subtle and underlying conflict  parents playing favorites causes.

Perception is everything

According to Dr. Karl Pillemer, Ph.D., director of the Cornell Institute for Translational Research on Aging:

“It doesn’t matter whether you’re the chosen child or not, the perception of unequal treatment has damaging effects for all siblings. “The less favored kids may have ill will toward their mother or preferred sibling, and being the favored child brings resentment from one’s siblings and the added weight of greater parental expectations.”

Adapting your parenting style

Here are some things experts suggest you do to ensure your children are not scarred long term as a result of parental favoritism.

1. Give all the children the same amount of attention but make sure the attention is individualized

Try to ensure that the time you spend with each child suits the specific needs of the child individually. Tailor activities, conversations and time spent to match your child’s unique personality and interests.

2. Listen and be attentive for cues that your kids may be feeling less loved

Kids give subtle (and not so subtle) hints as to how they are feeling. When a child is expressing feelings that you are favoring a sibling over them try not to be dismissive and give them the canned “I love you all the same,” response.  Instead delve deeper into the issue to determine what specifically is leading to those feelings. Then address it head on.

3. Enlist the help of other adults

Allowing other trusted, responsible and safe adults to spend time with your kids–especially those who are a bit more attention starved is a great way of ensuring they get the attention and emotional connection from a caring adult that they need.

Advertising

Some kids just need more attention–plain and simple. Allowing others to assist can aid you in ensuring that you are treating each child fairly but also ensuring they are getting what they need. Fairness does not necessarily mean equality. The distribution of love should be equal but the execution of how that love is displayed should be individualized.

More by this author

Denise Hill

Denise shares about psychology and communication tips on Lifehack.

Revealed: The 6 Best Beginner’s Exercises for You to Get a Strong Core Having A Backup Plan May Keep You From Achieving Your Goal, Research Finds Successful People Aren’t Gifted. They Just Master Some Goal Setting Techniques How to Stay Motivated Even Though You Can’t See Yourself Moving Forward 20 Simple Ways to Bring Positive Energy into Life Right Now

Trending in Child Development

1 Want Your Kids To Be Happy For A Lifetime? Make Them Feel Secure In The Early Days 2 Necessary Steps When Teaching Your Teenager to Drive 3 5 Tips For Teaching Money Management To Children 4 7 Effective Tips for Your Child’s Positive Growth 5 5 Ways to Ease Back to Work Without Nanny Anxiety

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

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:

Advertising

  • 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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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]

Advertising

    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

    Read Next