Ask the Experts:
I am worried about my 8-year-old daughter. She seems depressed, and distant. I have to work during the evenings so she is home with her dad and 1-year-old brother. When I get home from work, she’s already in bed. I feel guilty that I have to work, however we cannot afford a babysitter for me to be home in the evening. Her father works in the morning and as soon as he walks in the door, it’s time for me to leave. How can I keep a safe mind to pray that she will never touch drugs in her lifetime, when I only see her in the morning before I take her to school?
Your instincts are right: there is a correlation between childhood depression, being "distant," and future drug involvement. Your relationship with your daughter is your strongest safeguard against her drug use. This is precisely the time in a child’s life when you can most easily work on your connection with her.
Re-connect to your daughter. Here are some questions for you to ask yourself: What can I do each day to connect to my daughter in a meaningful way? I know some working mothers who wake their children up early so that they can have relaxed one-on-one time. Weekends are an especially good time to schedule mutually fun activities. Another way of connecting during your workday is to schedule a daily check-in by phone.
Make sure the "parenting team" is on the same page. Like many dual career families, you and your husband are co-parenting, and at this point, it sounds like he is spending more waking hours with her. The two of you need to work together to figure out your daughter’s needs and feelings while she is with her father and brother. Is the baby somehow becoming the "star?" Your daughter had some time of being the only child, and she may be mourning the loss of her special status. You and your husband may be saying all the right words to her about how much you love her, but children look for actions, and the two of you need to figure out some little active ways to restore her position. Extended family members can be helpful. When my 5-year-old "only child" got a sister, my own sister and brother-in-law who did not yet have children, stepped in to help.
Include your daughter in the team. What does your daughter say about her sadness and her distance? Sometimes questioning a child while you are playing a game or drawing a picture together is better than asking her directly. However, even more important than finding out what she feels about it, is finding out what she thinks you and your family can do to fix it. What is her vision of the solution?
If steps 1, 2 and 3 don’t work, find a good child and family counselor. Childhood is challenging enough without depression and parenting is challenging enough without a sad child!
offers both adolescent intervention and treatment programs. Education, individual counseling, family therapy, group counseling and referral to other resources are all part of a comprehensive effort to prevent or intervene in youth alcohol and drug abuse. Call us at 254-690-4455!