So first of all, what is co-rumination? Co-rumination is discussing problems with others (in this case, your child) frequently, repeatedly, and excessively while never achieving a solution to fixing the problem.
Although co-rumination can be helpful at times by providing emotional support, it is not a productive form of communication because it does not allow for coping skills to develop which can hinder recovery.
You can think about it almost like a bug bite. The more you scratch, the itchier and redder it becomes. However, if you apply ointment and refrain from touching it, the bug bite begins to disappear.
A recent study found that adolescents with depression get into the habit of co-ruminating with their friends and their parents more than people who do not have depression. But with parents – as opposed to friends – they were more likely to have conversations about solving the problem.
So what does this mean for me? When talking with your child about problems occurring in their life, it is important not only to show your emotional support for them but also to help them to think of ways they might solve the issue. Sometimes when you hear your child talk about something that is upsetting them, it might cause you to feel anxious or worried for them. Before thinking about what you are saying you might blurt out something like, “You’re right! That teacher is no good!” or “You keep getting these headaches all the time – what the heck is going on with you?” This might in turn make your child feel more anxious – which makes you feel more anxious – and you get the picture. Try to instead name their emotion and your emotion. And then move on to asking them if they can think of any possible solutions. Try something like, “Wow that is really frustrating about your teacher. Can we sit down and map out exactly what happened and think about what you might have done differently?” or “Ok these headaches are happening a lot. Let’s make an appointment with your doctor, and before you go try to write down everything you can about your headaches so we are prepared to talk about it.”
By talking with your child about ways to overcome the barriers in their life, your child will begin to develop the necessary problem-solving skills they will need long term so they can pull them out as a skill they have even when you are not around. If this is working, you might start to get less “freak out” texts! Instead of agitating the “bug bite”, help your child find a solution to the problem they are experiencing so they can build the skills they need for future problems.
Have you felt like you have co-ruminated with your child before? What happened and what do you think you could do differently?