Children can suffer from depression just like adults. It is perfectly normal for our children to tell or show us that they feel sad, unhappy, irritable or discouraged for a short period of time. But depression in children is something completely different. We need to know how to distinguish between the expression of negative emotions and the presence of a disease.
When negative emotions arise in a child and little by little invade different aspects of their life, such as their school performance or their time with the family, then they may have depression. Can we, the parents, do anything to help them in this situation? Yes, we certainly can. Read on and discover more about depression in children and what you can do about it.
How do I know if my child has depression?
Before we can fix it, we need to know if this is really the problem our little one is suffering from. To do this, we need to look out for a series of signs that may indicate that he does indeed have depression. But whatever the case, we will always need an expert’s diagnosis.
These are the signs to watch out for:
- irritable or depressed mood,
- behavioral problems or problems with discipline,
- loss of interest or pleasure,
- low self-confidence,
- social seclusion,
- difficulties with concentration,
- feelings of worthlessness and despair.
Other worrisome symptoms include:
- a change in appetite,
- often cry,
- sleep disorders (sleeping too much or too little),
- physical complaints,
- weight gain or loss,
- attempting to hurt oneself,
- growth and weight that do not correspond to the age and development of the child,
- talking about suicide or attempting suicide.
Remember that these conditions can also be related to other problems or disorders. This can make it difficult for the parents to determine whether it is depression or something else. What is clear is that we and the child need help. So ask for help!
Childhood Depression – What Can I Do?
Seek professional help. In addition, it is important that we, the parents, do our part to help our child. If the child has low self-confidence and often criticizes himself, we can start by praising him and emphasizing the positive, in a sincere way of course. We can ask him about the negative feelings he has about himself in an understanding and careful way. We can point out when he projects it onto others.
Depression usually involves feelings of guilt. When this happens, you can help your child differentiate between what he can control and what he cannot. If he shows feelings of helplessness or despair, we should encourage him to write down or talk about his feelings. He can start this writing assignment by writing down pleasant thoughts about himself three or four times a day. In the beginning it will be difficult. But it is an exercise that will help him develop healthy feelings about himself.
Family support and professional help
If we notice that he has lost interest in things and that he is sad, then we should organize an interesting daily activity. It’s also worth hosting special events and having him talk about fun family topics on a regular basis. In all this, family life is essential. If the family environment is stable, this will help considerably. What do we mean by this? Establish a regular routine and reduce the number of changes in the family situation. If there are any changes, we should mention them in advance and try to reduce the unnecessary worries.
If we notice thoughts or signals related to suicide, we should see a specialist as soon as possible.
So it is important that we support the child as much as possible and help as much as we can. Because his or her sadness and negative thoughts are important. They must be treated in depth. Childhood depression should no longer be a taboo topic. We can work together for better awareness.
Featured image courtesy of Annie Spratt and London Scout.