Dealing with Childhood Depression

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Dealing with Childhood Depression

Did you know that as many as 1 in 33 children suffer from depression? As teenagers, that number jumps to as high as 1 in 8! The idea that our children are depressed can be scary and even intimidating. It’s hard enough to handle depression as an adult, but understanding depression in your child can be even more difficult. If you are concerned about your little one, here are a few signs they could be struggling with depression:

  • A sad or angry mood that lasts most of the day (this is different than regular sadness because it lasts a long time)
  • Lack of interest in activities they used to love
  • Noticeable change in weight or appetite
  • Lack of energy
  • Not able to complete simple tasks
  • Low self-esteem
  • Thoughts of Death (more than typical)
  • Aches and pains that don’t really exist

Depression can be difficult for the entire family. But, if you learn simple ways to help your child, you can improve their overall mental health and lighten the load of stress on your shoulders. If you suspect (or know) your child suffers from depression, here are a few ways you can help:

Talk to Your Child

One of the best ways you can help is to simply talk to your child. Let them know there is nothing wrong with them for feeling the way they do. Let them express their fears, worries and concerns with you. Sometimes simply listening can be a huge help. You may also find that talking to your child will help you identify any emotional triggers. Children are particularly susceptible to depressive episodes after the death of a loved one (including pets), a friend moving away, divorce or other sudden or major life change.

Spend Time With Your Little One

In addition to talking with your child, it’s important to spend time with them away from the issues that are bothering them.  Consider some activities that you two can do together that will help take their mind off things, such as playing in the backyard or going shopping together.  As odd as it may sound, cooking can actually help reduce depressive symptoms. For my family, the simplicity of following a recipe is a great way for us to take our minds away from whatever is bothering us. Additionally, the one-on-one attention with mom or dad is a major help in boosting positive hormones.

Encourage Healthy Behavior

It’s no surprise, but too much television and unhealthy eating can make depression worse. To help relieve their symptoms, encourage your child to get more physical activity into their daily routine. You can make it fun by throwing together a family game of soccer or basketball, or getting them involved in an outdoor activity such as riding their bike or a family hike. Cut back on sugary foods and opt for healthier fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

Facilitate Communication

Sometimes it’s difficult for kids to express their feelings, especially feelings as complicated as depression. One way to help is to find a toy or object that can help them identify and describe the way they feel. A product like the Kimochi can help children learn about emotions, learn different ways to express their feelings and teach better ways to cope as well.

Get Help

Sometimes getting an outsider’s perspective can be extremely helpful. Talk to your child’s teacher first. Oftentimes they can provide insight into behaviors and incidents that could be affecting your child’s mood. Additionally, your child’s teacher can be a spokesperson for your child at school. A trusted teacher or advisor can be very helpful in helping children cope with depression or move on from situational-based depression.

If your child’s depression is severe or doesn’t get better with your intervention you may need to seek help from a professional. Depression is a serious illness, and while many people will experience some sort of depression at least once in their life, helping your child address depression in a healthy, open way will make it much easier for them to cope as they get older.

Disclosure

Krystle Cook – the creator of Home Jobs by MOM – put her psychology degree on a shelf and dived into a pile of diapers and dishes instead. She is a wife and mother to two rambunctious boys, sweating it out in her Texas hometown. She loves cooking, DIY home projects, and family fun activities.

Comments

  1. Hello Krystle

    This is very important post as far our children are concerned. Now a days as we are living in a difficult time with so many challenges and we can not give time to our kids and they normally try to experience life in their own style and according to their knowledge, so they can get stuck in problems and this can be clear from their behavior. All the indications you have mentioned that a child is depression are correct and once we find that we must try to help our kid by giving our time. All the tips are very important and spot on.
    Thank you for an eye opening post.

    • Yes, it’s very important to give our time to our kids. They so yearn for it as well as need it. People often say they are too busy or “later” and then forget.

  2. Jacqueline Gum (Jacquie) says:

    I’m very happy that you are bringing attention to childhood depression. I think most people don’t even think it exists or that children are capable of anything except ordinary sadness. It’s real, but there is hope and help out there.

  3. When he was 7 years old, our son witnessed his grandfather’s sudden death, us doing CPR, his father being distraught. He was very sad and while he didn’t directly seem to want to talk about it, he actually read things incorrectly out loud in ways that incorporated his feelings about his grandfather. Fortunately, he had a very nurturing 2nd grade teacher and I was able to share with her what was going on which I think made him feel safe and better able to process his emotions.

    • Oh that sounds awful for your son Suzanne! That’s def something that would obviously weigh on a child or anyone. I’m so glad he had that wonderful teacher to help out!

  4. Ken Dowell says:

    This is good information to have. Thanks. As adults we probably tend to downplay things that are weighing on children. Those things may not seem important to us but that doesn’t make them seem any less important to your child and dismissing them only makes things worse.

    • Yes, I can see us adults downplaying stuff. I guess we sometimes think they are only kids what do they really have to worry about but it’s important to know their feelings too.

  5. Krystle, this is an important post. So often we write off childhood depression as moodiness or being difficult. After all, what do they have to be depressed about right? Your list of signs is excellent and provides readers with alerts.

  6. I used to have to witness numerous students struggling with depression when I was in the classroom and it broke my heart too many times to count, especially when they would be going through hell trying to adjust to this or that new medication.

    • That’s sad to hear Jeri. I know depression effects so many kids and the meds they give them can cause a whole slew of other troubles.

  7. This is an absolutely awesome post, Preston!! Child Depression can never be brought to enough attention for everyone to be aware of! Thank you 🙂

  8. Hi Krystle, Thanks for drawing attention to a very important subject. Some people don’t recognize the signs of depression in their children until it is too late. It is so important that they get them some help in time.

    • I agree. I hate to see stories about kids committing suicide because they were depressed and no one knew it. Prevention and vigilance is the key.

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