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
- A 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
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.
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.
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.