Depression does not solely occur in adults, children and teenagers may experience depression as well. Although feeling sad on occasion is normal when negative thoughts and feelings persist for weeks at a time it may be depression. Depression may limit a child’s ability to function normally. In the general population, 5% of children and adolescents suffer from depression at any given time.
Who is at risk for Childhood Depression?
Depression tends to run in families, but is not considered a genetic disorder. Stressful situations such as a move, death of a friend or family member, parent’s divorce, poor living conditions, or school problems may increase a child’s risk of depression. Children with learning or anxiety disorders are at a higher risk for depression, as well.
What are the signs of Childhood Depression?
The symptoms of childhood depression are different for every child. Certain symptoms may dominate more than others. Some common symptoms of childhood depression are:
• Child is sad, discouraged, or irritable for more than a week or two
• Child loses interest in activities that use to make them happy
• Changes in sleeping pattern, including too much or too little sleep
• Consistently feeling sad for most of the day
• Child may experience academic changes or difficulties
• Frequently complains of physical illnesses such as stomachaches or headaches
• Child frequently asks to stay home from school
• Child withdrawals from friends and family they previously loved to be around
• Child has low self-esteem and self-worth
• May give up easily on schoolwork or activities
• Child complains of tiredness and low energy
• Changes in eating behavior, including too much or too little eating
• Lacks planning or excitement for the future
• Persistent boredom, even in preferred activities
• Frequent thoughts of death or suicide
These signs may occur in children who are not depressed, but if multiple symptoms persist it may be a red flag for depression.
What is the next step?
As mentioned before, depression presents itself differently in each child. If you notice any of the listed red flags, or any persistent changes in your child’s behavior, notify your doctor. The physician will complete a physical exam to check for any other health conditions that could cause depression-like symptoms. The doctor may refer a mental health specialist or social worker. It is important to know that depression can get better if treated appropriately. Often times, kids may ignore their feelings and refuse professional help. Talk to your child about the benefits of sharing their feels and talking to a therapist. Although it may be difficult, do not force your child to do something they are not comfortable with. Continue to offer love and support, and always leave open the option to talk to a professional. Once your child is ready to accept their feelings, they will be more open to seeing a therapist.
What can you do to help?
Parents often feel hopeless when their child experiences depression. Be patient with your child, and know they are not choosing to feel this way. Be understanding if your child does not want to participate in previously loved activities. Avoid arguing back if your child is irritable or aggressive. Find little ways to spend quality one on one time with your child. A strong, loving relationship with a family member can provide strength for your child. Encourage a healthy lifestyle by providing well-balanced meals, limiting screen time, and making sure your child gets enough sleep. Suggest physical activities such as playing their favorite sport, swimming, or going for a walk.
If your child shows symptoms of depression, contact your physician today. Lumiere Children’s therapy can provide social services for your child, as well as your entire family to help them understand and cope with depression.
- (n.d.). Depression in Children and Teens. Retrieved March 17, 2017, from https://www.aacap.org/AACAP/Families_and_Youth/Facts_for_Families/FFF-Guide/The- Depressed-Child-004.aspx
Childhood Depression: What Parents Can Do To Help. (n.d.). Retrieved March 17, 2017, from https://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/emotional- problems/Pages/Childhood-Depression-What-Parents-Can-Do-To-Help.aspx
Lyness, D. (Ed.). (2016, August). Depression. Retrieved March 17, 2017, from http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/understanding-depression.html