Depression comes as black clouds in the sky during childhood, the most beautiful season in our lives. Clinical depression makes a child gloomy, aloof and takes away his innocence and simplicity.
One of the major reasons for childhood depression is the persistent feeling of “no one cares”. Feeling deprived, ignored or unheard can make any child morose and develop negative thoughts. Persistent feelings of sadness and grief interfere with the normal functioning of children, making them inactive, aloof and low all the time. “Depression and its worst risk, suicide, are serious and common problems in children and teens. Suicide is the second leading cause of death in U.S. teens, resulting in more deaths than from cancer or any other disease or illness.”, according to Michael Shapiro, a child and adolescent psychiatrist.
There are several reasons why depression triggers in childhood. Especially in these changing times, multiple issues contribute to a child’s unhappiness.
- Broken homes, parental divorce/separation, loss of a parent.
- Unhealthy competition with siblings, friends.
- The Harsh behavior of parent/s.
- Being a victim of trauma (natural disasters, wars, abuse, etc.)
- Getting bullied (at school or home).
“Depression is not a weakness of character, laziness, or a phase.”, according to Deborah Serani, PsyD. It happens even to the most liveliest of kids, as soon as the above situations happen to them.
The warning signs
- Feelings of sadness and hopelessness persisting for over 2 weeks
- Lack of energy in playing or doing activities the child used to enjoy do
- Significant changes in appetite and sleep
- Vocal outbursts or crying (even in petty matters)
- Physical ailments that are not responding to treatments (such as stomach aches, headaches, muscle cramps)
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt with impaired thinking or concentration and experiencing fatigue
- Thoughts of death or suicide
- Remarkable changes in all social activities like sports, studies, social interactions, etc..
- Poor academic performance and complete loss of interest in studies/school.
7 ways of managing childhood depression
- Talk to your child – Children often fail to identify the real cause of depression. They would just feel sad and don’t know why. Parents, teachers, siblings or caregivers can take the first step by helping the child talk about how he/she feels. Talking out also makes the child feel important and understood.
- Visit the pediatrician – Childhood depression often comes up with physical ailments that become the focus of concern instead. A full exam by the doctor helps let you know better about the health conditions of your child that can cause depression like symptoms.
- Consult a therapist – It is always good to consult a child psychiatrist or a therapist if the symptoms persist. A professional guidance ensures a better solution. Usually, for moderate to severe depression, the treatment involves Cognitive Behavior Therapy, Short-term Family Therapy, and Supportive Counselling. For family or group therapy – According to psychotherapist Ali Miller, MFT, “Group therapy reduces isolation and alienation. It increases the sense that ‘we’re all in this together,’ and normalizes suffering.”
- Be cautious about your child’s nutrition – Be vigilant about your child’s diet. Always ensure that your child is getting a balanced and healthy diet with all the essential nutrients. See that he/she gets the optimum amount of sleep. It is important that they get daily physical activity. These have many positive effects on mood and provides nourishment for a healthy mind and body.
- Enjoy time together – Go for a walk, play games (see suggested ps4 games for kids or other activities for both parent and child), cook, watch funny movies, make some art and craft items. These will gently encourage positive emotions and moods and overcome depressive moods.
- Act with patience and kindness – When suffering from depression, kids often act grumpy and irritating. Try to be as calm as you can and let the child feel safe. Using harsh words does the worse.
- Build a positive relationship – A positive relationship with parents, siblings, and friends helps strengthen a child’s resilience against depression. It is very important for parents to become good friends with their children so that they can share their feelings freely.
Life cannot always be easy and comforting, not even in childhood. But with affection, love, and support from close ones, children can easily get over depression.
Reach out to your children, notice their behavior, stand in their shoes, be there anytime they need you.
As Pam Leo has rightly said, “Let’s raise children who won’t have to recover from their childhoods”.