Help! I Think My Child Might Be Depressed!
Although clinical depression is often thought of as an adult disease, it can affect children as well. Unfortunately, children may not have the maturity to understand what is happening to them, or they may feel powerless to change their situation, so they don’t speak up about what they are going through. It is up to adults to be on the lookout for signs of trouble, and recognize when a child needs help.
What to Watch For – Potential Warning Signs of Depression in Children:
Sadness, hopelessness, loss of pleasure or interest, anxiety, turmoil (anger outbursts)
Difficulty organizing thoughts (concentrating), extreme negativity, worthlessness and guilt, helplessness, feelings of isolation, thoughts of suicide
Changes in appetite or weight, sleep disturbances, sluggishness, agitation
Avoidance and withdrawal, clingy and demanding behavior, excessive activity, restlessness, self-harm
What to do:
Don’t minimize your child’s feelings, and reassure him child that depression is not something to be ashamed about –Some people have a hard time recovering from being sad.
Work hard to cultivate trust and communication with your child and be aware of the impact your own responses in life are having on your child. You are your child’s coping instructor.
Allow your child the right to feel depressed and teach him that asking for help is ok – If he thinks depression is bad or not ok, he may try to hide his feelings from you.
Tell your child the truth and give him time to grieve. By being honest, you are allowing your child to work through the pain.
Pay attention to the length of your child’s symptoms. If the symptoms linger for an extended period of time, or if you see severe changes in your child’s personality, seek professional help.
Although suicide in children is rare, it does happen. Take it very seriously if your child says or acts like he wants to die.
If your child is experiencing frequent signs of depression that last for extended periods of time, it is crucial that you seek professional help. Children who are experiencing signs of depression do not automatically need medication. Many children will respond to therapy alone. If you are uncertain where to seek help, contact your child’s school counselor or your family physician for a referral.
Julia Cook is a national award winning children’s author and parenting expert. The purpose of her books is to enter the worldview of children and teach them to become life-long problem solvers. Her latest book: Blueloon is a creative story about a sad little balloon who is suffering from depression. With help from the wise rock, Blueloon learns what he can do to “bounce back” to being the way he used to be – bright, round , and full with a very straight string! Finally! A book on depression that works for Blueloons of all ages! Available at www.juliacookonline.com (and amazon.com)
Click here to read My review of Julia's books and Julia Cook's Interview