As parents, our children’s happiness become our top most priority. We always make sure they are happy, healthy and strong (both physically and mentally).
Depression in children is unfortunately widespread. And to us parents it can be quite challenging to find out about it.
However, if we keep a close watch and identify depression in children, it is much easier to tackle it right away, compared to dealing with it without knowing what it is.
In this post, let me share the crucial things you need to know about depression in children (and adolescents).
First, here are some statistics!
Serious or major depression episodes occur in 2-3% of children who are aged between 6 and 12 years.
Alarmingly, 60% of children and adolescents who have experienced depression go without any treatment – most probably because they have not been diagnosed with it properly.
And, it is a bitter truth to know that depression doesn’t come alone. About 71% of children and adolescents who experience depression also have serious impairment.
This means, children with depression, if left unattended, have to face other mental and physical challenges too.
I am sure no parent would want their children to go through such a situation.
So it is a must that we, as parents, pay close attention to the symptoms of depression so that we help the kids who fight the same.
The symptoms of depression in children
Change in appetite: A dramatic change in appetite. This could either mean loss of appetite or a dramatic gain.
Weight loss or weight gain: As a result of the dramatic change in appetite, either weight loss (if there’s loss in appetite) or weight gain (if there’s a gain in the appetite) will occur.
Mood swings: This could include a frequent display of anger, sadness or being irritable.
Lack of concentration: Unable to focus on any activity and hence pay interest or be happy in doing anything. Also unable to think clearly and make decisions.
Negative and destructive thoughts: Always having negative thoughts about situations in life. And having repeated thoughts of suicide or self harm.
Inappropriate motor functions: Usually walking or performing regular motor activities lethargically. And have involuntary, sudden, inappropriate movements of hands, or legs.
As you can see, the symptoms of depression are not confined to a poor state of mind. The symptoms affect the overall wellness of your child.
Hence it is very vital that you pay very close attention to your kid.
And if you spot any of these symptoms, it is time for you to take action.
Who is to blame for if your child is in depression?
Well, this is a very complicated question.
And if a child is in depression, parents go through the self torture of blaming themselves.
However, the truth remains that depression is very strange! And it is not always the parents who are to be blamed for.
Your child can look happy and still can be depressed.
And even if your house doesn’t have any relationship issues going on, your child can be depressed.
Depression can be triggered by factors outside your house too, irrespective of how peaceful your house is.
For instance, your child’s depression could stem from issues like bullying either in school or in the commute.
Or it could come from somewhere else in the classroom – say, for instance the pressure to score good grades.
Or if your child is addicted to some unhealthy games, it is no surprise that he/she is undergoing depression.
Having said that, if you have major family issues, including relationship or health issues, then that can be a cause for your child’s depression.
In addition, depression can also happen due to genes and hereditary set up.
How to identify depression in your child? And how to help your depressed child?
A few paragraphs above, I have shared the most common symptoms of depression.
It is mandatory to watch out for these symptoms in your child no matter how peaceful your child appears to you.
As far as children are concerned they won’t be very expressive.
And sometimes, even if they are expressive, chances are that they don’t know how to express stuff clearly and correctly to you.
So it is your responsibility as a parent that you take extra effort to understand what your child is going through.
You must pay close attention to your child’s words if they intend to share anything with you after school hours.
Let them speak their mind out. And listen. So you can know if your child is going through any issues out of your sight.
More importantly, make sure you eliminate any habits, or family practices that can lead to depression in children.
If you have a problematic relationship, make sure you deal with relationship issues when your child is absent.
Help your child develop a positive attitude about things in life.
Let him/her face failures and learn from them. Do not pressurize your child to always succeed.
Rather, show them and prepare them for how life is a mixture of successes and failures.
Tell them it is OK to fail.
Do not force your desires or dreams onto your child. Let him/her be himself/herself.
Spend a lot of quality time with your child.
A child who does not get quality time with parents or a child who feels abandoned is most likely to undergo depression.
What to do if you find out your child is depressed?
Well prevention is always better than cure.
Unless your child’s depression stems from hereditary factors, you must always make sure to create conditions around your child that does not force him/her into depression.
Being open, kind and friendly with your children, creating a positive environment for them, and allowing them to learn life as it is are the best ways to eliminate chances of depression.
Having said that, if you find out that your child is depressed, you can still take your child out of that state by following the tips I’ve shared in the previous section.
Take him/her to the doc and see how medication can help, if needed.
When your child has been depressed for too long without you noticing it, chances are that medication is a must to cure him/her.
However, regardless of whether your child goes through a treatment or not, the care and attention given by you, as a parent, is highly crucial to keep your child out of depression, and keep him/her happy!