Depression in Kids: What Parents Can Do to Help
by Andrew Carroll
Depression is not the equivalent of sadness. It is a serious medical condition that harms your child’s ability to connect with friends, attend school, enjoy daily activities, and concentrate on their wellbeing. Note that depression in kids is not as rare we think. Kids with depression generally feel sad or irritable. Depression in kids also causes eating disorders and changes in sleeping patterns. Shockingly, for youth ages 10 to 24 years, suicide is one of the leading causes of death. Shockingly, for youth ages 10 to 24 years, suicide is one of the leading causes of death. Research shows that approximately 90% of people who die by suicide suffer from mental illness with depression being the most common of it.
Every child grows and develops differently. As they grow, they undergo navel situations. Sometimes, things lead them to feel undervalued, isolated, and frustrated. They face a pack of issues, including bullying, peer pressure, the pressure to get good grades, broken relationships, and sometimes, bad parents. They have to face all these issues at a very young age that has a severe impact on their mental and physical health. Excessive use of social media is also highly associated with the risk of depression in teens. According to a recent study, teen girls spend far more time on social media than their male peers, and they are more likely to show signs of depression associated with social media platforms.
Timely diagnosis and a treatment plan is a good start to help your kids deal with it. If you suspect your child might be experiencing depression, here are some steps you can take:
1. Look out for warning signs
Children find it hard to describe how they are feeling, particularly if they are experiencing depression. However, there are a few warning signs to look out for:
- Low self-esteem
- Lack of interest
- Feelings of worthlessness
- Having difficulty concentrating on tasks
- Withdrawal from social situations
- Easily annoyed or upset
- Tearfulness or frequent crying
- Loss of energy and motivation
- Loss of appetite
- Fatigue and aches
- Academic success deterioration
- Sleep problems
All these symptoms of depression are categorized as negative behavior; therefore, it is easy to feel infuriated and punish the child for their behavior. This can lead to other signs of depression being overlooked.
2. Other things to look out for
Depression affects the thinking pattern of children and also their mood and behavior. They think they are worthless and that things will never get better. If your child talks about hurting themselves, it is a red flag. If they say things like, “I wish I was dead” or “I don’t want to wake up tomorrow,” you need to take this seriously. Kids using this behavior to express their distress need urgent support. You have to monitor their internet searches as they may be doing searches about suicide plans. You can look for warning signs on their social media posts or private chats using parental monitoring apps such as Xnspy, which can help you monitor their messages and other phone activities discreetly.
What you can do to help
If you have noticed one or a combination of the signs mentioned above, they need your help. One of the most imperative things is that you don’t overlook the issue, and get your child the support, help, and resources to fight it.
1. Provide time and space to talk
A depressed child needs emotional support from the family. You need to spend quality time with your kid. Talk with them about depression and mood swings as they might deny how they feel. Your child needs your time. You have to make time and space for your kid to talk to you. Kids find it easy to express their feeling when they are doing something with you. Ordinary activities like playing a game with you, going on a walk, cooking, making a craft, or going on a long drive might help them to open up.
2. Listen openly
You want your kid to share his feelings and issues with you, so being judgmental is a surefire way of shutting them down. Cutting in too soon to offer advice isn’t going to help your kid either. Let your child say whatever he needs to express that is going on in his mind. Listening carefully and asking before responding can show your kid that you understand them. Showing emotional support, without being pushy, can help you gain your child’s trust allowing them to talk about their problems and worries.
3. Revisit the problem
When your child shares a problem, gently ask whether there might be alternative elucidation for things happening the way they did. Help them to see that it is not as terrible as they might think. You both can work on some problem-solving strategies together.
4. Keep an eye on their daily activities
When a child is experiencing depression, their thinking can get clouded by lots of noes. Daily activities can distract them from negative thinking patterns. Physical activities can help to blow off some steam. You can find something your child likes to do. You can inspire your child to do exercise regularly, eat healthy meals, and sleep regularly. Kids often go online to escape their problems, but when screen time goes up, physical activity and face time with friends goes down. Both are a recipe for worsening symptoms. Being subtle in your suggestions and providing a good example can help encourage them to want a healthy life for themselves.
5. Encourage social connection
Spending time around people can help reduce doomed feelings. This way, kids get to know they are liked and appreciated. Friends are a great distraction and can suggest better ways of thinking about situations. You can help your child start small – an hour playing with a fellow, recommend a fun activity that doesn’t involve too much talking or join a club at school. Whatever makes your child feel connected with people will help.
6. Get the professional help
There are different ways you can provide professional help for you kid:
- Talk to their general pediatrician to seek further guidance
- Convince them to visit a mental health specialist
- Involve your kid in treatment choices
- Look online for resources like parental guides, counseling services, and other helping materials. These are for you to better help your child.
About the Author
Andrew Carroll is a former high school social studies teacher. He taught for eight and a half years at Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School in South Paris, ME. During that time he piloted 1:1 laptop use before the program went school-wide. He coordinated a “laptop squad” to support teachers’ use of laptops in their classrooms. He also served on a number of curriculum and assessment committees. His work is focused on sharing free web-based resources that educators can use to enhance their students’ learning experiences.