Kids can have some pretty volatile mood swings. They will display intense sadness if, say, they lose at a game or are told they can’t have more dessert. This is normal. It can also be frustrating at times. In addition, this reality can make it quite difficult to identify symptoms of a depressive disorder. Because, yes, children can struggle with depression, too.
Depression in adults can be tricky to recognize. With kids, that goes double. In both cases, it is essential that you learn the telltale signs. Again, with kids, that goes double. A child relies on caregivers to identify the need for help.
How to Spot Depression In Children
The first step is to push aside much of the mainstream discussion. Depression in children may or may not mimic how it manifests in adults. It also probably will not look anything like how pop culture portrays it. To get started, here are some possible signs:
- A big one to look for is a child who seems to have lost interest in activities that once excited them. This may be accompanied by low energy and a sense of restlessness.
- How are they doing in school? Is your child refusing to go? Are their grades suddenly dropping? Have they withdrawn from social interactions?
- Changes in daily functioning could be a red flag. This could be something like appetite fluctuations or disturbances in sleep patterns.
- Do you notice mood-related shifts? Your child may have angry outbursts, irritability, a bad temper, or sudden episodes of crying.
- Physical symptoms include unexplained digestive issues, aches, pains, headaches, muscle tension, or not gaining weight and size as expected.
- Perhaps the most depression-like sign you’ll see is the most urgent. Is your child displaying low self-esteem, feeling worthless or guilty, or talking about death or suicide?
As many as five percent of children between the ages of 3 and 17 suffer from depression. If anything on the above list rang a bell, you should at least start monitoring closely. However, if you have witnessed behavior that even hints at suicide, please reach out immediately.
How to Help a Child With Depression
As a parent or caregiver, there are two major ways you can help your child as they undergo treatment.
1. Offering Emotional Support
You are your child’s go-to person — especially in tough times. If they are struggling with depression, it becomes your role to find appropriate ways to be there for them without overwhelming them, e.g.
- Let your child clearly know that you validate their feelings and are ready to listen
- Maximize the amount of quality time you spend together
- Role model the practice of open, direct, and honest conversations
- Deepen your trust with each other
2. Encouraging Self-Care
Teaching self-care skills to your child is a gift that never stops giving. Some of the fundamental elements to consider are:
- Maintain regular sleep patterns
- Make healthy eating choices
- Engage in physical activity, exercise, and sports every single day
- Cultivate methods to relieve stress
Who Should You Contact?
Obviously, depression is not something to ever be downplayed. If you have concerns, talk with your pediatrician. Also, you must seek out a mental health practitioner with pediatric experience. A child or adolescent may not find it easy to articulate what they are feeling. This makes it all the more important to get input from qualified professionals.
Childhood depression can be addressed, managed, and treated. The first step, of course, is to recognize the problem. If you have any reason to be worried about your child, I invite you to reach out today. Let’s connect and talk in the name of supporting your child.