A Parents' Guide to Dealing with Depression in Children
Children are at increased risk of developing depression. This is because they experience different stressors and life events in a variety of ways depending on their age, developmental level, and personal circumstances. Children of the age group 0-12 years of age are at an increased risk of developing mental health conditions. This is because they’re still developing emotionally and socially, so they’re more likely to experience different life events that trigger depression in some people.
Yes, we are talking about the smallest age group, and it is true that children between the ages of 0-12years experience depression. Parents often don’t see the impact that each one of their actions has on their children. As a result, they might not recognize the signs of depression in children as readily as an adult would. Signs that your child is struggling with depression may include:
Changes in sleep patterns – Your child might become overly tired or find it difficult to sleep for long periods of time. They might also have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. These changes could lead to irritability, restlessness, or frustration during the day.
Loneliness – Your child may withdraw from other people and have trouble making friends because of feeling left out and excluded from activities that used to be fun for them. They may begin spending more time alone instead and less time hanging out with friends as a result.
Not feeling like themselves – Children experience many different moods, feelings, and behaviors. If your child seems to be experiencing several of these at once, such as feeling sad, irritable, and anxious at the same time, this could be a sign that something is wrong.
Blaming themselves for everything – When someone is depressed, they might find it much easier to blame themselves for everything that goes wrong. This is often because they feel like they deserve it.
Changes in eating habits or bulimia or anorexia.
How Children Develop Depression
Children experience many different stressors and life events that can put them at risk of developing depression. These include:
Losing a loved one – While it’s important to remember that death isn’t the cause of depression, it is a major event that can trigger symptoms in some people.
Changes in family dynamics – Family dynamics can change in a variety of ways. This could include divorce in a parent’s life, or the introduction of a new family member.
Poor academic performance – It’s important to remember that academic performance can be a major predictor of depression.
How to Talk to Your Child About Depression
When it comes to talking to your child about their depressed feelings, you don’t need to be an expert. Just remember that the more open and honest you are, the more they will feel able to talk to you. It’s also important to remember that children don’t know as much as you might think about what depression feels like. There are a number of ways that you can facilitate a conversation about depression with your child. These include:
Let your child know that you’re listening – The first step is to let your child know that you’re interested in what they have to say. Stating that you’re here for them is a great way to do this.
Be open-minded – Depression is a very complicated condition that can have many different causes. It can be easy for parents to jump to conclusions about what might be causing their child’s behavior. Avoid doing this by keeping an open mind.
Talk to your child – It’s important to remember that you don’t have to have all the answers. What’s more, asking questions can help you to identify the many different scenarios that might be causing your child’s behavior.
How to Help Your Child with Depression
There are a number of things that you can do to help your child during a depressive episode. These include:
Stay calm – It’s important to remember that while your child might seem upset and angry, they’re still the same person underneath. Helping your child to maintain their sense of perspective can help them to feel like they’re not going crazy.
Encourage exercise – Exercise is one of the few things that has been proven to improve your mood significantly.
Talk to your child – Having open and honest conversations about emotions, thoughts, and feelings is an important part of developing healthy mental health.
Babies: The best thing you can do for your baby is to spend quality time together. In addition, it releases hormones that promote bonding between you and your baby.
Play and cuddle with them.
Talk, sing and entertain them.
Respond to their sounds with words and reply so they begin to understand language and communication.
Toddlers: A toddler's desire to explore is increasing as they move about more. It is important to nurture and encourage this curiosity.
Read to your child every day.
Play games that build on their curiosity and learning.
Ask your child to name things - keep it simple by asking them the names of things around them.
Explore the surroundings outside your home with your child.
Pre-schooler: A preschooler will have a growing sense of independence and curiosity as they explore the world outside and discover the world around them. They will develop their understanding of the world around them as a result of their interactions with others.
Encourage social interaction through play with other children.
Invite them to help you with simple age-appropriate chores. Guide them through steps to solve simple problems.
Set clear boundaries and realistic expectations. Follow up ‘No’ with alternatives for what you would prefer them to do instead.
Provide them with clear choices that are easy for them to understand when making decisions on what to eat, wear or play.
It is important for young children to learn how to express themselves and manage big emotions. Having trouble communicating their needs can sometimes lead to anger or stress. A caring adult can help children cope with their feelings when they feel stressed or overwhelmed.
If you suspect that your child is struggling with depression, it’s important to seek help as soon as possible. It’s also important to remember that depression is a treatable condition, and it’s something that can be managed with the help of a doctor and a good support system. If you think that your child might be struggling with or contemplating self-harm, it’s important to reach out. In order to promote good mental health for every child, protect vulnerable children, and care for children facing the greatest challenges, it calls for commitment, communication, and action.
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