Every child experiences “the blues” every once in a while, but when the sadness becomes relentless, it could manifest into depression. Depression can affect a child’s personal life, school work, and social or family life. Children, versus adults, can develop depression based on additional factors like peer pressure and changing hormone levels. It’s important to be alert and supportive of our children in order to help them.
The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) recognizes the following symptoms as warning signs of depression in children:
- Feelings of sadness, irritability, guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
- A decrease in interest in activities once found enjoyable
- Decrease in energy
- Difficulty concentrating
- Changes in appetite or weight
- Changes in sleeping habits
- Talk of suicide
- Poor school performance
If you recognize any of these symptoms in your child there are ways you can help:
After an initial diagnosis of depression, the best thing you can do is become informed, for you and your child. Jumo Health, a digital health resource for families, offers a depression discussion guide which provides questions to help foster conversation with a doctor after a diagnosis.
Moreover, there are productive ways to create a dialogue between you and your child. Start by letting your child know why you care about how they are feeling. Ask your child about their feelings, but don’t expect them to completely understand or have all the answers. Follow up with connections and examples of some of your own feelings so that they feel relatable. It’s important for children to know that they are not alone.
If you want to help your child even further, we previously suggested the “Three L’s”:
- Logging thoughts in a journal
- Long walks
Have your child interpret thoughts through writing. They can use a journal to keep track of moods, visualize patterns, and even write down inspirational thoughts. Journaling is a great way for your child to get their thoughts down on paper to clarify and reflect on their feelings.
Better yet, help your child combat sadness with its opposite: laughter. Activities such as watching a funny movie or show can use humor to play an important role in depression management.
Lastly, utilize the curative effects of exercise. Physical activity has healing benefits that release endorphins in order to relieve stress.
Connect with God
It’s important to remind your child that if God brings you to it, He will bring you through it.
2 Corinthians 1:3-4 says: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”