What Can Parents Do to Help Their Child with Depression?
Depression; the world is still coming to terms with the word. The illness is still tied up with a lot of stigmas and is almost a taboo word amongst most people.
While there’s been immense progress in desensitizing discussions around this illness, it is still very much associated with adults.
Children are associated with mood swings and it is common to have children throw tantrums or be sad and cry over the smallest of issues. In the midst of all these mood swings, parents need to be careful and aware enough to catch signs, if any, of depression amongst their children.
When a sad or bad mood lasts for weeks or longer, and when there are other changes in a child's behavior, it might be depression.
How can one tell if their child is depressed:
The way depression looks in children can vary drastically when compared to adults. It might even go undiagnosed and untreated since the symptoms may pass off as regular emotional, unruly behaviour. Emotional and psychological changes are normal in children and quite often, we have to look for, what is called, masked depression.
Masked depression can be evidenced by acting out or angry behaviour.
Many children display sadness or a low mood similar to adults who are depressed.
Some common symptoms of child depressions are:
- Crankiness or anger
- Continuous feelings of sadness and hopelessness
- Social withdrawal
- Being more sensitive to rejection
- Changes in appetite, either increased or decreased
- Changes in sleep
- Vocal outbursts
- Trouble concentrating
- Fatigue and low energy
- Physical complaints that don't respond to treatment
- Trouble during events and activities at home or with friends, in school, during extracurricular activities, and with other hobbies or interests
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
- Impaired thinking or concentration
- Thoughts of death or suicide
The first step that is of utmost importance is for parents to diagnose the situation. In case of any hunches, get the help of your child’s doctor. The right diagnosis can help you solve half the problem.
If your child is diagnosed with this disease, make sure to get professional help for them. Regular therapy sessions and medical care can not be ruled out.
Treatment options for children are very similar to adults; psychotherapy, counselling, medication.
It is important to start monitoring medications under the care of trained professionals. Talk with them about the potential risks and benefits for your child and also make sure the medication is not easily accessible to your child. Antidepressants need to be given under adult supervision only.
Undiagnosed, severe depression can lead to suicidal thoughts in your child.
Here are some warning signs of under depressed child that you must look out for:
- Social isolation, including isolation from the family
- Talk of suicide, hopelessness, or helplessness
- Increased acting-out of undesirable behaviors (sexual or behavioral)
- Increased risk-taking behaviors
- Frequent accidents
- Substance abuse
- Focus on morbid and negative themes
- Talk about death and dying
- Increased crying or reduced emotional expression
- Giving away possessions
It can get overwhelming to have to deal with all the emotional and psychological stress of seeing your child suffer. But remember, the best way in which you can help them is by being patient and listening to them.
There might be times when their concerns might not seem pressing enough to you but it might feel very real to them.
Here are some points through with child depression can be managed:
Communication is key.
Make them feel as comfortable as possible when it comes to sharing and communicating openly.
At times they might not even need any advice or solutions to their problem; they might just want to feel heard. Listen intently and if it feels too overwhelming to you, reach out to a professional for help.
Remember to be patient and kind and enjoy your time together.
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