Child depression – how you can help

As a parent, the idea of child depression or discovering that your child is suffering from depression can be incredibly challenging and heart-wrenching. Depression in children and teenagers is a serious condition that can affect their emotions, behaviour, and overall well-being. It’s important to recognise the signs early and take appropriate steps to support your child through a really difficult time. Here are some essential steps you can take if you suspect your child is suffering from depression.

1. Recognise the Signs of child Depression

The first step is to be aware of the signs of depression in children. While occasional sadness is normal, prolonged periods of depression can manifest in various ways. Some of the more common signs are not too different from the ways that adults are affected by depression and they include:

  • Persistent sadness or irritability
  • Loss of interest in activities they once enjoyed
  • Changes in appetite and sleep patterns
  • Fatigue or lack of energy
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt
  • Withdrawal from friends and family
  • Physical complaints such as headaches or stomachaches without a clear cause
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

As a general rule, if your child exhibits several of these symptoms consistently for more than two weeks, it’s important to take more than a passing interest and start the process of seeking help.

2. Make it easy to Communicate

Creating a safe and open environment for your child to express their feelings is crucial. Some tips for starting the conversation can be as follows:

  • Choose a quiet, private location or environment where your child feels comfortable.
  • Approach the conversation with empathy and try not to make any judgments.
  • Use open-ended questions to encourage them to talk about their feelings.
  • Listen actively and validate their emotions, even if you don’t fully understand them.

For example, you might say, “I’ve noticed you’ve been feeling down lately, and I’m really concerned. Can you tell me what’s been going on?” Avoid minimizing their feelings or offering immediate solutions; instead, let them know you’re there to support them.

3. Seek Professional Help

Child depression, like depression in any other form with anyone else is a medical condition that will often requires professional assistance and intervention. Consult your GP to rule out any physical issues and to get a referral to a mental health professional, such as a child psychologist, psychiatrist or therapist. Specialists like these in child depression can provide a thorough assessment and look to develop a treatment plan that may include therapy, medication, or a combination of both.

Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) is particularly effective for treating depression in children and adolescents. It helps them identify and change negative thought patterns and behaviours. Family therapy can also be beneficial, as it addresses any underlying family dynamics that may be contributing to any form of child depression.

4. Encourage Healthy Lifestyle Habits

Considering lifestyle changes can also significantly impact your child’s mental health. Encourage your child to adopt healthy habits or make slight adjustments, such as:

  • Regular Exercise: Physical activity can boost mood by releasing endorphins, the body’s natural mood lifters.
  • Balanced Diet: Ensure they eat a nutritious diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains.
  • Adequate Sleep: Establish a consistent sleep routine to ensure they get enough rest.

5. Limit Screen Time and Social Media Use

This is a huge area for consideration when looking at child depression. In fact, a completely separate blog could be written on this subject alone such is it’s impact on young people. As a guideline, it appears that 13 is the accepted age limitation for children to access social media but it can, and often is, a lot younger than that and it’s no surprise that excessive screen time and social media use can bring on feelings of child depression and isolation. Encourage your child to engage in offline activities, such as reading, playing sports, or spending time with friends and family. Monitor their online activity and set boundaries to ensure a healthy balance.

6. Be Patient and Supportive

Once a diagnosis of depression has been identified, recovery will take time, and there may be setbacks along the way. It’s important to be patient and continue providing support. Celebrate small victories and progress, and remind your child that it’s okay to seek help when needed.

7. Educate Yourself and Your Family

Really it’s not just about child depression, understanding depression overall is crucial for providing effective support. Educate yourself about the condition by reading books, attending workshops, or joining support groups for parents of children with depression. Share what you learn with your family to create a supportive and informed environment.

8. Promote Positive Relationships

Healthy relationships are vital for your child’s emotional well-being. Encourage them to maintain connections with friends and family members who are supportive and understanding. Foster a positive home environment by promoting open communication, mutual respect, and understanding.

Overall, if you find yourself in this situation, supporting a child with depression can be a challenging journey. However with the right approach, you can help them navigate through their journey. By recognising and understanding the signs, seeking professional help, and providing a supportive environment, you can make a difference in your child’s life. Remember, your child’s mental health is just as important as their physical health, and taking these steps can help them on the path to recovery.

If you’re concerned about child depression in your own child or someone that you know and you aren’t sure what steps to take, then you can take advantage of my free 15 minute consultation to see if I can help.  For anyone looking to begin their therapy journey, it could be the start of something that is exactly what you’re looking for. If you would like to get in touch and find out more about my services, you can talk to me for details.

About The Author

An experienced therapist, Jille Tringham is the owner of Meditate Place and has years of personal and industry expertise. Her unique therapeutic approach can offer long term release and the ability to cope with emotional issues that cause daily setbacks and uncertainty in your life.  Jille Tringham has a number of years experience in human behaviour both in a commercial setting and as a therapist. She provides therapies from her Birmingham base to release you from your day to day challenges, as well as Life Coaching and Career Mentoring because she understands the physical and emotional strains that spill into all areas of life.