If your child is experiencing negative feelings that persist to the point that they are not functioning properly, then they might be suffering from a depressive disorder. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 3.2% of children aged 3-17 years are diagnosed with depression. That percentage might look small, but this is equivalent to 1.9 million people as young as toddlers and, based on the ongoing trend, this figure will continue to increase over time.
When left unchecked, depression can have consequences on your child’s emotional and physical development. So, here are a few things parents can do to help children navigate the difficulties that come with depressive disorders.
Know the Warning Signs
If you suspect that your child is depressed, you will need to know what the warning signs actually are. Symptoms of depression can differ from person to person, but SymptomFind can help you understand the different ways this mental health condition manifests. One telltale sign they outline is a loss of drive or motivation. Children with depression will lose interest in activities they found pleasurable in the past, including hobbies they may have been passionate about. They tend to withdraw from social situations and become reclusive.
You also need to look for physical warning signs. Their weight might fluctuate drastically, while experiencing fatigue, insomnia, or, conversely, excess sleep.
Provide Emotional Support
Because depression can cause feelings of alienation, it’s important that you make your compassion felt. Be a steady source of emotional support but don’t force your child to open up. Focus on spending more quality time with your child, and engage in open and honest conversations.
Above all, your child needs to know that you understand and acknowledge their struggles, so build a positive home environment that encourages empathy, not judgment. If you need a professional to help you facilitate better communication within the family, the Baltimore Therapy Center also provides resources for family therapy.
Just like any other sickness, depression is treatable. Consult with a psychiatrist to get an accurate diagnosis and determine the best strategy for helping your child recover. Provided below is a summary of common treatments for depression.
In moderate to severe cases where depression makes a notable impact on brain chemistry, taking medication is usually necessary. SSRIS and SNRIS can help regulate symptoms by regulating the levels of neurotransmitters within the brain. However, because depression can impair proper social functioning, it’s more important to have medication in conjunction with counselling. Combining the two will help provide your child with strategies on how to cope.
Psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy, aims to facilitate communication between a patient and a mental health professional in order to identify root causes of psychological distress. The common approaches to psychotherapy include psychodynamic therapy, and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).
Psychodynamic therapy examines emotions, thoughts, and past experiences to help give patients a clearer picture of their situations. This can be beneficial for children who have experienced trauma. CBT, on the other hand, is all about identifying problematic thought patterns and replacing them with healthier coping strategies. Unlike psychodynamic therapy, CBT places little emphasis on past events and instead focuses on what a patient can control at present, which can be useful for children who have difficulty opening up.
Encourage Healthy Activities
Depression might make your child reluctant to engage in new activities, even ones that will help them improve. However, it is vital that you encourage your child to build habits that can help them maintain their physical and mental well-being.
It is a well-known fact that exercise boosts happy hormones. According to a study by The Lancet Psychiatry, even light physical activity showed great results in the mental health of adolescents. The researchers outlined that it’s even more important in this day and age to incorporate exercise into kids’ daily routines, because they spend an average of nine hours a day doing sedentary activities. So to boost life satisfaction, positive self-image, and psychological well-being, encourage your child to get moving.
Be sure to take it one step at a time and join them in being more active. Try not to overwhelm your child by making them start with physically demanding activities. Work light exercises into their routine, like taking a short walk around your block, going for a bike ride, or playing in the backyard.
Using mindfulness techniques like meditation can help your child reach a heightened state of awareness. Meditation has many proven benefits on mental health, including reducing anxiety, stress levels, and better self-esteem. Fortunately, there are many available resources for learning meditation techniques. There are so many useful YouTube channels, videos, playlists, and apps that can help beginners get started with meditation. For starters, Headspace is a great resource to discover meditation.
Having a child with depression can be a difficult and overwhelming experience. Fortunately, resources for prevention and treatment are becoming more accessible online. Take a proactive strategy to prevent your child from reaching a crisis point and reach out to us here at The Baltimore Therapy Center.