What you can do
If the symptoms are mild, then certain lifestyle changes can help substantially to deal with the mental condition. However, if the disorder is severe, then seeing a doctor may be necessary. Regardless, there are certain and healthy proactive steps that you can take to help your child cope with and overcome childhood depression. Some of the most beneficial coping strategies are mentioned below –
1. Consult a doctor
If you are worried about your child being depressed, then the first and most important thing you should do is consult a medical professional. Talk to your pediatrician or a primary care physician, suggests author Dr. Perri Klass. Your doctor may recommend a mental health professional like a psychiatrist, psychologist or therapist for an accurate diagnosis and treatment. According to a 2012 study, a combination of psychotherapy and medications can prove beneficial for the child. Therapy approaches like cognitive behavioral therapy and interpersonal therapy are highly recommended, while antidepressants may also be prescribed. However, it should be noted that certain antidepressants can increase the risk of suicide. “Treatment must take into account the severity of depression, suicidality, developmental stage, and environmental and social factors,” adds the study.
2. Talk with your child
Speak openly with your child and talk to them about their thoughts, emotions and experiences at school & at home or about bullying. You should also encourage them to express their feelings. Provide them reassurance that it’s okay to feel sad and depressed and there is no reason to feel guilt or shame. Encourage them to open up instead of suppressing or hiding their emotions. Focus on building open communication and ask questions frequently in a kind, supportive and caring way.
3. Encourage them to seek help
Let your child know that they are not alone and that there is nothing wrong with them. Acknowledge and validate their thoughts and emotions and be supportive. Let them know that you are always there to help them and they simply need to reach out. You can also talk to other caregivers like family members, siblings, teachers, coaches or counselors and tell your child to ask them for help, if they need to.
Read also: The Antidote for Teen Depression
4. Seek support
Helping a child overcome depression can be challenging at times. That’s why you need to talk to your loved ones and ask them for support and be involved in the child’s treatment and recovery. You can talk to your spouse or partner, family members, relatives, friends, teachers, coaches or any other individual who interact with your child frequently. Ask them to keep an eye on your child’s behavior, help the child when they need it and let you know about any unusual behavior.
5. Teach emotion regulation
Help your child learn healthy strategies for managing their thoughts and emotions, problem solving skills and ways to deal with failure in a positive manner. It can also help to talk to them about the importance of physical and mental health.
Here are some other coping strategies that can be helpful –
– Educate yourself and other family members about childhood depression
– Follow a healthy lifestyle and make sure they get enough sleep, follow a nutritious diet and engage in physical activity or exercise regularly
– Restrict the use of technology & screen time and keep them away from social media
– Encourage them to be more social and spend enough time with family and friends to avoid isolation
– Ask them to do some chores or run errands as giving them responsibilities can help build self-esteem and sense of purpose. Reward them for successful completion of tasks.
– Avoid minimizing their feelings or telling them how the child should feel instead. Listen to them and provide support.
– Create a positive, loving, fun and supportive environment in your home by minimizing conflict with other family members
– Be mindful of how you behave around them or react to them on a daily basis
– Teach them relaxation and mindfulness techniques
– Encourage them to attend doctor’s appointments, therapy sessions and take medications as instructed by the doctor
– Spend quality time with your depressed child and involve other family members in fun activities
– Practice positive reinforcement and praise good behavior
– Create a list of important numbers to call in case of an emergency
– Keep sharp or potentially dangerous household objects like knives, scissors, ropes, alcohol, sleeping pills or other medicines away from the child’s reach
Read also: 6 Tips To Reduce Self-Harm In Children
Childhood depression is devastating, but treatable
Depression in children can adversely affect a child’s development and impair their ability to function properly even in adulthood, when left untreated. This is why it is crucial that parents learn to identify the red flags and warning signs of depressive disorders in their children as early medical treatment can help the child recover before symptoms get worse. Moreover, it is also important that you take certain proactive steps to cope with your child’s condition and support them in a non-judgmental way. As children are often unable to communicate their thoughts and feelings, as a parent you need to encourage them to speak up and ask for help, when they need it. With effective treatment and support children can recover from this mental illness and live a healthier life.
Read also: 12 Ways To Protect Your Child From Stress