As a parent, you don’t want to think about your child struggling with any kind of physical or mental health condition. Unfortunately, it’s more prominent than most of us would like to admit. One 2016 study discovered that 12.8% of adolescents in the U.S. have experienced a depressive episode. Additionally, many mental health conditions like depression can start as early as age 12.
Now, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the mental health of children and teens is more important than ever. According to the CDC, the trauma some children have experienced from this pandemic can have a lasting negative impact.
So, what can you do to help your child? How can you spot signs of depression, and what should you do if you’re worried that your child might be struggling? The good news is, you don’t have to handle it on your own.
What Are the Signs of Depression in Children?
Depression and depressive symptoms impact everyone differently. For example, some people may have trouble sleeping. Others want to sleep all the time. You know your child better than anyone. Understanding noticeable changes in their behavior or personality should always be a red flag. But, some of depression and emotional distress include:
- Sleep issues
- Dietary changes
- Withdrawal from people they love
- Disinterest from things they used to enjoy doing
While your child doesn’t have to be happy and excited every day, if you’re noticing these signs on a regular, consistent basis, it could be an indicator that something deeper is going on, and it may be time for you to step in.
What Can You Do to Help?
One of the best things you can do, as a parent, is to talk to your child. Find ways to connect with them that won’t make them feel cornered. Depending on your child’s age, engaging with them in play is a great way to naturally start up a conversation. Not only can playing reduce your child’s stress levels and can even help with depression, but it can also help them to feel at ease enough to talk to you.
Physical activity can also help with the symptoms of depression. Your child’s typical routine may have been disrupted this year due to COVID, but try to establish a healthy one with them each day. You can start by joining them in some kid-friendly exercises when they wake up. That kind of physical engagement can help them to start the day out with less stress and more confidence.
If you know your child is struggling and you’re still not sure what to do, you may want to consider contacting a mental health professional. Children who have gone through a traumatic experience or deal with depressive symptoms may need a professional to walk with them and help to reduce the risks of childhood trauma.
Again, it can be difficult to recognize and realize that your child is struggling with depression. But, by noticing some of the signs early on, you can take proactive steps to help your child, and give them the resources to live out a happy and fulfilling childhood.