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What Can I Do If My Child is Depressed?


When many people hear the word depression they think of adults. But, did you know that young kids can have this condition too? Children who have depression can be affected mentally and physically, so it's important to know the signs and to seek help if you think your kid is depressed.

Signs of childhood depression

Sadness is normal on occasion for people of all ages. However, sadness that lasts weeks or months is not and may indicate a deeper problem. Children who have depression may act out, become angry or stop listening to their parents and other adults. They may exhibit signs of low energy, such as sleeping a lot or even snoozing during class. Kids who are depressed often lose interest in things they once loved and don't feel up to hanging out with friends or partaking in activities. Some children may have difficulty remembering things or begin to express negative thoughts about themselves. They may experience nightmares that interrupt their sleep and can earn grades way below their normal ability levels. 

childhood depression, depression, sadness, sad kidChildhood depression may show itself as aggression, sleepiness or lack of energy.

Who to talk to about depression

What should you do if your child exhibits these symptoms? Take your child to his or her pediatrician or family practice doctor. Bring a list of the signs you see him or her experiencing that may indicate childhood depression. The physician will ask your child questions and check his or her physical health like in a normal yearly exam. Then, he or she will also talk with you about what you have noticed. 

The physician will likely recommend you take your child to see a psychologist or a psychiatrist. These mental health professionals will use several tests to determine if your son or daughter is depressed. These include questionnaires about the child's feelings. The doctor will look for a root of the depression, such as a particular incident that led to sadness that has not gone away. Grief counseling may help children who have lost loved ones, and behavioral therapy is a tool many therapists recommend to help young children identify negative thoughts and learn how to think positively. 

Parents can model positive thinking and be healthy role models by actively limiting stress and promoting overall healthy lifestyles. But it's important to note that childhood depression does not often leave on its own. As kids grow older they go through puberty, which means an onslaught of hormones and new feelings that can change or worsen depression symptoms. It is important to seek help if you believe your kid has depression. Family therapy may help your family cope with the child's depression and learn strategies for managing depressive episodes. Play therapy is another option that mental health professionals may turn to as a means of connecting with the child on a level he or she understands. 

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