Feelings of sadness are a natural part of life and serve to show us what is important in life. If your child is, however, feeling down most of the day, every day, and has lost interest in almost all of the activities she used to enjoy, this may be a sign of depression. It is important to know that while adults with depression tend to look sad, children and adolescents may look more irritable or angry, or may find it hard to express that they are feeling sad (e.g. saying they feel “blah” or have no feelings).
Children with depression may also experience the following symptoms:
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
- Feeling restless or as being slowed down
- Low energy or lack of motivation
- Withdrawing from social situations, not wanting to see friends
- Problems listening or concentrating on tasks
- Decreased appetite or overeating
- Problems falling asleep or staying asleep, waking early or sleeping a lot
- Seeing the negatives in situations rather than identifying positives
- Vocal outbursts or crying
- Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide
Anyone can develop depression, and a range of things may contribute to depression such as genetics, environmental factors, and stressful life events such as a death of a loved one or parental separation. It is important to know that it is not you or your child’s fault.
What can I do to help?
General things parents can do to assist children with depression include:
- Talk to your child, listen, and acknowledge their emotions
- Encourage your child to keep up with normal routines and activities, including spending time with friends. This may involve starting small, such as scheduling a one-hour play date with a friend
- Encourage your child to keep active, as physical activity may improve symptoms
- Encourage healthy sleep habits and ensure they are eating a nutritious diet
If your child’s symptoms are severe and do not resolve within a few weeks, it is important to seek help from a psychologist promptly. Psychological treatments are best for depression in children, and our skilled Clinical Psychologists are trained in evidence-based approaches to help your child conquer the blues. Call us today on (02) 9525 8443 to discuss your child’s situation.