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Helping Your Child with Depression

Signs and symptoms of childhood depression and how parents can help.

Depression is tough to deal with at any age, but for children, it can be especially difficult to handle. No parent wants their child to experience depression, but rates among children and teens have risen in recent years:

  • As many as one in five adolescents has depression at some point during their teen years.
  • Every year, about one in 11 adolescents has an episode of major depression.
  • Experts estimate that two to three percent of children ages three to 11 years old have depression.

Though it’s normal for children and teens to feel sad sometimes, parents may need to act if they notice certain warning signs

Some of the most common signs of depression in kids and teens include seeming more sad and irritable than usual, not enjoying activities that used to make them happy, spending more time alone, sleeping more than usual or having trouble falling asleep, trouble focusing or making choices, struggling or failing at school, a notable change in weight or eating habits, having less energy or motivation than usual, crying more often, mentioning feeling sad, worthless, or guilty, etc.

If you or your co-parent notice repeated warning signs of depression, it’s crucial to communicate with each other and with your child’s pediatrician. It can be helpful to document your observations so you can relay accurate information to help your child. TalkingParents offers the Info Library feature, which allows co-parents to create customizable cards to hold important information about their child to share with each other. It’s also beneficial for co-parents to have these details recorded to use as reference at doctor’s visits, especially if only one parent is able to attend the appointment.
Mother hugging sad daughter

5 ways parents can help their children deal with depression

In addition to communicating with each other and medial professionals, you and your co-parent can try the following if you think your child is depressed:

  1. Do your research. It’s important to know the signs of depression so you can recognize when your child needs help. What might seem like laziness or irritability could actually be withdrawal or lack of interest, caused by depression.
  2. Communicate with your child. Let your child know that it’s okay to be sad and they can share how they’re feeling with you. Help them understand that feelings of hopelessness are a symptom of depression and are not an accurate depiction of reality.
  3. Encourage your child to socialize. Help your child build a healthy support system made up of friends and/or family members that can be trusted. It can be difficult to get a depressed child or teen to socialize, so it’s important to make them feel safe in their interactions.
  4. Help your child identify positives. Whether your child’s depression is stemming from a certain set of circumstances, a specific incident, feelings of worthlessness, or self-loathing, try to help them see the positives by highlighting the good things about them or in their life.
  5. Stay calm. Clinical depression can be successfully treated more than 80% of the time. Freaking out about the situation will not help your child recover, but remaining caring, engaged, and supportive can.
Child in therapy

Remember, resources are available to you and your child

If your child’s depression worsens, you and your co-parent should not hesitate to seek outside assistance. Your child’s pediatrician can be a great resource for both of you, and they may be able to recommend a licensed therapist as well. There are also lots of resources available online. Not sure where to look? We’ve listed some sites below to help you get started:

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