Every child gets sad sometimes, and bad moods are unavoidable. But when they stay sad or irritable for weeks without end and their behavior changes, it might be depression, according to Nemours KidsHealth.org.
Depression is one of the most common disorders in the United States, and rates among children and teens have been rising in recent years. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, 2% to 3% of children ages 3 to 11 years suffer from depression.
How can you tell if your child is depressed? According to Kidshealth.org, look for these signs:
- Sadness or bad mood
- Being self-critical
- Lack of energy
- Loss of enjoyment
- Eating and sleep changes
- Aches and pains
If your child seems depressed, the AAP offers some suggestions on how you can support them.
- Talk with your child about what they are feeling. Encourage them to share their feelings by listening without judgment.
- Educate yourself, other caregivers and family members. Some may be tempted to write off your child’s symptoms as mere laziness, irritability or made-up problems, but these can actually be symptoms of depression.
- Tell your child that things aren’t hopeless, even though they might seem that way. Feelings aren’t reality.
- Emphasize your child’s strengths, rather than areas for improvement. Encourage your child and help them see problems in a more positive light.
- Give them meaningful activities to help them relax. Exercise and creative activities, along with proper sleep and nutritious foods, can help their symptoms.
- Texting and social media aren’t a substitute for face-to-face time with friends or family. Screen time can actually make your child feel more isolated.
Talk to your child’s doctor to determine whether your child is depressed. Your health care provider will be able to offer you techniques for age-appropriate ways of talking with children and adolescents about feelings of sadness. Your child’s doctor may also refer you to a mental health specialist for treatment.