How You Can Help
If your teen is diagnosed with depression, there are ways you can be supportive. Educate yourself about depression so you can have a better idea of what your teen is going through. Be available to listen and encourage your teen to talk to you about anything that might be bothering them.
Support your teen’s daily routines, such as taking medications and eating healthy, encourage healthy self-help strategies, and make sure your home is a safe, comforting place.
Start getting your teen help for depression by talking to their doctor. Working with a mental health professional and your family doctor is the best beginning strategy for a teen suffering from depression. This treatment strategy will help your teen deal with their current problem and prevent the depression from getting worse and causing more problems in school, their social lives, and their development.
Some teens who are suffering from depression do not want to seek help. They may beg, get upset with you, or become violent when you suggest it. Even if your concerns are met with resistance, it is still important that you seek help for your teen.
Can Kids Really Be Depressed
One of the reasons that childhood depression is often glossed over is the stigma and discrimination surrounding mental illness. Many people assume that children cannot experience depression if they dont have the same large-scale stressors that adults have to deal with like paying bills, going to work, and maintaining a household.
However, at any given time, its estimated that 5% of adolescents are dealing with depression, which can be caused by a variety of factors. Some children might be more at risk for developing these signs and symptoms if they have a pre-existing mental health condition, prior traumatic experiences, or instability at home.
Schwenk notes that the way your children display their emotions can also be very influential when determining risk factors for depression.
Some kids externalize their emotions more while some kids internalize them, she said. For kids who externalize their emotions, they often need to be taught how to more appropriately express their feelings while with kids who internalize their emotions, we need to find a way for them to express their feelings and get the emotions out of their bodies.
Warning Signs Of Deepening Depression
Parents should be on the lookout for signs of depression getting worse.Whether their child is at home or away at school or work, intervention may be necessary. Some of these warning signs include:
- Dropping grades. If your childs academic performance is declining, if they are skipping class and spending too much time alone in their room or if theyre coming home every weekend, these could be signals of worsening depression.
- Using or increasing use of alcohol and/or drugs. Young adults may use alcohol or drugs as coping mechanisms when depression is getting worse.
- Unhealthy eating or sleeping patterns, including weight gain or loss. Both unhealthy eating habits and significant weight gain or loss are signs your young adult child is struggling.
- An increase in physical complaints. Increasing depression can often manifest itself in physical symptoms. If your child complains of chronic or worsening headaches, digestive issues, back aches, insomnia or feeling tired all the time, these are physical indications that her depression may be out of control.
- Communicating hopelessness or being fixated on past failures. If they constantly comment that they never do anything right, fail at everything or are increasingly sensitive, worsening depression could be the cause.2
Involve Your Child In Treatment Choices
When choosing a specialist or pursuing treatment options, always get your teens input. If you want your teen to be motivated and engaged in their treatment, dont ignore their preferences or make unilateral decisions. No one therapist is a miracle worker, and no one treatment works for everyone. If your child feels uncomfortable or is just not connecting with the psychologist or psychiatrist, seek out a better fit.
Treatment For Anxiety And Depression
The first step to treatment is to talk with a healthcare provider such as your childs primary care provider, or a mental health specialist, about getting an evaluation. Some of the signs and symptoms of anxiety or depression in children could be caused by other conditions, such as . Specific symptoms like having a hard time focusing could be a sign of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder . It is important to get a careful evaluation to get the best diagnosis and treatment. Consultation with a health provider can help determine if medication should be part of the treatment. A mental health professional can develop a therapy plan that works best for the child and family. Behavior therapy includes child therapy, family therapy, or a combination of both. The school can also be included in the treatment plan. For very young children, involving parents in treatment is key.Cognitive-behavioral therapy is one form of therapy that is used to treat anxiety or depression, particularly in older children. It helps the child change negative thoughts into more positive, effective ways of thinking, leading to more effective behavior. Behavior therapy for anxiety may involve helping children cope with and manage anxiety symptoms while gradually exposing them to their fears so as to help them learn that bad things do not occur.
Listen And Provide Emotional Support
Try not to ask too many questions, come up with quick solutions or gloss over their sadness. Empathise with how theyre feeling and remember theyve taken a risk in opening up to you let them know they can talk to you as often and for as long as they need to.
Try not take it personally if youre on the receiving end of anger, frustration and sadness, as its often a sign of how much your child trusts you when they can express these feelings with you. However, it is completely understandable if this sometimes becomes too much for you to manage as a parent – and if that happens, it’s a good idea to seek professional help and advice.
Helping Kids With Depression Get Treatment
Some teens will want to go to therapy when you ask them and some wont. For those who are resistant, know that they arent going to suddenly open up to the idea of therapy quickly, but you can help guide them towards treatment by opening the door and then waiting patiently for them to walk through it.
Try saying, I know youre having a hard time, and I have some ideas of things that could help. If youd like to talk with me about them, let me know. Im here for you. Its also a good idea to ask them if they has any suggestions on how you might be able to help. You might be surprised with what they have to say.
Be aware that your teen might tell you to back off. Thats fine; its their way albeit a slightly irritable one of telling you that they need space. Its normal for teenagers to want independence, and its important for you to respect that. You can respond by saying, Ill give you more space, but know that Im here for you if you ever want to talk or hear my suggestions.
If they do come to you wanting help, be prepared. Do your research. Find two or three therapists they can interview and tell them that they can choose the one that they feel most comfortable with, and think will help the most. Finding a therapist who is a good fit is extremely important, and making the choice theirs will help them feel ownership over their own treatment, which is extremely important to teens and sets the stage for effective therapy.
Why Children And Young People Need Childline
Children dont always know who to trust with their worries. Without a safe place to turn, they can put their trust in the wrong person or keep their fears to themselves. Home isnt a safe place for every child, and the pandemic made even more children feel trapped, lonely, and unsure who to trust.
“I just wanted to say a big thank you to the counsellor I spoke to this morning. I dont know what I would have done if you had not been there to talk to. You made me feel so much better about myself and gave me hope that maybe I will make it. I am so grateful for everything you have done. I was able to feel like my feelings are valid and that I have worth and a reason to live.”Girl aged 14
Childline gives every child access to free, confidential support whenever they need it. In 2020/21, we delivered 76,000 councilling sessions to children and the young people contacting us for the first time. Childline is always here to listen, whatever their worry.
Childline is here for children and young people wherever and whenever they need us. Feedback from young people has told us:
- Childline helps them feel less alone with their problems
- Childline helps them see their problems from a new perspective
- Talking about problems with Childline helps them open up with other people.
In 2018 we created specifically for children under-12, to ensure our information is accessible for young people of all ages.
What Causes Depression
Just what causes depression is not well understood. But it is linked to a problem with activity levels in certain parts of the brain as well as an imbalance of brain chemicals that affect mood. Things that may cause these problems include:
- Stressful events, such as changing schools, going through a divorce, or losing a close family member or friend.
- Some medicines, such as or for pain relief.
- Family history. In some children, depression seems to be inherited.
Take Care Of Yourself
A mental health crisis is stressful for everyone in the family, especially when a child suffers from a mental illness. As a parent of someone who is affected, its critical that you set aside time and energy to maintain your wellness.
Talk therapy is an excellent option, as it only requires one hour a week and is highly effective. Seeing a therapist regularly will allow you to sort through your challenges and set proper boundaries.
Your therapist will also have the background to provide the right context for what your child is going through. This can give you a playbook for the process.
People are often ashamed to talk about mental health due to stigma. It can be frightening when your adult child has a mental health issue, but remember:
Theyand youare not alone. One in four Americans has a mental health issue in any given year. Its very likely that your neighbors or co-workers have dealt with something similar. Just like them, with the right plan and attitude, your child will get through theirs and return to a happy, productive and enjoyable life.
How Can I Help An Adult Child With Major Depression
It can be very painful to watch your child struggle with major issues. While it is difficult to watch a young child have this mental illness, a minor can be forced into against his or her will. An adult child may have just as many problems, if not more, and you can do very little to help them short of finding a judge to commit them against their will. So if you can’t force them, what can you do instead? Here are some suggestions:
Come from Their SideIf you want to help your child at all, you need to be on their side and not against it. Instead of letting them know what’s wrong with them, talk to them instead about how their action or situation must be painful for them. Don’t offer solutions, but ask how they are going to solve their issues or get through the pain of something. Encourage them to solve problems, but don’t offer advice until they ask you. Even then, make sure to offer a few things that they could do, but don’t tell them what they should do.
Tip 5: Take Care Of Yourself
As a parent, you may find yourself focusing all your energy and attention on your depressed teen and neglecting your own needs and the needs of other family members. However, its extremely important that you continue to take care of yourself during this difficult time.
Above all, this means reaching out for much needed support. You cant do everything on your own so enlist the help of family and friends. Having your own support system in place will help you stay healthy and positive as you work to help your teen.
Dont bottle up your emotions. Its okay to feel overwhelmed, frustrated, helpless, or angry. Reach out to friends, join a support group, or see a therapist of your own. Talking about how youre feeling will help defuse the intensity.
Look after your health. The stress of your teens depression can affect your own moods and emotions, so support your health and well-being by eating right, getting enough sleep, and making time for things you enjoy.
Be open with the family. Dont tiptoe around the issue of teen depression in an attempt to protect the other children. Kids know when something is wrong. When left in the dark, their imaginations will often jump to far worse conclusions. Be open about what is going on and invite your children to ask questions and share their feelings.
How To Help Your Child With Depression And Trauma
It is estimated that around one in twelve children struggle with depression at some point between the ages 9 and 16, with girls more likely to be affected than boys. Unfortunately, depression is a common childhood challenge that often goes unnoticed by adults, including parents, teachers, and pediatricians. This means that a lot of children are entering into adulthood with unmet needs, and feel that they have to cope with the challenges they face alone.
Childhood depression in someones life if left unmanaged, including an increased risk for anxiety and substance use disorders, worse overall health and social functioning outcomes, less financial and educational achievement, and an increased risk of criminality. It is no wonder that argue that depression in youth between the ages of 10 and 24 is both a leading cause of stress and a possible risk factor for future diseases and impairment!
Of course, all children will experience feelings of sadness, depression and anxiety at some point in their youth. These are normal human reactions to the struggles that both children and adults face. These feelings act as warning signals that something is going on in our life, and they can be very helpful IF we learn how to understand them, what to look out for and how to manage them. This is something we should teach ourselves and our children, because the sooner we learn to manage our thinking, feeling and choosing, the more empowered we will feel over our emotions and our lives.
What To Expect At School
Its very difficult to perform well in school when thinking and concentration are impaired by depression. Its important to include the classroom teacher and a school counselor or psychologist on the treatment team to help your child work through this difficult time.
There are classroom accommodations that might benefit your child during this time. Talk to the classroom teacher about the following:
- Extended time for lengthy assignments and tests
- Breaking down assignments into manageable pieces
- Help to create study or homework schedules
- Provide copy of class notes
- Taking tests in a quiet room, free from distractions
Its also helpful to have a plan in place should your child need a break during the day. Examples might include a daily check-in with a school counselor or psychologist in the early stage of treatment and a weekly appointment as your child stabilizes.
Looking After Yourself When Your Child Has Depression
Its not your fault if your child develops depression.
It can be really hard for you to see your child feeling upset, sad or withdrawn for a long time. In families, the way one person is feeling and behaving can affect other family members.
Although its easy to focus on looking after your child, its important to look after your own health and wellbeing too. Consider seeking professional help for yourself if stresses and worries are affecting your everyday life. Your GP is a good person to talk with.
If youre physically and mentally well, youll be better able to care for your child.
Talking to other parents can also be a great way to get support. You can connect with other parents in similar situations by joining a face-to-face or an online parent support group.
Get Help Finding Treatment
Here are tools to find a healthcare provider familiar with treatment options:
- Psychologist Locatorexternal icon, a service of the American Psychological Association Practice Organization.
- Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist Finderexternal icon, a research tool by the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry .
- Find a Cognitive Behavioral Therapistexternal icon, a search tool by the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies.
- If you need help finding treatment facilities, visit MentalHealth.govexternal icon.
Let Your Child Know That Being Depressed Is Okay
Often, children will hide things that they think will upset you as their parents. Let your child know that failing to let you know whatever they are going through could be more upsetting than hurting you. Talk to them about any known stories about people who were depressed at some point in their lives but came out strong. Examples from people they connect with would make them realize that its a normal phase.
Work With Your Child’s School
Get to know your childs teachers as early as possible. If you get to know your child’s teachers before they begin to struggle in school, you will already have established open communication with the school and your children’s teachers so that they know you.
With an open dialogue established, you and the school will be able to share observations about changes in your child’s behavior and school performance.
Provide Structure To Your Childs Day
Kids with depression often struggle to fill their time with meaningful activities. For example, a child may sit in his room all day, or he may put off doing his chores as long as possible.
Create a simple schedule that provides structure to your childs day. Set aside time for homework, chores, and other responsibilities and allow him to have limited electronics time once his work is done. Children with depression sometimes struggle with sleep issues, so its important to establish a healthy bedtime routine as well.
Organization And Daily Routines
Fluctuating energy levels can make studying difficult. Help your child to notice when they are beginning to feel overwhelmed so they can take a short break before they lose all of their energy pushing themselves too hard.
Find ways to break assignments into smaller tasks and work periods to prevent overwhelm. Rather than have your child or teen work continuously for one full hour on homework, perhaps fifteen to twenty minutes right after arriving home from school, followed by a long break, and then work on homework again after dinner.
Make sure your child puts their homework in a specified location before they lose it, and forget to turn it in.
Creating a homework routine will get your child into the habit of putting their work in the same place, ready to return to school.
This reduces the need for your child to think and remember where they put their work, reducing the amount of thinking they have to do to get their work done.
Help Them Change Their Self
Low self-esteem can be a big problem for children, especially teens. Theyre going through all kinds of changes and might feel awkward, lonely or anxious. Teach your children to identify and replacenegative self-talk with positive affirmations andempowering beliefs. It will rewire their brains tofocus on the positive.
How To Handle Depression During The Pandemic
In this truly unique time, families are faced with more choices and challenges than ever before regarding their childrens education, safety, and mental and emotional wellbeing. Although you might not be able to control the current circumstances, you are in control of how you respond to difficult or scary events and your children will likely mirror your reaction.
Schwenk provided some insight into this situation.
Everyone is having a lot of different feelings coming from the uncertainty surrounding this next school year she said. What are the feelings under the feelings? It is crucial for parents to care for themselves and manage their emotions in order to provide that for children also. Parents, guardians, and caregivers can model to kids how to handle feelings. So when adults are not able to express themselves and ultimately just shut down, kids are learning to deal with their feelings in the same way. On the other hand, when parents draw, journal, or exercise to process their feelings kids pick up on that.
As for the children who might already be having difficulties transitioning, Schwenk recommends creating healthy routines and showing your child that you will always be there to support them, even if you dont know whats coming next.
Try to show up for your child in the best way you can, Schwenk said. Let your child know that you will get through it together. Whatever happens with school, you will be in it together.
Listen And Offer Emotional Support
Be sure not to ask endless questions, devise quick solutions, mask their sadness, and show empathy with how they feel. Do not forget that opening up to you meant an answer to them. Let the child know that you will always be there for them anytime they need someone to talk to.
Try as much as you can not take things personally, especially if you get sad, angry, or frustrated during the talk. The burst of emotions is an authentic reflection of what the child feels- and they thought of you as the best person to express the build-up. However, if things get out of hand, its good to seek professional help.
Draw On Outside Expertise
Many resources for parents exist. Heres a quick list:
- Depressed Child: A Parents Guide for Rescuing Kids, by Douglas A. Riley
- Help Me, Im Sad: Recognizing, Treating and Preventing Childhood Depression and Adolescent Depression, by David G. Fassler and Lynne S Dumas
- Lonely, Sad and Angry: How to Help Your Unhappy Child, by Barbara D. Ingersoll
- Raising Depression-Free Children: A Parents Guide to Prevention and Early Intervention, by Kathleen Panula Hockey
- The Childhood Depression Sourcebook, by Jeffrey A. Miller
Get mental health resources now
How Can I Tell If My Child Is Depressed
The symptoms of depression in children vary. The condition is often undiagnosed and untreated because symptoms are passed off as normal emotional and psychological changes. Early medical studies focused on “masked” , where a child’s depressed mood was evidenced by acting out or angry behavior. While this does happen, particularly in younger children, many children display sadness or low mood similar to adults who are depressed. The primary symptoms of depression revolve around sadness, a feeling of hopelessness, and mood changes.
Signs and symptoms of depression in children include:
- Crankiness or anger
- and low energy
- Physical complaints that don’t respond to treatment
- Trouble during events and activities at home or with friends, in school, during extracurricular activities, and with other hobbies or interests
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
- Impaired thinking or concentration
- Thoughts of death or suicide
Not all children have all of these symptoms. In fact, most will show different symptoms at different times and in different settings. Although some children may continue to do reasonably well in structured environments, most kids with significant will have a noticeable change in social activities, loss of interest in school, poor academic performance, or a change in appearance. Children may also begin using drugs or alcohol, especially if they are over age 12.