Depression: Tips to help your kids stay mentally healthy….

An amateur sketch of a depressive mind

Depression in children, especially teens is not as rare as we’d like it to be. In fact, a 2016 study shows that 12 out of every 50 adolescent had at least one major depressive episode. 

As a parent, you need to be prepared for dealing with problems no matter how small because just a little episode can affect that child even to adult years. This means taking care of your child’s mental health should be priority. It’s important to perp up before things get serious.

Do you want to catch depression before it takes a hold of that child’s life? Here are some tips to help your kids stay mentally healthy;

The first step is to learn how to recognize warning signs:

A child sitting alone with a Teddy Bear

Children go through various phases. As they grow there are often a lot of mood swings and emotional episodes that come and go. That is only normal and it can be quite difficult to differentiate when their behavior is as a result of growing up and when it’s more serious. So, the first step towards helping your child battle depression is to learn how to spot it by becoming familiar with the warning signs.

  • Low self-esteem.
  • Withdrawal.
  • Lack of interest.
  • Hopelessness.
  • Fatigue and aches.
  • Academic success deterioration.
  • Drastic changes in eating habits (too little or too much).
  • Feeling guilty and ashamed.
  • Lack of energy and motivation.
  • Thoughts of suicide and death.

Note: If your child is experiencing one or a combination of these symptoms a little too regularly, they may need to seek professional help.

If you have observed repetitive symptoms you should ask- Why is my child depressed?

Some issues that increase the risk of depression in children include; family difficulties, bullying, physical, emotional or sexual abuse, and in some cases family history of depression or other mental health problems. Sometimes depression is triggered by one difficult event, such as parents separating, bereavement or problems with school or other children.

Often it’s caused by a mixture of things. For example, your child may have inherited a tendency to become depressed and may also have experienced some difficult life events.

If you’ve observed and you think your child may be experiencing depression:

The first thing to do is to talk to them as this might help you try to find out what’s troubling them and know how they are feeling.

Whatever be the cause, take it seriously. It may not seem a big deal to you, but it could be a huge deal for your child.

If your child doesn’t want to talk, let them know that you are concerned and care about them and that you’re there if and when they need you.

Encourage them to talk to someone else they trust, such as another family member, a friend, someone at school, or a mental health expert.

It may be helpful for you to talk to other people who know your child, including their other parent (dad or mum).

You could also contact the school to find out if they have any concerns.

Whether depressed or not, give your child emotional support:

Parent and child holding hands

Your child needs emotional support and that’s why you need to be their number one person. Emotional support from the family helps to form the building blocks for further social relationships.

So, here are some ways to help you manage/establish an emotional supportive relationship;

  • Spend quality time with your child.
  • Encourage open and honest conversations.
  • Listen to what your child has to say.
  • Acknowledge their struggles.

Always encourage a healthy lifestyle by example:

An instructor teaching a child to swim

Physical and mental health is very connected. A healthy lifestyle could help manage symptoms of depression. One of the best ways of ensuring your child leads a healthy life is to provide healthy options and adopt a healthy lifestyle yourself. Subtle suggestions and good examples can help encourage them to want a healthy life for themselves. Never forget the importance of good diet and sleep.

Help teach them to feel and be connected:

Handshake from a boy with African ethnicity and a boy with Caucasian ethnicity

Depression in most cases lead to isolation. A lack of interaction and connection can worsen depression symptoms. Please don’t force your child to have certain friends or force them to socialize. Some children find it hard at first to socially interact and make the first move with new friends.
You can inspire your child to join a club at school or attend activities, suggest ideas on attending various social events, encourage play dates and sleepovers at your house, organise family gatherings and a lot more. Anything that makes your child stay in contact with people will help. Just remember, loneliness never goes away on its own.

The last resort which sometimes needs to be quickly done is seek medical attention. Don’t leave that child to sort him/herself out.

What experience have you had with depression and what did you do to come out of it? Please share with us in the comment section.

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