When our kids are experiencing depression, we might wish that we could get them to “snap out of it.” Symptoms of depression can impair a child’s quality of life. Many experiencing depression stop doing things that they love or taking care of themselves. When kids have depression, the symptoms can cause them to stop doing things that could help them feel better. Depression can then become a cycle of despair, and people might feel even more hopeless.
Symptoms of Depression
Kids experiencing depression might display some of the following symptoms every day or for most of the day for at least two weeks:
- Refusing to go to school
- Increased anger and irritability
- Poor performance in class
- Being extremely sensitive
- Avoiding social interactions
- Changes in appetite
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Loss of interest in hobbies or activities
- Using drugs or alcohol
- Pain or aches with no physical cause
- Suicidal ideation
- Self-harming behaviors (cutting, suicide attempts, reckless driving)
When symptoms like this occur for two weeks or more, kids might be clinically depressed. While some of these symptoms might be classified as normal sadness or grief, the context and duration of symptoms make a difference.
Depression Versus Sadness: Context is Key
As in many other emotional challenges, the context is key to understanding what is occurring. Depression and sadness can mimic symptoms and experiences. We want to consider whether symptoms are an expected response to a triggering event. For example, a person might have lost a loved one or broke up with a romantic partner. They might feel sad as they process this loss. However, the difference between depression and sadness can be how intense these symptoms are and how long they last.
Any type of loss, like losing a coveted spot on a sports team, disruptions in friendships or other relationships, or the death of a pet or family member, might trigger sadness. While sadness is a normal response to these events, depression might be triggered by these events if a child does not process them or has a pre-existing vulnerability to depression.
Talking to kids about what is going on in their lives can help us understand the context of their depressive symptoms. They might need to talk about recent loss and acknowledge their grief—which is a skill that kids can learn. However, if these feelings continue to linger long after, kids might be depressed.
Helping Kids Out of Depression
When kids are feeling depressed, we might not know how to reach out to them. We also might hope that they will just snap out of it. When kids experience bouts of sadness, we might expect a quick turnaround. Everyone has a bad day and usually returns to normal within a few days. Depression is much more than just one bad day, and we cannot expect a child to get out of depression overnight.
Helping kids out of depression requires some patience on our part as parents. First, we need to get some type of intervention and professional support. Depression is a serious disorder that can be deadly. Reaching out to a trusted physician is an excellent place to start. Family doctors are knowledgeable in both physical and mental health issues, as these things are connected. Most people trust their family doctors to guide them through treatment and make referrals. Family doctors might recommend treatment from a mental health specialist, like a psychiatrist, a mental health nurse practitioner, psychologist, therapist, or counselors.
Helping Kids with Depression at Home
With the help of professionals to guide our kids and us through the treatment of depression, we might wonder what we can do at home to help. Parents can lower their expectations for their child to snap out of it. When we look for our kids to do just one healthy thing per day while battling depression, we can notice progress and help foster a change.
One healthy thing per day might not seem like a lot; however, for someone fighting depression, doing one thing for their health and wellness says a lot. Depression can make a person feel hopeless and dread the future. Kids might lay in bed all day or stop showering because they have no hope about tomorrow. When a kid gets out of bed to drink a glass of water or comb their hair, this shows that they care about tomorrow! These small gestures and actions do not occur for people thinking that the future will not come along.
When parents notice these small changes and encourage their kids to do just one thing per day, they can start to build momentum, leading to significant changes over time. When helping kids out of depression, take things one day at a time, and look for changes to occur over time.
Helping kids out of depression can take time. When we expect changes to occur overnight or that our kids should just snap out of it, we might miss out on the small wins that can build momentum during treatment. Even if a kid spends most of the day in bed, if they are getting out of bed to eat a snack or take a shower, they are showing signs that they expect to experience a future. These seemingly minor accomplishments say a lot about a person’s state of mind, even if most of the day they do very little. When we encourage our kids to do just one thing per day, we notice these little things that show hope. Treating depression can take time, and we might need to take things one day at a time, noticing significant changes. If your child struggles with depression, getting behind in school, or dealing with challenging emotions, residential treatment might be the next step in your child’s treatment. Fire Mountain Residential Treatment Center is here to help kids with mental health issues and addiction. Call us today at (303) 443-3343.