Families today face a lot of stress. The stress that parents feel, children feel as well. Young children as well as older ones sometimes have trouble coping and can become depressed. As a parent, you always want the best for your child and to help them in any way you can. Recognizing the signs of depression in children and knowing the facts can help in protecting your child against depression. 3.2% of children aged 3-17 years (approximately 1.9 million) have diagnosed depression. If you think your child may be suffering from depression, take it seriously, but don’t panic! There are lots of things you can do to help your child.

What is depression? 

Childhood depression is different from the normal “blues” and everyday emotions that occur as a child develops. It’s normal for children to feel sad, down, or irritated, or to be in bad moods from time to time. But when negative feelings and thoughts last for a long time and limit a child’s ability to function normally, it might be depression.

What are the signs for children? 

It can be hard for parents and other adults to know when a child is depressed. You may be thinking, “How can my child be depressed? When I was that age, I was so happy and carefree.” Every person is different and situations affect everyone in a different way. As a parent, it is important to be mindful of your child’s feelings and understand them as an individual. Here are some signs of depression to be mindful of: 

  • Restlessness, grouchiness, sulkiness or aggression
  • Withdrawal from activities they used to enjoy
  • Hiding away in their rooms
  • Sleeplessness or sleeping more than normal
  • Weight loss or weight gain
  • Extreme or sudden mood changes
  • Continuous feelings of sadness and hopelessness

How can parents help?

If you have a concern that your child may be experiencing depression, trust your gut feelings. If you think something is off, you’re probably right. Knowing the signs will allow you to provide help for your child sooner. 

Talk with your child about depression and moods. Children might ignore, hide, or deny how they feel. They may not realize that they’re depressed. Teens may act like they don’t want help, but talk with them anyway. Lend a listening ear, offer your support, and show them love. 

Spend time with your child doing things you both can enjoy. Go for a walk, play a game, cook, make a craft or watch a funny movie. Encouraging positive emotions and moods can slowly help your child to overcome the depressed moods that are part of depression.

Talk with your family doctor, contact your local mental health agency or call Champions Warm Line for help connecting with community resources at 813-673-4646. 

As a parent, you play an important role in the well-being of your child’s mental health. The points mentioned may seem simple, but they can help your child in a major way. Always remember when depression causes kids and teens to act grumpy and irritable, it’s easy for parents to become frustrated or angry. Remind yourself that these moods are part of depression, not intentional disrespect. Avoid arguing back or using harsh words. Try to stay patient and understanding. A positive relationship with a parent helps strengthen a child’s resilience against depression.