Mental Health: Depression in Children
What Is the Long-Term Outlook?
Studies have found that first-time depression in children is occurring at younger ages than previously. As in adults, it may occur again later in life. Depression often occurs at the same time as other physical illnesses. And because studies have shown that depression may precede more serious mental illness later in life, diagnosis, early treatment and close monitoring are crucial.
As a parent, it is sometimes easier to deny that your child has depression. You may put off seeking the help of a mental health care professional because of the social stigmas associated with mental illness. It is very important for you -- as the parent -- to understand depression and realize the importance of treatment so that your child may continue to grow physically and emotionally in a healthy way. It is also important to seek education about the future effects depression may have on your child throughout adolescence and adulthood.
Communicating With Your Teen
If you are a parent of a teenager, you are aware of the challenges involved, especially when it comes to communicating. Here are some tips to make communicating with your teenager easier:
- When disciplining your child, replace shame and punishment with positive reinforcement for good behavior. Shame and punishment can make an adolescent feel worthless and inadequate.
- Allow your teenager to make mistakes. Overprotection or making decisions for teens can be perceived as a lack of faith in their abilities. This can make them feel less confident.
- Give your teen breathing room. Don't expect them to do exactly as you say all of the time.
- Do not force your child down a path you wanted to follow. Avoid trying to relive your youth through your child's activities and experiences.
If you suspect that your child or teenager is depressed, take the time to listen to his or her concerns. Even if you don't think the problem is of real concern, remember that it may feel very real to them. It is important to keep the lines of communication open, even if your child seems to want to withdraw. Try to avoid telling your child what to do. Instead, listen closely and you may discover more about the issues causing the problems.
If you feel overwhelmed or unable to reach your child, or if you continue to be concerned, seek help from a qualified health care professional.