Recognising signs of depression in a child or teenager is difficult for the same reasons it is hard to identify in adults. The symptoms are often subtle, disguised among general feelings of sadness. For many children and young adults, low emotions disappear over time, occurring only as a temporary moment of unhappiness. However, if the emotions persist or begin to manifest as more severe symptoms, they might be a sign of depression.
Stereotypes surrounding teenagers and young children, such as moody and angsty, are particularly problematic as they can be used to write off these more serious emotions and disorders. So, when seeking to understand your child’s wellbeing, be sure to maintain an open mind, one free from quick judgement.
The following are tips on how to recognise depression in your child, accompanied by advice on how to best help their recovery.
While going through hormonal and environmental changes, many teens and children will present moments of aloofness, rejecting certain offers or expressing disinterest. However, losing interest, especially over a long period of time, is an indicator of depression. If your child appears deeply unhappy and begins to demonstrate disinterest in many areas of life, it is important that you recognise their issue and its severity. Doing so is the first step in being able to help.
It may be difficult to distinguish between superficial and deep moments of stress and unhappiness but many parents or guardians will be able to trust their gut feeling that something is not as it should be. If you do suspect or begin to identify signs of depression, let your child know that you are concerned without being overbearing. Demonstrate you are there to help, should they need it.
Don’t Pry, Listen
It can be incredibly difficult and overwhelming to be a teenager and, while an adult’s instinct might be to evaluate the situation fully, you should be cautious of prying as interrogation can drive them away, making them feel defensive. Instead of asking too many questions or attempting to resolve their issues, simply allow yourself to be present, hearing their thoughts when they are ready to share them.
Furthermore, dismissing their feelings, even if to you they may seem inconsequential to you, is incredibly harmful to a child’s mental health and can cause them to withdraw.
Find a Connection
Enjoy activities is a great distraction from stressful situations and physical exercise can benefit a child’s health. They can encourage connections and communication too. By spending time with your child, perhaps sharing a project with them, you will be able to naturally discuss issues and feelings without placing them in the spotlight.
Take Your Time
While it can be concerning to see your child go through a difficult and low mood, there is rarely a quick fix and it is important not to take dramatic or hasty action. Instead, spend time with your child each day, slowly building and improving a connection with them, allowing them to approach you should they feel the need to do so.
Your child may not feel entirely comfortable talking to you about certain issues and, if there is an alternative trustworthy figure, such as a relative, friend, or teacher, it can be worthwhile to encourage conversation between them instead.
Alternatively, if you begin to suspect that your child’s depression is worsening or that their low mood is becoming severe, it is recommended to support them by seeking professional help. At Bristol Counselling and Psychotherapy, I offer Bristol counselling services for children and teens suffering from depression, working with them in a non-judgemental space to overcome their disorder.
To speak to me about counselling or to arrange an initial consultation, please call 07751271709 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.