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Helpful Suggestions for Parents Worried About Depression in Children

How to Tell if Your Child Is Depressed
As a parent, you want what is best for your child, and you want her to be happy. When she was really young, it was easy for you to take care of her. If she fell or scraped a knee, you made the pain disappear by putting on a bandage, wrapping your arms around her, and telling her, "Everything will be okay."
Now that she is getting a little older, a simple hug and a Band-Aid® may not be enough to make her feel better. As your child begins to experience life's ups and downs in a more intense way, she may pull away or act out in a manner that leaves you confused, angry, or scared. Your child may seem to be in a permanent bad mood, sleeping too much or eating too little. These are signs that your child may be depressed. There are things that you can do to help your child, however -- and learning more about depression is a great first step!
What to Say
Now more than ever, it is important that you have good communication with your child. When you approach him about any behavior changes or signs you've noticed, he may not want to talk about it. You can begin the conversation by reminding him that you are there for him and that you love him. Let your child know that he can trust you, that he has not done anything wrong, and that you want to know what is on his mind. The goal is to create a space where your child feels safe to share his feelings in an open and honest way.
Although there is no specific phrase or set of statements that can be suggested as "words that always work," there are some things that you should never say. If your child is coming home right after school and sleeping for a few hours, only to wake up for a little while, then go right back to bed, do not scold her for being lazy. If your child can't seem to focus at school and seems to be drifting away into a dream world at the dinner table, do not tell her to snap out of it. It may be frustrating for you to sit by and watch what seems like an easy thing to change or get over, but if your child is depressed she needs more than a push to get back the energy and drive she once had.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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