Children can experience depression, just as much as adults. Be proactive in your interactions with your child to help them weather life's storms and, hopefully, prevent them from developing the symptoms of depression.

1. Always allow and encourage communication and free expression of positive and negative feelings. Some parents grew up in families where the open expression of feelings was discouraged. For these adults, it can be very uncomfortable to discuss feelings, especially those that are considered negative. Usually, this type of family dynamic is the continuation of a cycle.

Just as the cycle of abuse must be consciously broken, so must this cycle of emotional silence. When a child is allowed to express their feelings and feels safe to do so, they are more able to address their feelings when they are overcome by sadness.

Children should be given information about what is happening in the family, especially if the situation could cause a child to experience profound sadness.

For example:

  • serious illness

  • death of a family member

  • death of a pet

  • loss of a job

  • divorce

2. Let them solve their own problems

Give your child the opportunity to solve their own problems. By giving them the skills to do so, you are allowing them to see their own self-worth and competence.

A "helicopter parent" hovers around the child in order to stage a rescue at the first sign of trouble. Children of this type of parent are at a higher risk for developing depression and becoming overwhelmed by life's challenges. They have not been allowed to tackle the "easy" problems. When they are faced with a major life disappointment or event, they do not have the foundation to handle it.

3. Don't put all your praise in one basket

When praising your child, make sure that you spread the wealth. If they only feel valued for one thing, they may be very disappointed if they are not able to perform in that area. Giving your child a well-rounded positive self-image is a great gift, and one that will last a lifetime. Encourage your child to engage in a variety of activities that make them happy. Make their experiences varied and worthwhile.

4. Always look on the bright side

If your child is surrounded by consistent examples of a positive outlook, they will pick it up. Optimism and pessimism are both contagious! When you are facing a minor challenge, talk through your thought patterns out loud. This gives your child an example to follow when little mishaps come their way. And it helps build a foundation for managing larger trials.

5. Watch for Warning signs

You should watch for signs in your child's behavior and seek help if you are concerned. Depression, in children and adults, is a real condition and needs to be taken seriously.

Watch for:

  • Sudden changes in behavior

  • Change in appetite

  • Weight gain or loss

  • Loss of interest in activities that they previously enjoyed

  • Self harming

  • Profound or prolonged sadness

  • Frequent talk about death

  • Speaking of hurting or killing oneself

Depression is a growing concern in childhood. Parents can inoculate their children against this condition. Teach them to communicate their emotions, allow them to solve problems for themselves, value the whole child and promote a positive attitude. When depression does take hold, seek professional advice.

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