Childhood depression may be difficult to spot for new parents, but represents a rising concern as more children are prone to depressive episodes than ever before. In fact, a 2015 study noted that approximately three million children experienced a depressive episode within the past year.
This staggering statistic is worrying for parents looking to get to the root of the problem. The tell-tale designs of childhood depression often include a combination of the following in young children:
- Lethargic behavior and lack of interest in activities that once made your child cheerful
- Fluctuation in weight, either loss or gain, as well as inconsistent appetite or eating habits
- Trouble focusing at home and at school, perhaps coupled with a sense of general apathy
As a parent, combating the symptoms of childhood depression can be an uphill battle. Whether you’re at your wits end or simple want to explore options for how you can make small changes at home for the benefit of your child, consider the following five steps as a starting point.
Step One: A Better Night’s Sleep
Lack of sleep can contribute to a number of health problems for just about anyone, but especially with children prone to depression. Given that most youths simply don’t get the recommended eight hours of sleep needed to promote a healthy, active lifestyle, you need to do everything in your power to ensure that your children are getting to bed on time.
That being said, poor sleep quality can be attributed to a number of factors. Therefore, you should take a proactive approach by doing the following for your child in the bedroom:
- Purchase a secure, luxury bedroom set to give your child an increased sense of comfort and security at night
- Try to limit your child’s use of screens prior to bed, as the harsh lights from smart phones and televisions can negatively impact sleep quality
- Make sure that you block out any unnecessary light from outdoors which could also be keeping your kids up at night (think: blackout blinds, shades or curtains will do the trick)
Step Two: Quality Time
Sometimes getting to the root of your child’s depressive episodes may come down to your behavior. Ask yourself: are you spending quality time with your child, regularly talking to them and being an active participant in their lives?
If not, either due to your own stress at work or busy schedule, it may be time to assess what’s really important to you in pursuit of more quality time with your kids. A simple talk or outing “just because” can go a long way.
Step Three: Dietary Changes
While consistent take-out meals may be convenient, fast food and sugar are linked to depression and may represent a source of unnecessary stress for your family. Despite your hustle and bustle lifestyle, the social and health implications of a good, home-cooked meal around the table cannot be stressed enough. Even if you don’t have the bandwidth to make sit-down meals a priority every day, you should at least strive to do so a few times a week to achieve some aforementioned quality time.
Step Four: A More Active Lifestyle
Strive to to ensure that your child lives a more active lifestyle, perhaps in the form of an outdoor hobby such as skateboarding or frequent trips to the park. Ideally, you can encourage your child to interact with other as increased socialization may combat feelings of loneliness and encourage your child to come out of their shell,
Step Five: Consider Therapy
Sometimes professional help is a must. If you suspect that your child is suffering from a depressive episode, don’t be afraid to contact a psychologist or therapist. Your child’s need for therapy does not represent your failure as a parent. Quite the contrary, actually: you sooner you catch the signs of depression in your child, the more likely they are to make progress.
Tackling depression on behalf of your child can be incredibly overwhelming; however, the signs of a depressive episode are too serious to ignore. Stay vigilant and proactive and remember to keep your child’s needs in the back of your mind first and foremost.