Depression and children might seem like an unlikely mix. But it happens and we need to be mindful of its effect.
I’ve personally seen children in school as young as ten bearing signs of depression. But, somehow, because they are kids they aren’t taken seriously. After all, kids easily get upset about stuff. So surely they’ll get over it.
Trouble is, depression doesn’t simply go away with a couple of good nights sleep and a little bit of playtime. It’s as much an illness like the flu or some other serious disease.
Watching other people’s reactions, you could be forgiven for thinking it’s no big deal. We as adults can feel quite entitled to growl at children and berate them if we feel like it. After all, we know better, don’t we?
But children’s distress is no less intense than our own. Their feelings are similarly all encompassing, and in some ways, their confusion about life might just make it worse.
Unhappy children are one thing. Depressed children are another. So it’s time we started tuning into the signals.
When a child continues to evidence a flat affect (expressionless demeanor) or appears perpetually gloomy, take note. When they don’t feel like playing, stand in a slumped way, easily dissolve into tears, look “shell-shocked” and struggle to accomplish much, we do well to investigate.
Rather than trivialize our children’s needs it’s important that we realize our life experience and sensitivity gives us the opportunity to help. By listening, caring, and letting them know we appreciate them, children can at least find some comfort (when it can feel like there is none from anyone).
Because the shocking reality is we adults tend to look after ourselves first (e.g. put the drop down mask on yourself and breathe normally before giving it to the kids).
In many places children don’t get good psychological care, as if they are some sort of afterthought. Yet their health is imperative (after all, as their future adult potential depends on it).
So be aware, affirm, and give children equal respect as human beings (who happen to have started a littler later on their journey). If you spot signs that leave you concerned, follow through. Don’t let it go. Instead, talk to parents, teachers, health professionals, and whoever else could be of help.
With so many things commanding our attention and pulling us every which way it’s worth reminding ourselves that bringing up the next generation is one of the highest callings of all. Not prestigious by any means, but helping unhappy kids is a great way to invest the best you have to give and plant some tangible happiness for future use.
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