The Depressed Child

Working with the Depressed Child

It is not only adults who become depressed. Children and teen­agers also may have depression.

Depression is defined as an illness when it persists.

Significant depression probably exists in about 5 percent of children and adolescents in the general population. Youngsters in hospitals and special education centers have higher rates of depression.

The behavior of depressed chil­dren and teenagers differs from the behavior of depressed adults. Child and adolescent psychiatrists advise adults to be aware of signs in youngsters such as:

Persistent sadness;

No longer enjoys or looks forward to favorite activities;

Increased activity or irritability;

Frequent absences from school or poor performance in school;

Persistent boredom, low energy, poor concentration; or

A major change in eating and/or sleeping patterns.

A depressed child who used to play often with friends may start spending more time alone. Things that were once fun may bring little joy to the depressed child, who may withdraw from previous activities. Children and adolescents who are depressed may say they want to be dead or may talk about suicide. Depressed adolescents may abuse alcohol or other drugs as a way to feel better.

Many children and adolescents who cause trouble at home or at school may actually be depressed and not know it. Because the youngster may not seem sad, parents and teachers may not realize that troublesome behavior is a sign of depression.

Classroom Strategies

1. Establish and maintain relationships with children.

2-5 minutes per day of focused attention. (For parents try 15-20 minutes.)

Learn to listen non-judgmentally.

Listen for feelings.

2. Supplement class activities with some that you know the child will do well at. Success experiences will help the child regain a feeling of competence and enable him/ her to get “plugged back in” to school work.

3. Encouragement.

“Encouragement focuses on effort, improvement, and the individual’s resources and assets. It searches for and accentuates the positive. It is not competitive nor interested in comparisons, It is aimed at helping the person develop self-acceptance and a feeling of being worthy.” Dinkmeyer & Losoncy, “The Encouragement Book.”

4. Openly recognize and discuss losses and changes.

5. Stop blaming yourself, your spouse, the schools, the parents, etc.

6. Get professional help.

Check for alcohol and drug abuse problems in family.

Check for any physical or sexual abuse.

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