Brain development/Law/Policy COVID-19 School of Medicine

4 Ways to Help if Your Kid Is Depressed

A couple of weeks ago, I noticed a worrying shift in my 9-year-old. His characteristic silliness — his goofy giggles and incessant bad jokes — had disappeared. He stopped wanting to go outside and said he was too tired to play. He crawled under his bed covers and lay quietly in his room, while the next room over, my heart was breaking…

Talk to your kids about the coronavirus — and bring optimism into conversations.

Sometimes, in an effort to protect kids, parents also deny their children important information. We assume that kids don’t really need to know what’s going on.

“That’s always a mistake, because then the child’s anxiety about what it might be, or what the eventual outcome might be, is almost always worse than the actual reality,” said Dr. Joan L. Luby, M.D., a child psychiatrist at Washington University in St. Louis. So with regard to the coronavirus, “I do think parents need to stop and take time to explain the situation — what it means, how we got here, when it’s likely to be over, so that children can have a realistic assessment of what’s going on,” Dr. Luby said. (You might not be able to provide a specific timeline for when it will end, Dr. Luby said, but you could say that things will improve once we have a vaccine or better treatments, and that scientists are working very hard on both of these things.)…

Look out for the signs of depression and get professional help if needed.

When my son was moping around the house a few weeks ago, I wasn’t sure how to tell the difference between normal sadness and diagnosable depression. Dr. Luby said that when kids are clinically depressed, they lose interest in the things that they usually enjoy. They may no longer like their favorite foods, their favorite TV shows or their favorite games. “The inability to enjoy activities and play is one thing you can say with confidence that’s starkly abnormal for a child,” Dr. Luby said, so it’s “probably the most obvious symptom.” Other signs of depression are when kids begin eating a lot more or less than usual or start sleeping a lot more or less than usual. And of course, kids can seem quite sad or irritable.

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