What should parents do to ensure that their kids don’t suffer from depression?

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According to statistics, around 15% of the child population in India suffers from depression. Here, we are not talking about occasional blues and everyday mood swings that a child goes through, but a strong feeling involving despair or hopelessness that lasts for weeks, months, or even longer.

Instances of depression among school going children, mostly below 14 years of age, are on rise. Other behavioural disorders like oppositional conduct or juvenile delinquency are also quite common among children with symptoms being bed wetting, being rude and showing misconduct and at times even exhibiting violence.

While mood swings among children are common and quite normal, if the condition persists for long or for more than two weeks, then medical intervention would be required.

It is important for the parents and teachers to identify symptoms of depression among kids and assist them with psychological help, well in time. Primary symptoms of depression among kids include irregular appetite, with either excessive sleeping habits or sleeplessness, anxiety features in the child – like restlessness, reduced concentration and body anxiety features like – fast heartbeats and tremors. Children in such cases tend to get disturbed over petty reasons. Parents should be vigilant, ask teachers to pay attention to unusual behaviour. The academic performance will also be noticeably affected in such cases. Children also tend to stay alone or remain continuously sad.

While academic pressure and negligence from busy working parents are two most dominant reasons behind depression among children, other factors that trigger this includes lack of carefree time to play, unsupervised television watching and inability to cope emotionally with no grandparents in nuclear family to fall back on.

What should parents do to ensure that their kids don’t suffer from depression?

  • Parents should at least spend fifteen minutes every day talking to their kids about how their day went in school and at home and about any concerns they have or any issue they are facing.
  • Parents should make sure that the criticism is not directed to child, but they criticize the “bad quality.”
  • They should quietly watch the activities of child without his knowledge.
  • Encourage daily physical exercise to channelize negative energy and milder forms of depression.
  • A daily intake of glassful of milk and 2 servings of fresh fruits for, better Tryptophan in the body is extremely important. This helps in resulting in a happy mood.
  • Parents should try and maintain friendly relationship with kids and ensure discipline at home.
  • Parents should abstain from comparing kids with their friends as this can leave a negative impact. However, comparing past and present performance is harmless.
  • Children less than nine years of age shouldn’t be allowed to watch unsupervised television for more than two hours per day. The parents should know what the children are watching.
  • The teachers at school should be periodically visited and enquired on behavioural aspects like respectful towards others, friendliness and friendship.

(The writer is Dr Pallavi Arvind Joshi, Consultant Psychiatry, Columbia Asia Hospital, Whitefield)

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