Having to deal with depression in children is scary because it sounds like an adult's disease. We're afraid of not knowing what to do and how to face such situation. As children are constantly growing up, the evolution of a depression is a major concern for all the parents of depressed children. It's a well-founded fear. Let's make it clear : an untreated depression will become stronger and eventually come back. On the other hand, keep in mind that recognizing depression's symptoms soon enough will shorten it.
First, take good note that in order to treat depression in children, drugs are a bad solution. No serious studies have been done on this matter and the FDA clearly states that "antidepressant medications can increase suicidal behaviors in children and teenagers". Communication is your best option.
Here are the 5 steps parents can take to effectively deal with depression in children:
1. Be reassuring. Your child doesn't feel normal because he doesn't understand what he feels, his inability to get over it on his own. Legitimize his feelings. He has the right to feel them. Explain that what he has is just like a disease that happens to many people and that prevents him from recovering easily from a deep sadness.
2. Depression in children has to be discussed with the child with words he understands. Give him an objective perspective on this disease. You need to make your child understand he's not the problem but that he has a disease that can be treated and that you'll help him. It's a first step toward healing.
3. Don't understate your child's feelings. As adults, we don't always seize the importance of certain situation for our children and how little things affect them : pet loss, a mockery, a fight between the parents (this can make children feel guilty or rejected). Your child's perception of his environment and what happens in his life matters more than your vision of his life.
4. Don't lie or try to hide the truth, even if you think it's the best thing for your child. Children don't like to feel not trusted. Indeed, they can handle difficult aspects of reality sometimes better than us. If he discovers the truth without you, it'll hurt him even more than the truth itself, no matter how sad it is. He needs your sincerity. Truth, just like promises matter for children.
5. Getting professional help can of course be a good thing but it can be difficult to convince your child and the effectiveness of it can differ depending on the therapist's personality and on your child's feeling toward this idea. The other alternative that allows you to "be the therapist" at home while being the parent is to apply a parenting program which will cost much less than counseling and in which you'll be completely involved and supported at the same time. It can be just as efficient.
You need to act as fast as possible when you see a major change in your child's behavior, a change that lasts more than 2 weeks. Waiting will only make it more difficult to treat. Your choice to effectively help your child is crucial and by applying the advices above you can definitively help you and therefore your child getting over his depression.