How to Manage Your Child's Depression

Reviewed Apr 6, 2017

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Summary

  • Medical and nonmedical treatment options are available.
  • Federal laws ensure the child will get help at school.
     

A child may go through a mild depressed mood for some weeks or even a few months. Without help, it may last for many months or longer. But, there is good news that treatment is as successful for children as it is for adults.

Individual talk therapy

Childhood depression can be treated with many forms of individual talk therapy, including play therapy, art therapy, and more. In talk therapy, the therapist and child work to develop a warm, accepting, and supportive relationship. The child is then encouraged to express thoughts and feelings about what is going on in his life. The therapist works to lower the child’s upset feelings.

Play therapy can be helpful with some children, especially younger ones. The play could be acting out an emotion that is hard to name. Or it may be by using the expressive arts of music or drawing.

Family therapy

Family therapy can be helpful for a child with depression. This is also true for other members of the family. Siblings may have a hard time understanding that a brother or sister is depressed. Family therapy can help teach parents or guardians and siblings to be more understanding and supportive of the child. They can also learn how to be on the lookout for suicidal ideas or actions.

Medication

Parents or guardians should talk with the child's doctor or a psychiatrist regarding concerns whether medication is needed to help. There are drugs available for treatment of depression in children. Using them depends on a child’s age, weight, and the type of drug, among other factors that you can talk about with the doctor.

Getting your child to comply with treatment

Getting treatment is needed for a child with depression. But sometimes the child may not wish to see a therapist and/or take the prescribed drugs. This is common. The parent or guardian should be supportive and encourage the child. They can also get ideas from the therapist and doctor that can help. But if the depression is very bad and the child does not want help, hospitalization may be needed.

Hospitalization

In very severe cases that involve a high chance of the child hurting herself, inpatient psychiatric hospitalization might be needed. It is an option for a child if an evaluation by a professional shows a high level of risk of harm.
 
How to deal with your child’s school

Depending on how intense the child's depression is, he may have trouble at school as well. Children may need tutoring or other special services if it gets in the way with the ability to learn. Although most school staffs today may be more aware and sensitive to childhood depression, not all are. They may need to be told of the nature of the child’s symptoms and diagnosis, and perhaps be involved in her care. A school nurse may need to hold onto and give meds during the school day as well.

Several U.S. laws require that services be provided to a child who has a disability that gets in the way of his ability to learn or be educated. It may also apply to the family. An evaluation can be given for free by the child's school district. From there, an individualized education plan (IEP) that describes the services will be created for the child.

By Chris E. Stout, PsyD, Clinical Professor, Department of Psychiatry, College of Medicine, University of Illinois at Chicago
Source: Beardslee WR, Gladstone TR. Prevention of childhood depression: recent findings and future prospects. Biol Psychiatry. 2001;49:1101-1110; Bonin L. Depression in adolescents: epidemiology, clinical manifestations, and diagnosis, www.uptodate.com/contents/depression-in-adolescents-epidemiology-clinical-manifestations-and-diagnosis; Carlson GA. The challenge of diagnosing depression in childhood and adolescence. J Affect Disord. December 2000;61(suppl 1):3-8; Castiglia PT. Depression in children. J Pediatr Health Care. March-April 2000;14:73-75; Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Fourth Edition Text Revision (DSM-IV-TR). American Psychiatric Association, 1999; National Institute of Mental Health, www.nimh.nih.gov/statistics/1MDD_CHILD.shtml; Synopsis of Psychiatry by Benjamin J. Sadock, Virginia A. Sadock and Pedro Ruiz, MD, LWW, 11th edition, 2014.
Reviewed by Steven T. Batton, DO, Medical Director, ValueOptions Federal Division

Summary

  • Medical and nonmedical treatment options are available.
  • Federal laws ensure the child will get help at school.
     

A child may go through a mild depressed mood for some weeks or even a few months. Without help, it may last for many months or longer. But, there is good news that treatment is as successful for children as it is for adults.

Individual talk therapy

Childhood depression can be treated with many forms of individual talk therapy, including play therapy, art therapy, and more. In talk therapy, the therapist and child work to develop a warm, accepting, and supportive relationship. The child is then encouraged to express thoughts and feelings about what is going on in his life. The therapist works to lower the child’s upset feelings.

Play therapy can be helpful with some children, especially younger ones. The play could be acting out an emotion that is hard to name. Or it may be by using the expressive arts of music or drawing.

Family therapy

Family therapy can be helpful for a child with depression. This is also true for other members of the family. Siblings may have a hard time understanding that a brother or sister is depressed. Family therapy can help teach parents or guardians and siblings to be more understanding and supportive of the child. They can also learn how to be on the lookout for suicidal ideas or actions.

Medication

Parents or guardians should talk with the child's doctor or a psychiatrist regarding concerns whether medication is needed to help. There are drugs available for treatment of depression in children. Using them depends on a child’s age, weight, and the type of drug, among other factors that you can talk about with the doctor.

Getting your child to comply with treatment

Getting treatment is needed for a child with depression. But sometimes the child may not wish to see a therapist and/or take the prescribed drugs. This is common. The parent or guardian should be supportive and encourage the child. They can also get ideas from the therapist and doctor that can help. But if the depression is very bad and the child does not want help, hospitalization may be needed.

Hospitalization

In very severe cases that involve a high chance of the child hurting herself, inpatient psychiatric hospitalization might be needed. It is an option for a child if an evaluation by a professional shows a high level of risk of harm.
 
How to deal with your child’s school

Depending on how intense the child's depression is, he may have trouble at school as well. Children may need tutoring or other special services if it gets in the way with the ability to learn. Although most school staffs today may be more aware and sensitive to childhood depression, not all are. They may need to be told of the nature of the child’s symptoms and diagnosis, and perhaps be involved in her care. A school nurse may need to hold onto and give meds during the school day as well.

Several U.S. laws require that services be provided to a child who has a disability that gets in the way of his ability to learn or be educated. It may also apply to the family. An evaluation can be given for free by the child's school district. From there, an individualized education plan (IEP) that describes the services will be created for the child.

By Chris E. Stout, PsyD, Clinical Professor, Department of Psychiatry, College of Medicine, University of Illinois at Chicago
Source: Beardslee WR, Gladstone TR. Prevention of childhood depression: recent findings and future prospects. Biol Psychiatry. 2001;49:1101-1110; Bonin L. Depression in adolescents: epidemiology, clinical manifestations, and diagnosis, www.uptodate.com/contents/depression-in-adolescents-epidemiology-clinical-manifestations-and-diagnosis; Carlson GA. The challenge of diagnosing depression in childhood and adolescence. J Affect Disord. December 2000;61(suppl 1):3-8; Castiglia PT. Depression in children. J Pediatr Health Care. March-April 2000;14:73-75; Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Fourth Edition Text Revision (DSM-IV-TR). American Psychiatric Association, 1999; National Institute of Mental Health, www.nimh.nih.gov/statistics/1MDD_CHILD.shtml; Synopsis of Psychiatry by Benjamin J. Sadock, Virginia A. Sadock and Pedro Ruiz, MD, LWW, 11th edition, 2014.
Reviewed by Steven T. Batton, DO, Medical Director, ValueOptions Federal Division

Summary

  • Medical and nonmedical treatment options are available.
  • Federal laws ensure the child will get help at school.
     

A child may go through a mild depressed mood for some weeks or even a few months. Without help, it may last for many months or longer. But, there is good news that treatment is as successful for children as it is for adults.

Individual talk therapy

Childhood depression can be treated with many forms of individual talk therapy, including play therapy, art therapy, and more. In talk therapy, the therapist and child work to develop a warm, accepting, and supportive relationship. The child is then encouraged to express thoughts and feelings about what is going on in his life. The therapist works to lower the child’s upset feelings.

Play therapy can be helpful with some children, especially younger ones. The play could be acting out an emotion that is hard to name. Or it may be by using the expressive arts of music or drawing.

Family therapy

Family therapy can be helpful for a child with depression. This is also true for other members of the family. Siblings may have a hard time understanding that a brother or sister is depressed. Family therapy can help teach parents or guardians and siblings to be more understanding and supportive of the child. They can also learn how to be on the lookout for suicidal ideas or actions.

Medication

Parents or guardians should talk with the child's doctor or a psychiatrist regarding concerns whether medication is needed to help. There are drugs available for treatment of depression in children. Using them depends on a child’s age, weight, and the type of drug, among other factors that you can talk about with the doctor.

Getting your child to comply with treatment

Getting treatment is needed for a child with depression. But sometimes the child may not wish to see a therapist and/or take the prescribed drugs. This is common. The parent or guardian should be supportive and encourage the child. They can also get ideas from the therapist and doctor that can help. But if the depression is very bad and the child does not want help, hospitalization may be needed.

Hospitalization

In very severe cases that involve a high chance of the child hurting herself, inpatient psychiatric hospitalization might be needed. It is an option for a child if an evaluation by a professional shows a high level of risk of harm.
 
How to deal with your child’s school

Depending on how intense the child's depression is, he may have trouble at school as well. Children may need tutoring or other special services if it gets in the way with the ability to learn. Although most school staffs today may be more aware and sensitive to childhood depression, not all are. They may need to be told of the nature of the child’s symptoms and diagnosis, and perhaps be involved in her care. A school nurse may need to hold onto and give meds during the school day as well.

Several U.S. laws require that services be provided to a child who has a disability that gets in the way of his ability to learn or be educated. It may also apply to the family. An evaluation can be given for free by the child's school district. From there, an individualized education plan (IEP) that describes the services will be created for the child.

By Chris E. Stout, PsyD, Clinical Professor, Department of Psychiatry, College of Medicine, University of Illinois at Chicago
Source: Beardslee WR, Gladstone TR. Prevention of childhood depression: recent findings and future prospects. Biol Psychiatry. 2001;49:1101-1110; Bonin L. Depression in adolescents: epidemiology, clinical manifestations, and diagnosis, www.uptodate.com/contents/depression-in-adolescents-epidemiology-clinical-manifestations-and-diagnosis; Carlson GA. The challenge of diagnosing depression in childhood and adolescence. J Affect Disord. December 2000;61(suppl 1):3-8; Castiglia PT. Depression in children. J Pediatr Health Care. March-April 2000;14:73-75; Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Fourth Edition Text Revision (DSM-IV-TR). American Psychiatric Association, 1999; National Institute of Mental Health, www.nimh.nih.gov/statistics/1MDD_CHILD.shtml; Synopsis of Psychiatry by Benjamin J. Sadock, Virginia A. Sadock and Pedro Ruiz, MD, LWW, 11th edition, 2014.
Reviewed by Steven T. Batton, DO, Medical Director, ValueOptions Federal Division

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