How to Prevent Depression in Children


Childhood should be a time of wonder and exploration, when kids can become their interests and joys. Many children, however, don’t have this chance, and are instead beset by depression and anxiety. Since most children by definition lack the emotional maturity to face depression on their own, it falls to the adults in their lives to model positive behavior, and to identify the signs of childhood depression and help the child through it. By doing this, you will be able to help prevent depression in children.

Identify Predictors of Childhood Depression

Scientists have uncovered a number of factors that can lead to a child developing depression. These include the following:

  • Parental history of depression
  • Childhood trauma like parents' divorce, moving, or death of a loved one
  • Chronic illnesses
  • Emotional, physical, or sexual abuse
  • Family history of substance or alcohol abuse. Effects may stem from genetic heredity or from resulting parental neglect.
  • Having a parent in a war zone, or in prison. Both separate children from parent figures, though the former might be easier to talk about without stigma.
  • Recent immigration to the US, especially if it was a sudden change

While not conclusive on their own, these factors do have statistical significance and should at least serve to alert the patient of the need for further assessment.

Take Steps to Prevent Depression

Some of the risk factors above can be minimized, but if they cannot be completely eliminated, then steps must be taken to proactively prevent the onset of depression. Current diagnostic models will not detect depression earlier than around age 5, but the following strategies can be implemented much sooner than that for at-risk children.

    Set a routine and stick to it. The child needs consistency, and freedom from the fear of starting at a new school.
  • Encourage adult relationships that emphasizes talking about feelings.
  • Establish an atmosphere of trust in which the child is at ease talking about his problems.
  • Boost self-esteem by helping the child to discover his special talents.
  • Keep discipline constructive and balanced
  • Use the child's experiences to teach the importance of things like patience with one's self, and persistence in overcoming obstacles.

Seek Help When Necessary

Sometimes, a child’s emotional turmoil is beyond your ability to fix on your own. There are compassionate, trained professionals who know the best ways to approach mental health issues in children and how to prevent depression in children. If, despite your efforts, your child remains withdrawn, quiet, or prone to fighting or crying, get a referral from the child’s pediatrician. It’s better to seek help earlier rather than later.


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