Depression in children symptoms diagnosis and treatment

Sep 28, 2007 at 9:29 p.m. ET

Caron Goode's insights are drawn from her 15 years in private psychotherapy practice and 30 years of experience in the fields of education, personal empowerment and therapy. Now she shares some advice to help us cope with the challenges we face as moms and as women!

The question

My child is suffering from apparent depression due to an unusual degree of turmoil in our home. Are there specific things I can do to help offset this and decrease her tension and depression?

Caron Goode answers
Yes there are specific things that you can do to help your child. Most parents are not aware that depression is associated with changes in a child's biochemistry. Depression is not just a psychological symptom, but also correlated with changes in the body. First, let's check off the biochemical list. Has your child:

  • Had an unusual amount of sugar, chocolate, or other foods that might cause allergies? Mild depression is correlated with allergies.
  • Changed her diet significantly? She might be experiencing withdrawal symptoms from certain foods.
  • Eaten a load of carbohydrates, and not enough protein? Sometimes a lot of carbohydrates act like a coming down from an energy high once the calories are burned off. If you can, rebalance your child's diet with sufficient amounts of protein and stay away from any foods to which your child might be allergic.
  • Another question to ask is whether your child has been active in play and exercise? Withdrawing from this type of activity can also cause mild depression symptoms. So get active again with your child. Take a walk, ride bikes, go on nature hikes or anything else you can think of. If you are staying indoors due to bad weather, consider an inside exercise program for both of you. Walking on the treadmill, dancing or a gentle weight training program fuels the metabolism again.
  • Other things that you can do include massaging your child's abdomen, back, neck, hands and arms. Soothing touch produces a feeling of bonding and upliftment. Storytelling using puppets, stuffed animals, or favorite cartoon characters helps children discuss deeper feelings without feeling pressured. Relaxation techniques like deep breathing also help the body and mind lift out of depression. See Nurture Your Child's Gift: Inspired Parenting for further suggestions about breathing, music and positive thinking.