Putting Preteen Depression In Perspective

As your son or daughter moves toward young adulthood, there are many challenges he or she may face, including depression. In honor of October 6, National Depression Screening Day, take a moment to learn the signs of depression and how you could make a difference in your child’s life.

Approximately 20 percent of teenagers will experience depression before entering adulthood, according to a survey conducted by the Surgeon General. Signs of depression include:

  • Changes in school grades or performance
  • Changes in eating habits or weight
  • Feelings of sadness or hopelessness
  • Lack of interest in activities
  • Talk of suicide

Because of unrealistic expectations set by the media, many preteens may feel pressured to fit in or maintain a certain image or weight. Many teens may end up dealing with an eating disorder, such as anorexia or bulimia, in addition to depression. Symptoms of eating disorders include skewed perception of body image, excessive dieting and compulsive exercise.

If you believe your child is experiencing symptoms of depression or an eating disorder, consult with his or her primary care provider about what treatment options are appropriate.

Have a Positive Impact

When your child begins to test the waters of independence, you may feel that any influence you could have is secondary to that of your preteen’s friends. However, children continue to look to their parents for guidance. Promote a balanced, healthy lifestyle by participating in daily physical activity and making educated food choices. If your son or daughter is struggling with weight, help him or her set a realistic goal and remain supportive by:

  • Opening the lines of communication. Whether you’re having breakfast together on Saturday morning or dropping your child off at a friend’s house, take that time to talk with your child. Ask your preteen how he or she has been feeling or if there are any problems you could offer help with.
  • Setting the tone for a supportive environment. Maintaining a loving, positive home life for your son or daughter can help your child feel comfortable. Share a little bit about a stressful situation you’ve experienced and how you resolved it. Make sure to offer encouragement if your child is feeling stress about a school project or other important task.

If you’re seeking professional care for your child, visit stvincent.org/mentalhealth.

Reviewed by Lytitia Shea, M.D., pediatric hospitalist, Petyon Manning Children’s Hospital at St.Vincent.

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