Childhood depression

It doesn’t belong, it doesn’t fit… a child should be able to play, discover and grow freely. There is a world between being able to and wanting to… and that means that there is a substantial group of these young children who are depressed or close to it. This percentage is even higher for children who have a physical or mental disability. Sometimes you wonder how this is possible, but perhaps more importantly‚Ķ how do you help a child get rid of it as quickly as possible?

The numbers

Several studies have been conducted in the recent past and many more are ongoing in Europe and North America. This concerns young children up to about 10 years old, who tend towards depression or are already depressed. This compared to the same age category in the 1950s/1960s. Where it fluctuated around 1% for a long time, the percentage is now a lot higher and for the youngest children (5 to 7 years old) it is around 4.5% and for children up to 10 years old it is more than 6%. Where a disability, physical or mental, plays a role, this increases to almost 10%. It should be noted that the percentage will increase rather than decrease in the coming years. No numbers to make you happy.

Why depressed?

Several reasons are given for the significant increase, namely:

  • Behavioral problems in children
  • Lack of development (motor or speech problems)
  • Extreme perfectionism
  • Loss of a loved one (parent, grandparent, brother/sister, pet)
  • Persistent bullying
  • Parents divorce

Increased pressure

It is assumed that the percentage is – unfortunately – increasing and this is mainly due to the great pressure on today’s families. The speed is enormous and although parents/educators want to protect children as much as possible, children still experience a lot of this. For example, if a parent/guardian is subject to stress for a long time, you cannot prevent your child from experiencing some of this. Even when a child is still so young, children pick it up unconsciously.

How do you recognize it?

The process of depression in children is different from that in adults. Diagnosis is therefore not easy. However, there are some characteristics by which you can recognize a depressed child. Some important aspects that, especially when combined, should at least lead to extra alertness among parents/guardians:

  • If your child is sad for a long time. You should then think of at least two weeks.
  • A significant lack of self-confidence, not feeling worth anything. Sometimes there is a sense of guilt involved.
  • Behavioral problems such as: irritability that is out of proportion to peers (so it goes beyond the point of bullying), but also persistent aggression or being constantly negative.
  • The daily things that should be taken for granted in a child’s life are suddenly no longer… such as sleeping (poor sleep causes fatigue) and little appetite (which makes a child weak or listless) or excessive appetite (which in turn leads to can lead to an unwanted increase in weight).
  • Don’t feel like playing with friends and actually withdraw completely.
  • Concentration problems which can lead to problems at school.
  • In the slightly older group of children, they sometimes think about being (or wanting to be) dead.
  • Crying very regularly without any direct (outward) reason for it.


Professional help

As a parent/educator you must act immediately if you notice the above complaints (one or more for a longer period of time). You can contact a child psychologist/psychiatrist through your GP and/or pediatrician and action can be taken in the form of therapy and sometimes in combination with medication. The alternative circuit is more difficult with young children, but there are also options available from specialized people who work with children. It is possible that a combination can sometimes be achieved. But whatever you do, as long as your child’s healing comes first (and that can sometimes also put aside your own obstacles).

Role of parent/educator

The role of the parents/educators is important, because it must first be accepted that the child may be depressed and then you must also be closely involved in the process of getting your child healthy again. The child must have a safe place in the home, he/she must receive focused attention and feel completely accepted. In such a difficult time, the child must have a nesting feeling.


It’s no small feat to have a depressed child. It is not appropriate, it is not appropriate and as parents/educators you may also experience feelings of guilt. But putting your own feelings for your child on hold for a while can be important to get the child back on track as quickly as possible and to give the child full and complete meaning.