Unlike what people tend to think, depression is not a phenomenon related to the adult life. Children can be affected by it and recognising their symptoms is of great importance for a parent or an educator. As recent discoveries in the medical field have put into light, depressed toddlers are not rare: on the contrary, their number is growing more and more, reflecting the main problems of our contemporary society.
Childhood depression manifests itself through several behaviours. Its main causes are various and partly depend on the personality of the child and his family environment. Nevertheless, some situations are more likely to engender depression or distress among infants and children.
We have interviewed Deborah D’Alessandro, Professional Educator at “Centro Infanzia L’Ippopotamo”, in Trento, Italy. Working with 0/3-year-old children made her reflect on the problem of depression. Even though it is not common to talk about depression when dealing with children, this mental condition presents some characteristics that should be noticed by parents and educators alike. “An impossibility of expressing feelings is often at the core of depression among children”, affirmed D’Alessandro, “The reasons of this problem mainly reside on the figure of parents. I am not talking of their physical absence due to working constrictions. I am tackling a common behaviour: their incapability of saying no. If children have the impression that they can do whatever they want, they will face problems at an emotional level.
The limited presence of parents can imply other problems. As parents do not have much time to dedicate to their children, they tend to avoid arguments and let them free to behave and decide for themselves. As a result, this condition entails an additional problem: the lack of communication between parents and children, the latter having to repress their feelings. On the contrary, learning how to express and deal with their own feelings is a fundamental step in the life of toddlers, which should not be ignored or underestimated by parents.
Most of the times, the repression of feelings and emotions leads to anger. By observing their behaviour, it is possible to state that children have drastically changed in the last few years. They are more and more violent, namely against themselves. The fact that they are often obliged to adapt their person to the daily rhythm of their parents can be a symptom of distress: not only they have to spend their day in a building that doesn’t look like home, but they have also to accept the decisions of other people, such as their educators. The main manifestations of this mental distress can be vomit, unmotivated anger, and the refusal of people’s authority.
As depression can lead the child to lose interest in fun activities, parents can offer their child an interesting and various approach to life, organising enjoyable activities during the weekend. Interacting with other children or adults can turn into a positive impulse capable of reactivating the creativity and vitality of your child.
Consequently, depression can be expressed in several different ways. Children who experience a lack of communication and are used to repress their feelings and emotions have more chances to be depressed at a clinical level.
Talking to your child is the best solution to prevent depression. It will help him understand the importance of expressing his feelings, without being ashamed of it. It is also crucial to analyse the responses of a child to situations. His reactions may express more than his words, offering another perspective to parents to take care of their children.
Parents tend to be very worried when their children are playing in the garden or in a park: although it is important to pay attention to what children do, parents should focus more on what they say and how they do it. Psychological wellness is strictly related to the physical one. Being more indirect and implicit, the mental wealth of your child deserves all your attentions, inside and outside your house.