Nothing is worse than when your child is sick, but when they are showing signs of depression, you can feel absolutely helpless. Everyone experiences some sadness, some blue days, and some irritability. It is simply a part of the human experience. It is normal for your child to have some unhappiness and melancholy. For example, everyone goes through spells of sadness when life dishes us some disappointment, when someone close to us dies, or when we move and miss friends and family. However, as a parent, you know in your gut when the sadness lingers too long, causes your child’s habits to change, such as not wanting to play or becomes very cross. Sometimes depression causes a child to shut down, talk of feeling hopeless or lacking self-worth. When normal activities of everyday life feel too overwhelming for your child and his or her activities don’t give them joy any longer, then we have a bigger problem.
Symptoms of depression in children
Childhood depression is unfortunately on the rise and has not gotten the attention it deserves. It can also look very different from adult depression. Here are some questions to ask yourself in order to help you determine if it’s time to get some help.
- Has your child become more clingy or does he or she refuse to leave your side when in the past they would have joined in with other children?
- Has your child seemed more irritable or had a recent onset of agitation or aggression?
- Does your child often complain of a stomachache, headache or other “phantom illnesses”?
- Do you experience your child having irrational meltdowns for no apparent reason?
- Has your child’s sleep patterns changed (either sleeping more or sleeping less)?
- Has your child begun talking about death, or dying, giving away (or talking about giving away) favorite possessions, or writing goodbye letters?
- Have they started feeling hopeless or seem like they have low self-esteem?
- Has your child’s appetite/weight changed dramatically (either more or less)?
- Has your child threatened to or have they actually run away from home?
- Has your child lost interest in activities that used to give them joy?
Ruling out other issues
Not all of the symptoms listed above have to be present in order for a child to be clinically depressed, but if some have been present most of the day for two weeks or more, then they are possibly depressed and should be seen as soon as possible. The first route to a good diagnosis is to have your child thoroughly examined by your pediatrician to rule out other organic, biological causes for these symptoms. Hypothyroidism, low levels of Vitamin D and anemia can mimic depression in children. If the doctor rules out these issues, then we will be here to help sort out the depression diagnosis and get your child (and you) on a path to mental health.
After the pediatrician has ruled out a biological reason for these symptoms, we will also assess other issues that can be causing these symptoms. Undiagnosed Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) without hyperactivity can often lead to some of these same symptoms as well as Anxiety Disorder. We will do a full assessment to determine what is truly troubling your child and what are the best methods of treatment as we develop a good treatment plan.
It is also important when working with children to assess for social stressors and if there has been any bullying going on at school. In order to serve your child best, we will do our best to work with your pediatrician, school psychologist, counselors, and teachers to make sure we are not leaving any stone unturned. We want to make sure you and your child feel supported in all areas of his or her life in order to alleviate the depression as soon as possible. Your school may also have support groups for children who are also suffering. We will try to connect you with as many resources as possible.
How we can help
It can be so hard to find the right help for your child. Who can you trust with one of the most precious people in your life? At Core Values Counseling we want to personalize your child’s experience. We have compassionate and well-trained counselors along with Neurofeedback therapy and Equine Assisted Psychotherapy that can help your family begin this journey of healing successfully.
Depression can be seen in the FMRI readings of children’s brains who suffer from depression. For a cutting edge approach to depression, we use a Neurofeedback program called Brainpaint. Neurofeedback is a scientifically proven way to improve how we feel and function in the world by enhancing how our brain operates. Neurofeedback is especially helpful in working with children because their brain is being developed. It can help your child’s brain heal and recover from the impact depression has had on his or her life. Clients have noticed significant decreases in anxiety, alleviating feelings of depression, sleeping better, fewer nightmares, and increased the ability to cope with life’s challenges. This type of therapy works well when done in conjunction with play therapy, family therapy, or other therapies.
Equine Assisted Psychotherapy
Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP)is also offered through Core Values Counseling. EAP is a new model for the treatment of depression and has been found in recent research studies to help people overcome depression by interactions with horses on the ground (vs. riding). Horses have mirror neurons which they use to mirror the emotions of the people working with them. This type of therapy is active, involves movement and is solution focused as we use the arena as our “playground” to work out different situations and dilemmas. At Core Values Counseling we welcome families to come to a farm outside of Newberg where we offer this unique form of therapy in conjunction with other therapies to address depression in many different ways rather than only through the traditional talk therapy and medications. We also offer children’s group therapy at the barn when we have enough youth to form a group.
When your child is struggling it can be so painful. It can be confusing finding the right help. Getting relief for your child and the stress it has caused your family is at the forefront of your mind. We understand and we will need your help in helping your child. Children cannot help themselves. They need everyone in their family working together, so we will be doing a combination of family therapy and play/talk therapy, and possibly adding Neurofeedback and Equine Assisted Therapy. The more approaches we use with children the more support you will all feel and the faster we see results. We also understand there are no easy or quick solutions. It takes time for change to happen, and we are here to partner with you and your child as you move forward.
Counseling is both scary and intimidating. Making the investment of time and money, along with adding something else to your family’s busy schedule can be difficult. Your child and your family are worth the investment! Your child’s future and his or her health are worth every minute and every penny. We will give your child and your family tools that will last a lifetime of dealing with depression should it every raise it’s ugly head again.
With the variety of tools and resources we have at Core Values Counseling, from warm, safe and compassionate therapists, to Neurofeedback, to Equine Assisted Therapy, we can personalize your child’s counseling experience and tailor the therapy to what works best for his or her healing. Incorporating Neurofeedback will help your child’s brain reset and heal from depression, while play therapy and family therapy will help you and your child understand triggers, manage responses to triggers, understand why anxiety has been a big part of your child’s life and build a toolkit for dealing with depression. We also have resources and referrals if medication or physical therapy would be helpful. We will work with your pediatrician to ensure all the health care professionals are working together to benefit your child best.
We are here for you
You can read the profiles of our therapists here. You are welcome to contact us Here to ask questions or set-up an appointment, we will get back to you within 24 hours. Taking the first step toward healthy change is courageous and powerful.