Getting good grades may improve your child’s career prospects, but pressuring him to do his best all the time could be at the cost of his health and well-being.
Touch Community Services manager Chong Ee Jay says stress from school and parents contributes to your child’s depression.
In several Singapore studies carried out to determine the prevalence of depression among primary school students show that some 12.5 per cent of school children have behavioural and emotional problems. Gleneagles Hospital psychiatrist Dr Lim Boon Leng points out that one to two per cent of these students suffer from depression.
“For genuine depression, the signs and symptoms last for at least two weeks and will cause significant dysfunction in the life of the teen.”
Chong adds that as a counsellor, he has seen a worrying increase in the number of Primary school pupils suffering from depression in the last five years. Often, parents tend to notice behavioural issues like bullying, insomnia, weight gain and poor grades rather than depression-related symptoms.
The symptoms of depression in kids are similar to an adult’s. Dr Lim shares signs to look out for:
- An increase in temper tantrums.
- Poor school performance.
- Changes in weight and sleeping habits.
- Complaints of headache, stomach ache and body aches.
- Increased sensitivity to being rejected.
- Mood swings and problems in conduct and behaviour.
- School refusal and social withdrawal.
- Having suicidal thoughts.
While these symptoms aren’t any different from your average moody tween, Dr Lim says indications like a loss in energy and suicidal thoughts aren’t typical. “For genuine depression, the signs and symptoms last for at least two weeks and will cause significant dysfunction in the life of the teen.”
Read on to learn how you can help your gloomy child…
Don’t assume that your child’s depression will go away on its own eventually because you’re only delaying treatment and extending your child’s suffering. Worse, Dr Lim cautions that up to 70 per cent of kids with depression will likely relapse and endure the lifelong consequences related to the condition.
“For example, a child who fails PSLE due to depression may end up with poorer academic achievements and low self-esteem leading to future and recurring difficulties.”
Dr Lim assures you a diagnosis doesn’t mean your child needs to get started on medicines like anti-depressants, immediately. In fact, for milder forms of depression, talk therapy will be adequate. Even in cases where meds are necessary, it is usually given together with therapy sessions to yield better results. Outside of therapy and medical solutions, Chong offers his tips for you to be the support your child needs…
1. Have regular conversations with your child Try to set aside time in a day to talk to your child and make it a part of your routine. Chong stresses for you to encourage your child to share without fear by practising active listening — avoid judging your kid’s actions or jumping to conclusions. He suggests, “Check in with them to see if there were incidents that happened during the day that may have caused them to feel uncomfortable.”
2. Teach them how to deal with bullies Being a victim of bullying is another common cause of depression in students. So, teach your child how to protect themselves through role playing potential scenarios, so that they gain confidence in responding to actual situations. Also, teach them to speak up for their peers who are being bullied. Chong says, “Let our kids know that bullying is not a positive behaviour and is not tolerated.”
Even in cases where meds are necessary, it is usually given together with therapy sessions to yield better results.
3. Help your child resolve his stress/anxiety triggers Depression is the result when you kid isn’t able to manage his stress and anxieties. Chong explains that common causes include parental expectations and dealing with an overwhelming amount of homework from school and tuition. Another factor ― comparison to one’s siblings or relatives.
4. Rope others in to give your child the support he needs The responsibility of ensuring that your child is happy isn’t yours alone. Everyone in your child’s social circle — friends and relatives — also plays a critical role. As your child is likely to experience a long and challenging route to recovery, it will help when everyone rallies around him to show their love and concern. You should also notify your kiddo’s teacher of his condition, so that he can help keep an eye on your offspring in school.
5. Get your child the treatment he needs If symptoms of your child’s depression continue to linger, it is vital to get an accurate and proper diagnosis from a psychologist. Chong points out that you should assure junior you’re not doing this to label him as a depressed child but that a diagnosis will allow him to receive appropriate treatment.