Children And Depression

By: Jessa Goddard
By: Jessa Goddard

The holidays can be depressing when you feel you don't meet the expectations of what Christmas is supposed to be.
But did you know many children often experience this same emotion this time of year?
Medical reporter Jessa Goddard has more on some of the warning signs to look for and how you can help.
'Tis the season, for stress, that is.
Many people rush around shopping for gifts, decorating the house, going to parties and trying to meet the ideal of what Christmas is supposed to be.
Many of us fall short, and when we do, we feel we've failed.
That same feeling is also affecting our children.
TV and movies show us what the perfect Christmas celebration should look like.
A house, full of family, accented with Christmas lights and presents spilling out from under the tree.
Dr. Gina Hummel says "there's a lot in the media that sort of shows what Christmas should be, what the holidays should look like, and if there lives don't match what they see, that can be kind of upsetting to them."
So, your Christmas celebration doesn't look like the front of a greeting card.
Maybe your Christmas tree is crooked, or the Christmas ham came out dry.
The same little things that can turn your White Christmas blue, affect your children, as well.
But holiday depression may be harder to detect in children because the signs and symptoms are often different than adults.
Hummel continues, "but children, when they get depressed, typically can get pretty irritable and cranky, nothing ever seems to make them happy. They will often times make real negative self statements about themselves."
This may be especially true for the children of the approximately 150 thousand troops currently stationed in Iraq.
The absence of a parent can make a child feel his or her family is incomplete.
So, it's the job of the parent who is here to make children feel involved.
Hummel stresses the importance of a few things.
"So, sending care packages, writing letters, keeping in touch through e-mail, creating some new traditions around a parent being away."
While everyone gets down every once in a while, if depressed feelings persist for two weeks or more, it's time to get your child some professional help.
Holiday depression can affect your teenagers, too.
In 2002, the National Holiday Teen Mood Survey found the holidays can make an unhappy teenager even more depressed and increase the risk of dangerous behaviors, such as drinking alcohol and having sex.
It also found teen girls may be particularly at risk this time of year, and few depressed teens are getting the psychological help they need.


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