The face of depression is getting younger. In a recent survey, 23% of young adults reported symptoms of serious depression before the age of 20—up from just 2% a generation ago. The reasons range from increased pressure in school to rising divorce rates among parents, experts say.
“My parents went through an awful divorce my ninth-grade year, and I was devastated,” says 18 year-old Brittany.
Parents often mis-interpret the signs of depression. Some kids may become lethargic and withdrawn, as expected, while others may show agitation, frustration and aggression. For school-aged children a drop in grades could also be an indicator. Unfortunately, it often provokes punishment rather than sympathy.
Psychologist Sunaina Jain says, “Rather than thinking of children’s misbehaviors as discipline problems or misbehaviors as deliberate, it’s important to see them as communication from the child. This is the child’s way of telling you how he or she is feeling”
Experts say that, given the new reality, a quarter of all kids will experience depression. Parents need to make sure they take a constant measure of their child’s emotional pulse.
What Parents Should Know
Emotional anchors are fewer and further between for many kids. In years past kids spent more time with parents, grandparents and neighbors than they do now, says USA Today.
Kids look to parents for emotional support and reassurance. With the amount of time parents and children spending together on a downward trend, many children are feeling alone—isolated.
In the past, when Mom and Dad weren’t around, grandparent or neighbors were likely to be at arms reach, but not anymore, studies say. Grandparents aren’t as accessible and families now move an average of every seven years, compared to every 21 years three decades ago. Adjusting to a new neighborhood every few years makes it more difficult to develop strong and lasting neighborly relations.
With the odds of smooth sailing being less and less for children, parents should be extra cautious of children’s emotional status. They need support. They need reassurance. They need an emotional anchor.