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Managing Childhood Depression: Caregiver's Guide

Healthy habits—such as routines, sleep hygiene, and socializing—give children resilience to overcome depression and build mental wellness. Parents and caregivers play an important role in supporting the mental health of their children by modeling, teaching, and reinforcing these habits.

The Managing Childhood Depression worksheet describes several important habits that caregivers and their children can practice every day. Some of these behaviors may already be part of their routine, while others will offer opportunities for growth.

This handout has a secondary benefit of empowering caregivers throughout treatment. It answers the common question: “What can I do to help?”

Of course, there is no quick fix for depression. However, by establishing healthy habits, parents and caregivers can help their children develop resilience. Dedicate some time in session to follow-up with these interventions, emphasizing that long-term habits lead to gradual improvement, rather than an overnight miracle.

For tools related to the relaxation skills described in this worksheet, check out Mindfulness Activities for Children (worksheet) and Ocean Breathing (audio).

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References

1. American Psychiatric Association. (2017). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders: DSM-5.

2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021, March 22). Anxiety and depression in children: Get the facts. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/childrensmentalhealth/features/anxiety-depression-children.html

3. Conley, M. I., Hindley, I., Baskin-Sommers, A., Gee, D. G., Casey, B. J., & Rosenberg, M. D. (2020, June 27). The importance of social factors in the association between physical activity and depression in children. Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Mental Health. https://capmh.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s13034-020-00335-5

4. Depression in children: 5-8 years. Raising Children Network. (2021, February 11). https://raisingchildren.net.au/school-age/health-daily-care/school-age-mental-health-concerns/depression-5-8-years

5. Klass, P. (2021, April 1). How to Spot Depression in Young Children. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/01/well/family/depression-young-children.html

6. Northwestern Medicine. (n.d.). Health Benefits of Having a Routine. Northwestern Medicine. https://www.nm.org/healthbeat/healthy-tips/health-benefits-of-having-a-routine

7. Ozbay, F., Johnson, D. C., Dimoulas, E., Morgan III, C. A., Charney, D., & Southwick, S. (2007). Social support and resilience to stress: from neurobiology to clinical practice. Psychiatry (Edgmont), 4(5), 35.

8. Spagnola, M., & Fiese, B. H. (2007). Family routines and rituals: A context for development in the lives of young children. Infants & young children, 20(4), 284-299.

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