Childhood Depression: Spotting It and Preparing a Depressed Child for Vacation

For some children, life — especially in the summertime — consists of happy, carefree days one after another. For others, however, life isn’t always so enjoyable. Many children suffer from depression and struggle to find happiness. Not just “a case of the blues,” depression is a serious mental illness that requires treatment.

Depression in children is similar to that in adults. Signs and symptoms include:

  • Ongoing feelings of sadness and hopelessness
  • Anger and irritability
  • Heightened sensitivity to rejection
  • Social withdrawal
  • Too much or too little sleep
  • Increased or decreased appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Shouting or crying
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Lack of interest in school, friends, activities, and hobbies
  • Suicidal thoughts or actions

If a child experiences these symptoms, especially a focus on death or suicide, parents should seek professional help, including taking the child to an emergency room.

Depression and Vacation

To most people, a vacation is a welcome break from the normal routine and something they look forward to with excitement. A child battling depression, however, may not see it that way. They may feel like a trip will take them away from the only place where they enjoy some measure of comfort and security. This can be especially painful for children who feel like they “survived” the school year and now just want to relax and recover at home.

While treating depression is a long-term process, there are things you can do in the short term to make a vacation more pleasant for a child who is struggling with the illness. For example, you can:

  • Encourage your child to help plan the trip. Having a sense of “ownership” of a vacation can help a child with depression feel more engaged.
  • Take favorite snacks with you. Familiar food can be a much-needed source of comfort for kids with depression. Be sure to take a supply of their favorite treats with you.
  • Pack a “happiness” kit. While a child battling depression may not find anything particularly enjoyable, things they were previously interested in (and will be again once their depression has been successfully treated) can be helpful to have with you. Pack a supply of books, games, toys etc. that your child likes and break out those items as needed.
  • Consider taking a friend. If your child is feeling social enough to enjoy time with a friend, it can be helpful to take that person along. Just be sure you’re confident that this will be a positive experience for the guest.
  • Explain the timeline. For someone who doesn’t want to be on a trip, it can seem like it will never end. Be sure your child understands how long you’ll be away from home.
  • Schedule post-trip downtime. It’s best to give a child with depression plenty of time to decompress after you return from a vacation. Lighten your family activity planning for at least a few days after your trip.

Making the Best of a Challenging Situation

A vacation is good for the mental and emotional health of the whole family. While a child with depression may not enjoy it as much as everyone else does, it’s important to look at the big picture. If your child is in need of treatment for depression, we can help. Please contact us online at communityreachcenter.org or by phone at 303-853-3500 Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. We have centers in the Denver metro area of Adams County including the cities of Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City and Brighton.