How to make depressed youngsters feel better about themselves!

Because of the loss of physical education, and with it most of the usual social interaction, many parents have noticed their children to feel gloomy. Now that the schools are open again, many will slowly start to scramble, but for some, persistent depressive symptoms are lurking. Manon Hilleger, psychiatrist (child and youth) and head of the Department of Child Psychiatry at Erasmus MC-Sophia speaks on how these symptoms can be recognized in De Telegraaf.


Children have sharp feelers when it comes to sensing their parents' insecurities and stress, says Manon Hillegers, head of the Department of Child Psychiatry at Erasmus MC-Sophia. Now that many parents have indulged to cope with the corona crisis in order to combine work, social life and raising and teaching their children, these uncertainties affect children too. “The structure that is normally offered to them externally, thanks to school, sports and friends, had suddenly disappeared. Many children, especially those who were already in a vulnerable situation or who already had personal problems, suffered a mental blow during the corona crisis. ”


Now that the schools have been reopened (with limited capacity) and children can return to the classroom in phases, it will become apparent that many children can recover. "Children are extremely resilient, so when they have a bit of a return to their social interaction and life outside the family, they should recover quickly. When that doesn't happen, and when complaints persist for more than a month, it's time to seek help. ” Hillegers explains what can be looked out for as a parent: “The first characteristic of persistent depressive complaints, especially in children of primary school age, is a change in behavior. Younger children cannot easily find words to describe how they feel inside, so show that in behavior earlier. How it manifests is different for every child. One child becomes quieter and opts for withdrawing, while the other feels irritated more quickly, becomes angry or develops feelings of fear. It is advised to keep an eye on how your child is coping physically: young children with mental complaints sometimes also obtain physical complaints, such as stomach- and headaches. ”

"Ask your child how he / she feels."

What can you do?

If you feel that your child's gloom is seemingly continuing for too long, Hillegers advises to start a conversation. "Ask your child how he / she feels. You can also ask others in the immediate vicinity, such as a grandfather / grandmother or teacher / master, if he / she shares your suspicions. You can then contact your doctor, but it also pays off when trying to motivate and activate your child. Suggest doing something together; bring some more structure back into family life yourself through regular breakfast and lunch moments or make sure that after every (school) day you ask show interest by asking your child how the (online) day has been. Also try to maintain bed times.”


In order to support youngsters and gain more insight into how they are doing, Erasmus MC-Sophia has developed the Grow It! App in collaboration with Tilburg University. In this app, a group of pre-registered youngsters keeps track of how they feel and they get a challenge every day with which they can earn points. Hillegers: “By sending out short questions about how they feel and who they are surrounded with at the time, we want to better understand what young people need. The challenges are meant to learn to cope with everyday problems in a fun way. ”

“These are playful ways that help with learning about behavioral change, without the youngsters being conscious of the fact that they are working on themselves. For example, they are challenged to share their emotions with others, but also to undertake physical activities. Bake a cake with your family, take a photo of a live chicken, tell your best friend why you like him / her so much… There are countless ways to make youngsters feel better about themselves and to emphasizes their strengths. ”

More information

Prof. Dr. M.H.J. (Manon) Hillegers is a Psychiatrist (child and youth) and head of Child Psychiatry at Erasmus MC-Sophia.

Read the entire article in De Telegraaf. (Dutch)

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