Recurring dark thoughts and serious depression do not only affect teenagers and adults: young children between the ages of four and 12 can also experience serious depression.

Parents can play an important role in recognizing and tackling, but also preventing depression.

Data from the Knowledge Center for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry shows that 1 percent of children aged up to twelve years suffer from depression.

According to Statistics Netherlands, one and a half million children between four and twelve years old live in the Netherlands, so that would mean that at least fifteen thousand children will have to deal with gloom and depression.

"Whether that percentage also applies to the Netherlands is the question", says clinical psychologist Yvonne Stikkelbroek.

"The figures are based on international research and the Netherlands scores high in the

World Happiness Report

compared to other countries

. But it is certain that it occurs regularly."

"If a child no longer wants to play, then you know that something is wrong."

Yvonne Stikkelbroek, psychologist

Parents can pay attention to a number of things with children.

"If a child no longer wants to play, then you know that something is wrong. Especially if it has been the case for a longer period of time," explains Stikkelbroek.

“What you also see is that children with depression are more concerned with illness and death. And another signal is that children are suddenly starting to take great risks. Then they cross, for example, right in front of a car. matters so much anymore. "

Show that being sad is normal

If a child is gloomy for a few weeks on and off, we don't need to panic right away, emphasizes remedial educationalist Marleen Overgaag. "It is of no use to your child if you get stressed. Keep calm and focus on giving your child qualitative attention. Do not subject your child to intense questioning, but try to listen more often to find out what is going on. behind those gloomy feelings. "

According to Overgaag, we need to normalize sadness in children.

"Show a child that being sad or not feeling well is also part of life," says the remedial educationalist.

That also starts with showing your own emotions as a parent.

"Maybe not every day, but there is nothing wrong with parents crying in front of their child. It is important that you explain to a child why you are crying. Otherwise it mainly raises questions."

It can also help to remind a child of times when he or she felt good.

"For example," Remember, two weeks ago on your birthday? "

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Set rules and goals

If the depressive thoughts persist for a long time in a young child, Stikkelbroek advises parents to provide structure.

"Set clear rules in the household. This will prevent unnecessary conflicts from arising. And be consistent with your own rules. So do not give extra candy because your child does not feel comfortable in his or her own skin", says the clinical psychologist.

"And help your child to set goals. If it succeeds to achieve such a goal, a child regains a sense of control. Such a goal could be, for example: saving for an outing or a piece of clothing."

Stikkelbroek recommends seeking professional help when in doubt.

"When you really notice that the child is going to suffer and you have already tried a number of things yourself."

The first step is the doctor.

"It will then be examined whether a child meets a number of criteria for depression, such as indecision, guilt, sleeping problems and concentration problems."

"Depression doesn't always have a reason."

Marleen Overgaag, remedial educationalist

"Depression does not always have a reason," says Overgaag.

"There is also a hereditary component. Depression in children does not necessarily have to occur in families where problems occur. It can occur anywhere. Of course it may be the case that depression in troubled families is triggered earlier and that a child develops then will withdraw more. "

Preventing depression altogether in children is difficult. "Of course we would prefer that as a parent. What you can do is ensure that you are a safe haven for your child."