Studies show that depressive tendencies are characteristic of 1% of 3-6 year-olds, 2-3% of 6-9 year-olds and 5% of preadolescents and adolescents. It was also found that throughout childhood, tendencies such as depression are more characteristic of girls than of boys. It is important to stress, however, that when you child is “not in the mood” this does not necessarily mean she is depressed. To diagnose depression, a number of indicators must be present over a period of several weeks at least.
Since in many cases, the depressed child prefers not to share his feelings with people around him and withdraws into himself, diagnosing his drawings at this particular stage is crucial, as it may provide insight into his inner emotions. In order to gain a broader perspective, we strongly recommend comparing such drawings with those made before the suspected depression.
The examples presented here are drawings of a seven year-old girl, made six months apart. The first drawing clearly communicates her joy, with its rich colors, strong line qualities and unimpeded movement. Months later, it seems her drawings have drastically changed – they are now developmentally regressive, and the lines are weak and insecure; Finally, non-age-appropriately, the page is largely empty.
This drawing style is typical of socially withdrawn children. Our analysis of further drawings revealed that this child is apathetic in class, and that her eating habits have changed so that she now consumes much more food than usual.
Her drawing pattern is characterized by many preliminary uncertainties, as she seems afraid to draw not as instructed to or make her own drawing decisions. When the drawing does not come out the way she had hoped, she is very self-critical and feels that everyone draws better than her.
The combination of all those indicators, together with many others, suggested to us that she is depressed and requires appropriate emotional support.
How to interact with a depressed child?
- Diagnosing depression requires professional counseling. As in every other area, it is recommended to seek the opinions of several professionals, and to look into physiological as well as emotional causes.
- Communicate to the child in no uncertain terms that you have detected changes in his behavior. Above all, do it non-judgmentally.
- Do not contest the legitimacy of his feelings. At the same time, however, try to suggest a more positive interpretation of his life. Remind him of his achievements.
- Share moments in which you, as children, also felt melancholic after having experienced a certain crisis.
- See whether there’s an objective reason for the depression, through which your child would be able to find a cure.
If you are interested in getting to know a child better and offer him real help based on a professional diagnosis, we suggest that you review his drawings. Analyzing the drawings offers a coherent professional opinion of his emotional situation. This will enable you to be better aware of the difficulties he is coping with and reach out to help him, with professional support and guidance.
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