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Kids Are Making A Difference In The World: The Real Story Of Gabriel

Kids Are Making A Difference In The World: The Real Story Of Gabriel

Our world is full of intrigue, deceit, and broken promises. It is merely the nature of things, nothing personal. Grand undertakings often hold dirty little secrets underneath the surface, and promises of happiness and betterment end up being yet another strategy for the powerful few to gain riches at the expense of others.

These words may have a somewhat somber tone and seem pessimistic, but I assure you that the story we are about to tell, the story of young Gabriel, shines a light of hope.

To understand who a single person, and a child at that, can truly make a difference in the war against greed and corporate apathy, we must travel back to 2014, the year when the FIFA World Cup was held in Brazil.

The World Cup and Brazil’s Impressive Football Heritage

Football, or soccer for all the American readers, is a huge deal for every man, woman and child in Brazil, the nation that boasts 5 World Cup wins, so you can imagine that everyone was ecstatic when news about their country hosting the tournament broke out.

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New stadiums where scheduled to be built and new railroads would help transport the population from outside the major urban areas to these glorious stadiums, so that everyone could witness their team going against the toughest opponents on the path to victory and honor. Yes, such is the fervor with which Brazilians, and most nations across the globe celebrate their football heroes – ranking high earns a country a lot of respect worldwide, and sparks up national pride.

However, as Gabriel and his friends and neighbors soon realized, all this exposure and prestige comes at a cost and, ironically, it is not those with an overabundance of wealth to give that are expected to pay the price.

Gabriel’s Poor Neighbourhood Was to Be Demolished

This 14 year old Brazilian boy didn’t have much in the way of riches, but he had a loving family, warm and hospitable neighbors, loyal friends and an intelligent and creative mind. Gabriel and his friends were shocked to hear that over 200 homes were scheduled to be demolished to make way for the railroad that would take zealous foreigners and well-off folks from the cities to the stadiums, and those who were going to be forced to move and have their neighborhoods destroyed could not even afford to buy tickets.

The worst thing is that whole communities and families would be torn apart, the children would have their local football court demolished and old friends would no longer be able run, laugh and play a few games of football together on those warm weekend afternoons. However, Gabriel wasn’t just going to stand by and let some rich old men deny him his right to a fulfilling childhood.

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The Blog that was Mightier than the Sword

Instead of idly standing by, Gabriel took a camera and went around the neighborhood, documenting the damage that these supposedly glamorous efforts to show off in front of the world had really done to the hard-working low-income Brazilian neighborhoods. He and his friends showed their disdain for the flawed system as they played football on the concrete blocks that had replaced their football field, and ran around the railway tracks that had cut through their neighborhood.

The people were lively and kind-hearted, they still enjoyed watching the games and rooting for their countrymen on the TV the big games unfolded miles away. The children were all of firm spirit – they laughed, they played football, they teased each other and had fun amidst the building material. All of this went on Gabriel’s blog, and he showcased the true nature of these people, and the effects that this clumsy demolition project had on the community.

There was no Hollywood magic, no marketing ploy, no privileged rich white celebrity doing a tear-jerking voice over – these were proud people, good, intelligent and mentally strong children who just wanted the world to understand what was happening under everyone’s noses, so that something could be done about it.

The efforts of local children helped open the world’s eyes

Gabriel interviewed, among others, a brave young boy named Wesley, who had started a project to help the local kids. It is a very memorable experience, to see this little boy talking about all the problems like crime and drugs, his brother’s death being a result of drug abuse, and how the government should have invested more money into building up these communities and providing the children with football fields, better education, fixing the sewage problems.

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The boy is young, but Wesley’s eyes glimmer with a wisdom of someone four times his age, and his eloquence is born out of experience and a grim determination to improve the lives of his friends and neighbors. He organized regular football practice on a humble local playground and tried to use sport as a means of keeping kids on the right path.

Taking a page out of Wesley’s book, Gabriel organized local events for the kids, where they could watch, movies, eat popcorn and have fun for free, so that they didn’t have to turn to the violent and self-destructive lifestyle that so many people in these neighborhoods end up turning to.

The Lesson that Gabriel has Taught Us

It is too often that we see children from poor neighborhoods in developing countries get denied some of the basic children’s rights that people in the West all take for granted. It’s not just about Brazil and a single event like the FIFA World Cup, in countries like India a lot of children simply do not receive the adequate quality of education that would allow them to choose a different path, make a career for themselves, break the cycle of poverty and give back to their community.

Among these children there are talented storytellers and bloggers like Gabriel, gifted athletes, young scientists and doctors, creative artists and savvy businessmen – they just need to be allowed to express themselves, find their calling in life and attain their true potential. We would be wise to spend more time talking to our children and actually listening to what they have to say. Children can take initiative and they don’t always need someone else to tell them what’s best for them.

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Because the youngsters of the world see things for what they truly are, unburdened by politics and hidden interests, they can often point us to what is really wrong with the system, and help us take steps to fix these problems.

Featured photo credit: Gabriel_mic_1000 via elsvandriel.nl

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Last Updated on January 12, 2021

Signs of Depression in Children (And How to Help Them to Overcome It)

Signs of Depression in Children (And How to Help Them to Overcome It)

Children, just like adults, can be depressed. Sometimes seemingly normal children with no major life issues can become depressed. It is the result of a chemical imbalance in the brain that causes clinical depression to occur. There are specific signs that you should recognize in your child if they are depressed. Getting them help and treatment is crucial to their mental wellness.

In this article, we will look into the signs of depression in children and how parents can help them to overcome it.

Signs of depression in children

The DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder) is the widely accepted instruction guide that professionals utilize for diagnosing mental disorders. The DSM characterizes a Major Depressive Episode as depressed behaviors that consistently last for two weeks or longer. Therefore, if your child has been “down in the dumps”, feeling hopeless or having sadness for more than two weeks, it should be cause for concern and investigated.

Below are signs of depression according to the DSM manual. The individual must have at least five of these behaviors present for a period of two weeks or longer to be officially diagnosed as having MDD (Major Depressive Disorder). Below is a summary/generalization from the DSM manual:

  • Feelings of deep sadness or depressed mood that last most of the day (for two weeks or more). For children they can present as irritable rather than sad.
  • Diminished interest in activities (again majority of the day or all the time).
  • Significant weight loss (not through dieting), or a decrease in appetite. In children, they fail to make expected weight gains while growing.
  • Difficulty sleeping (insomnia).
  • Either a slowing of psychomotor abilities/actions or an apparent agitation of these psychomotor abilities. This means that they either have moments that lack purpose and seem to be done because of agitation and tension or there is a significant slowness/retardation of their speech and physical actions.
  • Fatigue and loss of energy.
  • Feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt every day.
  • Difficulty thinking, making decisions, or concentrating every day. This may be reflected in their grades.
  • Preoccupation with death and dying or suicidal thoughts.

Please note that if your child is suffering from the loss of a loved one and is processing through the stages of grief, it is normal to have these signs of depression. If they seem to be stuck in the depression stage, then it is time to pursue grief counseling to help them along in the grieving process.

However, if they are not suffering from a bereavement or a medical condition that would cause the above symptoms, then they should be taken to a professional for possible diagnosis and treatment of MDD (Major Depressive Disorder).

How to help your child with depression

Depression is not to be taken lightly. Especially if suicidal thoughts are present. The child’s feelings and emotions are real and must be taken seriously. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), suicide is the number two cause of death for individuals between the ages of 10 and 34.[1]

Professional help is recommended if you believe your child fits the criterion for MDD (Major Depressive Disorder). You can take your child to their paediatrician for an evaluation and referral. Depending on the severity of the symptoms, they may benefit from medication such as anti-depressants.

Most professionals do not dispense medication as the first remedy for depression. Instead therapy is the first line of defense against depression, with medication being paired with therapy if the therapy is not enough or the symptoms are severe enough.

Testing

There are assessment tools that professionals can utilize to help in properly determining whether your child is depressed. The three tools used in assessing depression in children are:

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  • The Children’s Depression Rating Scale (CDRS)
  • Children’s Depression Inventory (CDI)
  • Clinical Global Impression (CGI)

Taking your child to a professional mental health counselor, psychologist or psychiatrist can help ensure proper testing and assessment occurs.

Therapy

There are many types of therapy available today. It is important to find a professional that specializes in childhood depression and the treatment of such.

Cognitive behavioral therapy is one of the leading therapy methods in treating childhood depression. For younger children, play therapy is useful in treating childhood depression as children are often able to better communicate through play than conversation alone.

What parents can do at home to help their depressed child

Besides seeking for professional help, there are a couple of things that parents can do at home to help their depressed child:

1. Talk with your child about their feelings in a compassionate and empathetic manner.

It can feel high pressure to sit face to face and ask your child about their feelings. However, going on a walk, playing a board game or playing alongside your child (chose whichever is age appropriate for your child) can allow them to relax and open up about their feelings.

Ask your child open ended questions that require more than a simple yes or no to engage in more meaningful conversations. Never judge while they are being open and honest with you because it will inevitably cause them to shut down and move away from being open with you.

It is okay to allow for periods of silence during the conversations because sometimes the child is processing their thoughts and emotions during your time together. You don’t have to fill the space and entire time with talking as silence at times is helpful.

2. Provide activities that help them relax and de-stress.

For smaller children, there are simple ways to help them relax.

Provide play opportunities that they find relaxing such as coloring, painting, working with Play-do or clay, or playing with sand and sand toys. Again, find activities that interest your child and are age appropriate are helpful in making them relaxed.

3. Limit screen time.

Technology is not helpful in making your child less depressed. It can often be an escape that keeps them from further opening up about their feelings and emotions.

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Limit time in front of the TV, laptop, smart phone, video games and tablets, etc. Any electronics that seem to prevent your child from face to face interactions should be limited. Ask Dr. Sears cites that researchers have found kids who have higher levels of screen time are at greater risk for anxiety and depression.[2]

Provide alternate activities to replace the screen time such as hiking, crafting, drawing, constructing, biking and playing outside, etc. Some children may be so dependent on their screen time as their source for entertainment that they may need you to participate in alternate activities alongside them in order to get engaged in the activities.

You can’t simply tell your child to go outside to play if they are suffering from depression, lack friends and are used to sitting down and playing video games each day after school. Go outside with your child and do a nature hike or take your child to a playground and have fun together to get them engaged in these alternate activities.

4. Promote outdoor time and physical activities.

Encourage your children to take part in activities that especially involve nature such as nature hikes. Do these activities with them to help them engage in the activities. Again this is an opportunity for open conversations to occur and quality time to take place.

5. Help your child when problems and difficult tasks arise.

Assist them by helping them break down the task into smaller and more manageable parts. Children with depression often have difficulty taking on large problems and tasks and find them overwhelming. Helping them by breaking down the task into smaller and more manageable tasks will assist in helping raise their confidence when the small tasks are mastered.

Small tasks mastered lead to bigger tasks being mastered over time. It is a process over time, patience and a willingness to work alongside your child. This does not mean doing the task or taking on the problem solely yourself. Many times all the child needs is for you to break down the larger task into smaller more manageable tasks and for you to patiently talk your child through the completion of these smaller tasks.

6. Help your child reduce life stress.

When children are depressed, they have greater difficulty handling life activities in general. Cut back on activities that cause stress to increase and look for ways to help reduce stress in your child’s life.

7. Foster a positive home atmosphere.

Reduce or eliminate negative attitudes, language and conversations. Also avoid raised voices, passive aggressive behaviors and any form of physical violence in the home.

Make your home a safe haven for your child instead of an atmosphere that is ever volatile (in words, emotions or physically). Make it a calm environment that makes your child feel safe and secure mentally, emotionally and physically.

8. Help your child see the positive in life situations.

Point out the positives in a situation rather than the negatives. Help them see the bright side of any situation.

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Be a model of seeing the positive in life by speaking words that are uplifting, encouraging and positive. Resist the temptation to voice negative thoughts that come to mind as your child can feed off your emotions and words.

9. Believe your child when they talk about how they are feeling.

Listen to them patiently and take their words seriously. Do not discount or minimize their feelings. Express empathy and compassion when they do open up about their feelings. Help them utilize “I feel” statements in expressing their emotions.

10. Keep watch for suicidal behaviors.

Such behaviors include your child/teen researching this topic online, them giving away their possessions and a preoccupation with death.

Seek professional help immediately with the presentation of suicidal behaviors or thoughts. Keep this number on hand and use it when in doubt: National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Phone Number 1-800-273-8255.

11. Keep all prescriptions, alcohol, drugs and weapons locked and away from children and teens.

This is a given for all children, but even more imperative for children who are depressed as they have an increased likelihood to abuse drugs and alcohol. They also have an increased likelihood to attempt suicide. So keep weapons and tools such as ropes and knives that can used for suicide out of the child’s ability to use.

12. Spend quality one-on-one time with your child.

Make the time during your day, every day, to spend quality time with your child. You may have limited time and cannot provide an hour or more a day to dedicate to one-on-one time with your child, but you should provide a minimum of 20 minutes a day with your child spending quality one-on-one time together. Try the suggested activities listed in point #3.

13. Be an encouragement and supporter of your child.

Show love and not frustration or anger because of the situation and your child’s condition. Help keep your attitude positive so your child can also see the positive.

Provide daily words of affirmation that are not based on end results (such as a grade or a win) but instead praise the effort they put forth. If you praise the outcome, they will be disappointed when their efforts don’t pan out. If they are praised for their efforts regardless of the outcome, their confidence is built based upon something that they can control (the effort they put into things).

14. Help your child to live a healthy lifestyle.

Sleep is a very important factor in your child’s mood. Not getting enough sleep can cause an entire day to be upset. According to Sleep Aid Resource, children between the ages of 3 and 18 need between 8 and 12 hours of sleep each night:[3]

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    Ensure your child is eating a healthy and balanced diet, getting physical activity/exercise daily and plenty of sleep time.

    15. Help your child foster positive relationships and friendships with their peers.

    Set up play dates for your younger child and encourage older children to invite friends over to your home.

    16. Talk about bullying.

    It can be one of the causes of your child’s depression, so discuss their life outside of home and their interactions with their peers. Help them recognize bullying and discuss how to handle bullying properly.

    17. Help your child follow the treatment plan outlined by their doctor, counselor, psychologist or psychiatrist.

    Make sure you know the treatment plan that your child’s health care professional has outlined for child. This may include counseling session recommendations, medications and recommendations to follow through with in the home. Completing the plan will help provide optimal results for your child in the long run. A plan doesn’t work unless it is followed.

    18. Recognize that professional treatment takes time to show results.

    Don’t expect results for the first few weeks. It may take a month or longer, so be patient and understanding with your child.

    Depression in children is curable

    Depression in children can happen for a variety of reasons. It is quite treatable.

    Professional help is recommended if your child can possibly be diagnosed with a depressive episode. There are interventions that can be implemented in a professional setting, at home and at school. The key is having a plan of action to help your child.

    Ignoring the problem or hoping the depression will just go away is not a good plan. Treatment is imperative to curing depression in children.

    The first step is talking to your child’s paediatrician to get the ball rolling. He or she will refer you to specialists in your area that can help your child overcome and conquer their depression one day at a time. With you by their side, each step of the way you will get through it together and it is quite possible for your relationship with your child to be strengthened in the process as well. That can be your silver lining or positive outlook on the situation at hand.

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] National Institute of Mental Health: Suicide
    [2] Ask Dr. Sears: It’s a Virtual World: Setting Practical Screen Time Limits
    [3] Sleep Aid Resource: Sleep Chart

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