“We tend to think of childhood as a time of innocence and joy, but as many as 2 to 3 percent of children from ages 6 to 12 can have serious depression.” P. Klass, M.D., The New York Times, April 1, 2021
ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key
Excerpt:How to Spot Depression in Young Children, Perri Klass, M.D., The New York Times, April 1, 2021
“When parents bring their children in for medical care these days, there is no such thing as a casual, ‘Hey, how’s it going?’ We doctors walk into every exam room prepared to hear a story of sadness and stress, or at the very least, of coping and keeping it together in this very hard year, full of isolation, loss, tragedy and hardship, with routines disrupted and comfort hard to come by.
Parents have carried heavy burdens of stress and responsibility, worrying about themselves but also watching their children struggle, and there is worldwide concern about depression and suicidality among young people.
But it isn’t only the adults and the young adults and teenagers who are suffering and sad; young children can also experience depression, but it can look very different, which makes it challenging for parents — or doctors — to recognize it and provide help.
Rachel Busman, a clinical psychologist at the Child Mind Institute in New York City, said that it can be hard to think about depression in younger children because we picture childhood as a time of innocence and joy.
But as many as 2 to 3 percent of children ages 6 to 12 can have serious depression, she said. And children with anxiety disorders, which are present in more than 7 percent of children aged 3 to 17, are also at risk for depression. Depression was originally conceived of as an adult problem. Maria Kovacs, professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, said that in the 1950s and ’60s, there were child psychiatrists who believed that children did not have sufficient ego development to feel depression… What does depression look like in younger children?
When young children are depressed, Dr. Kovacs said, it’s not unusual for ‘the primary mood to be irritability, not sadness — it comes across as being very cranky.’
And while suicide attempts by elementary school-aged children are rare, they do happen and have increased in recent years. Suicide was the second leading cause of death in children 10 to 14 in 2018…If a child talks about wanting to die, ask what that child means, and get help from a therapist if you’re concerned.”
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NOTE: Lessons can also be used with native English speakers.
Level: Intermediate – Advanced
Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.
Time: Approximately 60 minutes.
Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.
Objective: Students will read and discuss the article with a focus on improving reading comprehension and improving oral skills. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.
I. Pre-Reading Activities
Directions: Examine the titles of the post and of the actual article. Examine any photos, then create a list of words and ideas that you and your group members think might be related to this article. Discuss these ideas as a class.
II. While Reading Activities
Directions: Try to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. You use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.
- We doctors walk into every exam room prepared to hear a story of sadness and stress.
- Coping this year is very hard because of isolation, loss and tragedy.
- Parents worry about their children’s struggle with depression and suicidal thoughts.
- More young children are suffering from depression.
- There are also children with anxiety disorders.
- Before adolescence, depression is equally common in girls and boys.
- The primary mood is irritability, not sadness — it comes across as being very cranky.
- Parents should look for significant changes in functioning.
- This might mean a child loses interest in the toys or games or jokes or rituals that used to be reliably fun.
- A preschool-aged child might be depressed if they are having daily tantrums.
Grammar Focus: Identifying Prepositions
Directions: The following sentences are from the news article. For each sentence identify the prepositions.
We tend to think of childhood as a time of innocence and joy.
When parents bring their children in for medical care these days, there is no such thing as a casual, “Hey, how’s it going?”
We doctors walk into every exam room prepared to hear a story of sadness.
It can be hard to think about depression in younger children because we picture childhood as a time of innocence and joy.
What does depression look like in younger children?
The best way for parents to recognize depression in young children is not so much by what a child says as by what the child does — or stops doing.
Identify The Speakers
Directions: Read the following quotes from the speakers in the article. Then identify the speakers.
- “…it can be hard to think about depression in younger children because we picture childhood as a time of innocence and joy.”
- “…according to epidemiologic research, between 1 and 2 percent of young children — as young as 3 — are depressed.”
- “… in the 1950s and ’60s, there were child psychiatrists who believed that children did not have sufficient ego development to feel depression.”
- “In serious forms it snowballs with time, and earlier onset is associated with worse outcomes across the life span.”
III. Post Reading Activities
Directions: Have students use the WH-question format to discuss or to write the main points from the article.
Who or What is the article about?
Where does the action/event take place?
When does the action/event take place?
Why did the action/event occur?
How did the action/event occur?
Discussion Questions for Comprehension /Writing
Directions: Have students discuss the following questions/statements. Afterwards, students share their thoughts as a class. To reinforce the ideas, students can write an essay on one of the topics mentioned.
- Do you feel that young children can suffer from depression? Why?
- When doctors speak with parents what are they prepared to hear?
- According to Ms. Busman, why is it hard to think about depression in young children?
- What percent of children ages 6-12 have serious depression?
- Originally, which group of people were conceived as the only ones having depression?
- During the 1950s and 60s what did psychiatrists believe about children and depression?
- What are some of the signs of depression in younger children?
- The article states, “while suicide attempts by elementary school-aged children are rare, they do happen and have increased in recent years. Suicide was the second leading cause of death in children 10 to 14 in 2018…” In your opinion, why have suicide rates increase among young children?
- What does PCIT stand for, and how does it help children with depression?
- According to Dr. Busman, what should one do if a child talks about wanting to die?
Directions: Allow students 5 minutes to write down three new ideas they’ve learned about the topic from the reading, two things they did not understand in the reading, and one thing they would like to know that the article did not mention. Review the responses as a class.