You may be looking at this title and wondering why a child could be depressed. It seems like children have the best life. What we consider stress-free. They seem to have it easy. However, there may be more going on in their head than you think. We are going to go through this article and look at depression in children. We will consider common depression signs as well as commonly overlooked signs. You may be surprised to see think is just a difficult child is actually a child that doesn’t know how to process their feelings.
Common Signs of Depression
We can all recognize when someone else is not right. They seem a little bit off or like they are possibly avoiding us. This can be frustrating. It can make us feel like we did something wrong. However, this may be a sign that depression is taking a grip on them and they are having trouble shaking it off.
Withdrawing from friends and family is usually a sign that there is something wrong. This could be canceling plans, refusing to commit to plans, not returning calls, not attending events that they would normally be excited for, staying off of social media, not returning texts or messages, and even refusing to have visitors. It can be hard to spot this one because they may be sick, busy with work, or simply not interested in the activities you chose. The best thing to do is talk to others who know them and see if they spot a difference.
Sleeping a lot or complaining about not feeling well is also a sign that they may be depressed. A lot of times this can start off with an actual sickness. They simply weren’t feeling good and didn’t feel like getting out. Then, spending too much time on the couch affected their mood and ability to get out and around. Sometimes if you can shake them out of this and get them to go out, they will immediately feel much better and be more able to pull themselves out of the cloud.
Not finding pleasure in the things that they love to do is a red flag. If they usually read a lot and now they don’t, or if they often go out to play golf and now they won’t touch their clubs, you might want to start asking questions. Try to engage them in what they love doing. Ask them what they love about it. Ask them why they stopped. Sometimes the simply ability to have a real conversation about it will help them to realize that they have been missing it.
Becoming unattached to things that they love is a huge red flag. Purging the house, getting rid of items they use regularly, or even getting rid of pets could mean their depression is serious and they could be suicidal. Refusing to take care of their pet, love on their pet, or bond with their pet is serious.
Signs of Depression in Children
Children can be hard to notice depression. Younger children tend to be especially hard. Sometimes as parents we simply don’t know if it’s a phase they are going through or if there is something really wrong and you need to seek help. Sometimes, the child can’t put into words that they are having a problem. They may feel as frustrated or unable to deal with the situation as you do. Remember to be patient and to listen to what the child is not saying.
Feeling sick is a common sign that there is something not right. Usually, mental stress will take a physical toll on a child. They may feel sick to their stomach. They may not want to eat or may eat very little. They may not want to do anything at all, except sit in their bed or on the couch. Throwing up, headaches, or just not feeling well could all be signs of depression in children. That doesn’t mean that every stomach ache is a sign that they are depressed, but frequently feeling this way with no other symptoms could be a reason to make an appointment with their doctor. This is especially true if there is something going on with your family, like a divorce or a death.
Withdrawing from friends, family, and pets is the number one sign. If your cute and cuddly kid all of a sudden won’t come near you, then you might have a problem. There is a difference between the eye-rolling don’t touch me I am too big for goodnight kisses and the totally withdrawing of affection. Even if they aren’t normally snuggly, if your child won’t talk to you, can’t look you in the eyes, or is unable to hold a conversation when they usually do, it is the same as withdrawing.
Has your social butterfly become an introverted hermit? Do you have to force them to interact with kids their own age when before you couldn’t get them to leave their friends alone long enough to eat? That could be a sign of depression. Before you jump to that conclusion, talk to them. Find out if there is a reason for the change of attitude.
Sleeping a lot or not sleeping at all can be a huge sign of depression. This is especially true if your child has always had a regular sleeping pattern and now they are all over the place. Sleep helps to balance moods and getting too much or too little can cause problems.
Loss of interest in activities is another sign that there is something wrong. Your soccer player doesn’t want to get on the couch. Your skateboarder hasn’t touched it in a while. Your gamer hasn’t picked up and controller in days. These can all be the first sign that there is something wrong. They may be tired of doing the same thing, but they could be silently saying hey, I need your help.
Drawing themselves into another reality is a more subtle sign. It could be disguised as something that seems harmless like reading a lot. Surprisingly this may be a sign that they don’t want to deal with what is going on in their head so they escape to the reality that the book provides. You may notice that they have trouble trying to distinguish what is happening in the book and what is going on in their real-life They may even get overly emotional over the things happening to characters. Books, video games, and even movies and television could all provide an alternate reality for someone who simply can’t deal with the right here and right now.
Having too much energy, being overly hyper, or unable to pay attention may be a problem. It may mean that your children simply cannot deal with their emotions. They may not be able to communicate what is going on so instead they are acting out in the only way that they know will grab your attention. Instead of immediately punishing them for the behavior, try to find the reason behind the behavior. Try to have a real conversation with them and let them know you notice the behavior and you want to help them to control it.
Learning How to Cope
Dealing with depression as an adult is simply no fun. It can take an entire team of support. When it is your child that you are dealing with it can feel like you are trying to save them from themselves. That is one of the most impossible tasks that a parent can ever do – no matter what age they are.
Coping skills are as flexible and different as your child. It can be something as easy as giving them a piece of paper and telling them to write a story about anything that wants. This can give them a way to tell you what is wrong without telling you directly. Drawing, painting, modeling clay, and writing are some of the most popular coping strategies. Other coping strategies could be rock painting, yoga, music, or meditation. There are many ways that can help your child to express themselves in a way that relieves the anxiety and depression in their mind. You don’t have to tell them why you are giving them art supplies. You can simply make them available.
When to Seek Help
If your child is showing self-harming behavior, you need to seek help immediately. This may not be cutting, burning, or physically hurting themselves. It could be drinking, taking over the counter medication, skipping school, or sneaking out at night. Anything that they are purposely doing with the intent on causing themselves harm should be evaluated by a professional.
What Not To Do
Do not blame your child for things that they cannot control. There is a difference between discipline and protecting your child from themselves. There may be a time and place to restrict social media contact, but remember not having an outlet to vent their feelings may do more harm than good. Be honest. Be open. Above all, establish a line of communication so that your child knows you are on their side.