Extended periods of sadness should be addressed. 1
If your child has been experiencing deep sadness for longer than two weeks, she could be struggling with depression.
Is your child in seeming turmoil? 2
If you've noticed that your child seems to be an almost constant turmoil--experiencing anxiety, confusion, etc.--it could be a symptom. He may even be lashing out at school or at home because he doesn't understand what he's experiencing.
Look out for changes in eating habits. 3
Prolonged or unusual changes in eating habits and patterns can be a red flag, especially when paired with otherwise unexplained sudden weight loss or gain.
Be aware of overly negative thoughts. 5
While children of a certain age do tend to experience normal self-esteem issues, if your child is expressing what seem like overly negative thoughts about herself or being overly critical of her appearance, personality or abilities, depression could be on the horizon.
A pessimistic attitude can be a concern. 6
Similarly, depression may have settled for a child who seems to have a growing pessimism about everything--life, school, friendships, hobbies, etc.
Is he withdrawing? 7
Have you noticed that your child seems to be withdrawing from you, other family members, friends? Has he perhaps lost interest in things he once enjoyed? These are symptoms of depression, especially when experienced together.
Depression could explain a sudden loss of energy. 8
Most children are brimming with energy that can only be tamped down when they are ill or perhaps exhausted from a long day of fun. If your child seems fatigued for no apparent reason, especially if the lack of energy lasts for more than a few days and is accompanied by other unusual behaviors, she may be depressed.
Signs can manifest at school as well. 9
If your child was previously doing fine in school and is suddenly having trouble with behavior or academics, there may be an underlying cause such as depression or anxiety.
Has she become a Stage 4 Clinger? 11
Beyond the preschool and early elementary years, clinginess can be a sign of a depression, especially if it's not the norm for your child. Children suffering depression may be seeking comfort and security in physical closeness to you.
Stomachaches and headaches are common symptoms. 12
Frequent complaints of sickness--especially headaches and stomachaches--are common for people dealing with emotional stress, anxiety and/or depression.
A lack of concentration could mean something more. 13
If your child is suddenly exhibiting a lack of concentration or ability to focus, emotional distress could be the distraction.
Never ignore talk of self-harm. 14
Talk or thoughts of self-harm or suicide are almost always signs of a serious mental health problem and should always be addressed immediately, ideally by a medical professional. Never look at this behavior as a child being dramatic or simply seeking attention. Even if it is, it's better to be safe than sorry.
A child might withdraw from friends. 15
An older child may be more likely to share what's going on with them with friends than with a parent or family member. However, a child who is experiencing depression may withdraw from friends. Either way, checking in with your child's closest buds to see if they've noticed anything unusual is a good place to start.
Tip: Talk to your child. 16
Don't let your child's sadness be the elephant in the room. Just talk to her! Sometimes a child experiencing depression just needs someone to initiate the conversation. Be open, honest and non-judgemental, and just asking your child how she's doing. Even if she doesn't open up, she'll know you care and you'll be opening up the door for future discussions.
Tip: Comfort comes first. 18
Most of us can tell when something is up with our kids. We're given maternal instincts for a reason. If your child is acting out of character do your best to tune in and discern whether there is something serious going on or not. Before jumping to harsh judgements or discipline, consider comforting them. As a parent, you want to be safe space for your child.
Tip: Teach them how to cope. 19
Coping mechanisms can be crucial when it comes to dealing with depression. You can make an effort to casually teach your children how to cope through things like prayer, meditation, yoga, coloring, drawing, dancing, listening to music, etc. That way, when they are dealing with anxiety, depression and any other emotional issues they'll know what calms them and lifts their mood.
Tip: Don't hesitate to get professional help. 20
Never hesitate to get help from a professional if you notice any of these symptoms or a combination of them that persists for more than a couple of weeks. Put fears of your child being "labeled" aside, and put their health first. You wouldn't let your child go untreated if they had a 103-degree fever, and you shouldn't let your child go untreated for mental illness either. Reach out to your child's pediatrician or school counselor for help.