How to Recognize the Warning Signs of Anxiety or Depression in Your Child

How to Recognize the Warning Signs of Anxiety or Depression in Your Child

As the saying goes, life is full of ups and downs. Having fun with friends, trying out a new sport or hobby, or accomplishing a goal we set can bring a smile to our faces and instill a sense of contentment and happiness. Other times, when we’ve made a bad decision, experienced loss, or just had a day where nothing seemed to work out right, life can feel sad, lonely, and unmotivating. 

All of these experiences and feelings are normal reactions to life’s joys or stressors. However, sometimes the balance of ups and downs regularly feels off-kilter, and everyday tasks and relationships feel burdensome or filled with nervousness and fear. It is especially concerning when this type of struggle seems to be plaguing our child. 

When to Seek Help

So, what is “normal” anxious or depressed behavior for a child? And when should we be concerned and seek additional help from a professional? 

Depression and anxiety are classified as mood disorders. It’s normal for kids to feel sad, down, or irritated, but when negative feelings and thoughts linger for a long time and limit a child’s ability to function normally, it might be depression or anxiety. The symptoms of depression and anxiety can vary from mild to severe and may include:

  • Frequent sadness, tearfulness, and/or crying
  • Decreased interest in activities or inability to enjoy previously favorite activities
  • Persistent boredom, low energy, or willingness to give up easily 
  • Social isolation, poor communication
  • Low self-esteem and guilt with negative and/or self-critical thinking
  • Increased anger, hostility, or irritability
  • Feeling nervous, on edge, or panicky
  • Difficulty thinking, concentrating, or making decisions
  • Frequent absences from school or poor performance in school 
  • Changes in appetite (weight loss or gain) or sleep (trouble sleeping or sleeping too much) 
  • Persistent physical illnesses such as headaches and stomachaches for which no other cause can be diagnosed
  • Running away from home or talk of running away from home

It can be hard for parents and other adults to know when a child is depressed or anxious. An irritable or angry mood might seem like a bad attitude or disrespect. When a child acts like everyday problems are more difficult than they really are, it might seem like laziness or carelessness.

The key is to recognize when the problem or mood isn’t going away. A parent should trust his or her gut instinct about a child and seek the help of a school counselor or other professional if needed. At GRACE Christian School, our families have access to our full-time school counselor, Dr. Karri Hawley.  

Tips to Manage Stress

If you think your child is struggling, consider taking some of the following actions.

  • Have them exercise. This is a mood-booster because it releases endorphins (chemicals in the brain that make you feel good). It also raises self-esteem and confidence.
  • Teach them relaxation techniques, such as breathing exercises or listening to music. This can help clear their head and reduce feelings of stress. 
  • Help them set goals or do something meaningful. Getting involved in an activity or helping others can grow positive feelings and self-worth.
  • Encourage them to share feelings and get support. Therapy with a counselor can address behavioral patterns, interpersonal communication, and problem-solving abilities.
  • Talk to a doctor about available medications. Some children have a hormonal imbalance that is best corrected by medicine. Research shows that for many teens with persistent depression a combination of therapy and medication is the best treatment.

At GRACE, we are thankful for the opportunity to partner with you in helping to raise children that are truly equipped for life!