Wanting the best for your child is often easier said than done in a world where social media, cyber bullying, and shows like Netflix’s “13 Reasons Why” exist. With themes of violence, depression, and suicide so prevalent in the media, it is easy for children and teens to be affected negatively by what they’re exposed to on a daily basis. “13 Reasons Why” was a hit among children and teens despite its graphic depiction of a teenager’s struggle with depression and her final decision to commit suicide. According to CNN Health news, “mental health experts describe [13 Reasons Why] as worrisome and point to how its relatable characters and graphic depiction of suicide can pose a health risk for young people already struggling with mental health issues.”
Social media, television, and pop culture play key roles in many children and adolescents’ lives, and can often be more detrimental than it is useful. If a child is struggling with anxiety and depression that has not yet been identified or treated, parents may find themselves asking, “how did I not see it coming?” when something goes wrong. While, as parents, you cannot monitor your child’s every move, interaction, and thoughts 100% of the time, you can work to influence your child in positive ways and look out for warning signs that might actually be cries for help.
Refusal to go to school
This could be a sign that your child has fear or anxiety over things that are happening at school. Some children fear for their parents’ safety if the home situation is unstable, and this could create anxiety that causes the child to refuse to go to school. Changes in grades and/or achievement can also be signs that something is troubling your child. If your child has always been on the honor roll and then has a semester where his grades drop significantly, you may consider seeking out help to determine the trigger of this change.
Increase in somatic symptoms
Does your child complain of constant headaches, stomach aches, pain, or shakiness? Often anxiety and depression symptoms come out in the form of physical symptoms that would otherwise be considered signs of sickness. If your child has stomach aches on a daily basis with no explanation of physical illness, it could be a cause for concern and your child may be experiencing mental health symptoms rather than fighting off the cold or flu.
Marked change in attitudes and behavior
When your son or daughter who has always been the smiling life of the party suddenly turns into the quiet angry child refusing to leave his or her room, it could be a sign of a child that is dealing with anxiety or depression. Pay attention to angry outbursts that appear out of nowhere, or significant and quick changes in personality or interests.
Sleep can be one of the greatest signals of mental difficulties. If your child sleeps too much, this could be a sign that he is struggling with symptoms of depression. If your child cannot fall asleep at night despite your many attempts to remind her of her bedtime, she may be experiencing anxiety that is not allowing her body to calm down and prepare for sleep.
If you notice cuts or scrapes on your child, or recognize that he/she may be showing signs of decreased appetite or not eating in general, these may be signs of a child experiencing depression. Recognizing self-harm attempts should be a key warning that something is going on, and it is important to help your child address your concerns about his/her safety as soon as possible.
…And many more
There are many additional signs and symptoms of childhood and adolescent anxiety and depression, but there are also many things that you can do to be sure you are effectively addressing concerns about your child’s health and safety:
- Create a safe and calm environment by allowing your child to share his or her feelings without feeling like he/she is in trouble or being punished.
- Although you may feel that your child is overreacting to a “teen crisis” or problem that is much smaller than they make it, it is important to not undermine their feelings.
- In order to have an open and helpful conversation, do your best to empathize with your child and work toward solutions.
- If your child is not sharing with you, or you feel that he/she is not being fully truthful, share your concerns with your child’s school. Principals, social workers, and classroom teachers see your child on a daily basis and can help determine if the child needs additional supports or if something is going on at school.
- If your child is doing well in school, but you are noticing problems at home, seek out help outside of school. There are many community resources, clinics, and groups that are built to assist children and teens with mental health needs.
Additional Helpful Resources:
- Visit our website at https://claritychi.com/ to find a doctor or therapist for your child
- Strategies for addressing depression in children 5-11 or Teens 12-17: http://www.parentingstrategies.net/depression/
- For 24-hour suicide prevention and support in the U.S., call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK.