What To Do When Your Child Shows Signs of Depression

Kids are resilient and bendy; literally–their bones bend more than do ours! But most importantly they are strong and so, so smart.  But sometimes those bendy, smart kids fall into the same traps of sadness and doubt that we as adults do.  They don’t realize they need to take care of themselves or understand mental health warning signs. 

The pandemic changed so many things in our lives that we may have forgotten the impact it has had on our kids.

Personally, I went through the 5 stages of grief, 6 roller coasters of depression and acceptance, 59 temper tantrums, and a new therapist before I saw my daughter showing signs of her own anxiety and depression. 

One day my five-year-old daughter went to daycare after preschool and told our amazing daycare provider that she had to sit in the corner at school all day long.  Further investigation showed that Z was affected by the amount of noise in her class and chose to sit in a provided “calm corner”.  This was after a change in the school district where all the kids came back in person– no more hybrid schedule. 

I talked to Z about it later when she came home, but I wasn’t really buying the “loud” concern, and here’s why:   Z would come home from school at about a 15 on a scale of 10 in energy level and was always very happy.  “Loud” didn’t seem to be bothering her anywhere else.

Another warning sign came a few weeks later when we had her school conference and the teacher mentioned that she is sad during school and she isn’t eating snacks.   

After a few more weeks of sad days, Z had an absolute meltdown before school.  I emailed the teacher that day to check-in and she mentioned that Z was still sad, rarely smiles, doesn’t interact, and sits in the calm corner most days. 

This broke my heart. This was not the daughter I was seeing every day at home and I knew it was time to take action.  But how?

What To Do When Your Child Shows Signs of Depression

I gathered some experiences from other Moms to share to hopefully help someone else going through an experience like this. 

  • First of all, it seems pretty common.  Almost every mom friend I talked to had similar experiences: kids with anxiety or depression, or concerns with their mental health.  Don’t take it personally; it doesn’t mean you are failing.
  • It might not look like what you expect it to.  I wasn’t seeing a depressed Z at home; Stomach aches, nail-biting, or other compulsive behaviors are unexpected ways moms have noticed anxiety.   
  • Get help…but how?
    • Books! – there are lots of options but author Eli Lebowitz was referenced specifically
    • Begin therapy or talk to guidance counselors at school – many moms have their kids in play therapy.  
    • Community support for parents: there are programs, providers and social media groups specifically set up to help parents. 
    • Be resourceful & find different points of view that work for your family
    • Help your kids work through it –  our kids will continue to have problems like this throughout their lives.  How can we enable them to help themselves from the start?
  • Lastly, try not to worry (I know, right?) – Pediatricians say that we need to be alert for signs, but don’t need to worry unless it starts interfering with daily activities.

We are still working through this with Z.  We are meeting with the guidance counselor, being open and honest with her teachers on what she was saying bothered her, and providing continued support for her as she works through this.

Find what works for you and your family.  You’ve got this!

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Katy is a working wife and mother to three. She attended Coe College in Cedar Rapids (Kohawks for life!) and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration and English. Married in June 2014 to husband her Nate, Katy brought along her rescue dog, Sadie, and with Nate came two bonus kids. Nate and Katy welcomed their daughter, Zoey, in April 2016 and have happily completed their family. Well, until more dogs are needed. Currently working full time and supporting three active kids, Katy has a hard time squeezing in her own hobbies. But, when she gets a chance, she enjoys spending time with her family, being active, and reading.