As parents we know that there are few things more heart-wrenching than seeing your child in any kind of pain- and not being able to make it go away with a band-aid and a kiss. Stress-inducing, and enough to keep you up at night, anxiety and depression can be frightening for both you and your child– and the challenges affect everyone in your family. Anxiety and depression are treatable in children and adults, but 80 percent of kids with a diagnosable anxiety disorder and 60 percent of kids with diagnosable depression are not getting treatment, according to the 2015 Child Mind Institute Children’s Mental Health Report. But take some comfort in knowing that you are not alone and there are ways to help your child through this time. When you see the signs, taking immediate action is pertinent to their healing process. This is the time to seek child and family counseling. Confronting the issues with your child and working with a child counselor as early as possible can eliminate prolonged pain and sadness. And keep in mind that finding your way through the unknown takes teamwork, patience, and perseverance.
Signs and Symptoms of Child Anxiety and Depression
Some signs and symptoms of anxiety and depression that you should be on the lookout for include: a loss of interest in activities that would be otherwise found favorable and fulfilling, in addition to extreme feelings of sadness, hopelessness, worthlessness and guilt. Other symptoms and signs to look for in your child include:
- Unexplained aches and pains
- Withdrawal from friends and family
- Poor school performance
- Irritability, anger, or hostility
- Tearfulness or frequent crying
- Restlessness and agitation
- Lack of enthusiasm and motivation
- Thoughts of death or suicide
What to do when there is no map
Children struggling with anxiety and depression may “act out” to try to hide the pain that they cannot otherwise explain or withdraw from others completely. Some of these negative coping mechanisms include substance and alcohol abuse, talking about or running away from home and violent or reckless behavior.
If your child comes to you and tells you how they are feeling, listen. Oftentimes they do not know how to verbalize what they are feeling, so giving them your full attention is critical. This is the first step in helping them. Encourage your child to come to you, no matter how they are feeling or if they have questions. The feelings that they are having are scary and overwhelming, and feeling that “no-one else feels like this” is a lonely and desolate place to be. Let your child know that they should talk to you about questions or concerns that they may be having. Reassure them that although they may feel embarrassed or scared to talk about it, the only way that you can really help them is to know how they are feeling.
During this time, begin seeking out a child counselor who specializes in treating anxiety and depression in children. Talk to your pediatrician. Seek out a therapist. Another suggestion for finding counseling for kids is to go online and do searches for child and family counseling, child counseling near me and counseling for kids near me. You can then review your options and start making phone calls.
If your child is asking you questions that you do not know the answers to, it is comforting to let them know that although you do not have the answer at that moment, you will find the answer out so both of you can understand and work through it together.
It is pertinent for you to stay centered and take steps to lessen the pressure that you are putting on yourself. If your child’s anxiety and depression is affecting them in school, speak to the school nurse and/or the guidance counselor. While you cannot “fix” the issues, you can be their greatest support and their biggest advocate.
If you have a child that is anxious and depressed, do not blame yourself and do not dismiss your child. Seek help immediately for them right away and find assistance and support for your child, your family and yourself. And do not be embarrassed to reach out because there is, indeed, strength in numbers.