As a parent, you should be educated about the warning signs of depression in children. 1 out of 10 kids experience and extended period of depression at some time in their childhood, so it is not an uncommon disorder. However, it is less common in children ages 1 to 6. It is more common in children ages 9 to 12, and adolescents. But even though depression in young children is rarer, it is more difficult to diagnose because little ones don't know how to articulate their feelings. In such cases, depression can manifest itself in other disorders, such as behavioral problems, sleep dysfunction, separation anxiety, and phobias.
While the likelihood of depressive behavior among different age groups varies, there are 9 overarching warning signs of depression that parents should be aware of, no matter how old your child is.
1. Sudden Change in Behavior
Any abrupt changes in your child's disposition may signal depression.
2. Aggressive or Angry Behavior
Most children have trouble articulating their feelings, and may lash out with aggressive or angry behavior.
3. Change in Appetite and Sleep Patterns
A depressed child may suddenly have trouble sleeping, or want to sleep all the time. She may lose her appetite or suddenly go on eating binges. An abrupt change in eating or sleeping patterns should be a red flag.
4. Increase in Risk-Taking Behavior
Another behavioral change is a sudden desire to engage in risk-taking behavior. Alcohol and drug abuse falls under the category of risk-taking or self-destructive behavior.
5. Decrease in Self-Esteem
A depressed child will show a marked decrease in her self-esteem. She may make self-deprecating comments about her own appearance or abilities. She may feel that she is alone or somehow unworthy of love and affection.
6. Finishing Unfinished Business
Finishing any unfinished business is a red flag for suicidal behavior. It should be treated extremely seriously by any adult who witnesses a child behaving in such a manner.
7. Withdrawal from Friends and Family
A depressed child feels isolated from loved ones and retreats into herself, withdrawing from friends and family.
8. Change in Dress or Appearance
Older children and teens enjoy changing their looks and experimenting with new styles. But a sudden decline in personal hygiene or dramatic change in dress can signal depressive behavior.
9. Family Stress
Chances are, if your family is undergoing stress, your child feels it too. Try to be open with your child about any changes in the family, encourage dialogue, and lead by example. If you are experiencing stress, try dealing with it in a healthy way, and encourage your child to follow suit.
Stress is a normal part of life, and most children--and adults--are able to cope with it. However, there are times when stress leads to depression. Be on the lookout for the 9 warning signs of depression in your child or teen. If you are aware of the situation, you can help your child work through it in a positive manner. If you do observe any of these signs in your child, get the help of a licensed counselor, who can determine what course of therapy can benefit your child the most.