SOCIAL CONCERNS NOTES - Anxiety & Depression

Depression and Anxiety in Teens and Children:

Warning Signs and Parenting Tips

Depression and anxiety are increasing at an alarming rate due to the pandemic, political, racial, and socioeconomic issues around the world.  Children and teens are not immune to these issues and teens naturally experience more anxiety and mood changes due to their developmental stage.  This can also be exacerbated by social media’s unrealistic expectations.  Here are some warning signs of depression and anxiety in children and teens:  1) Excessive worry, sadness, or irritability; 2) Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much; 3) Clingy behavior in children or withdrawal in teens; 4) Headaches/stomachaches; 5) Tantrums or aggressiveness; 6) Academic issues – declining grades and not handing in homework; 7) Loss of interest in things they enjoy; 8) Highly self-critical/very sensitive to rejection; 9) Risky behavior and/or use of alcohol and drugs in teens; and 10) Suicidal thinking/self-injury.

Here are some tips in parenting a child or teen with anxiety and/or depression.  For anxiety in children and teens:  1) Validate and respect their feelings, this is not the same as agreeing but demonstrates understanding of their perspective; 2) Help them to manage their anxiety and not avoid it; 3) Examine your own relationship with anxiety, challenges, and mistakes; try to be a good role model in handling these issues; and 4) Aid in problem solving about their anxiety and practice calming strategies like deep breathing and meditation. 

Some of the above can also help in parenting children and teens with depression.  In addition,  you can:  1)  Let them know the positive choices and actions they are making; 2) Encourage time with family and their friends; 3) Encourage healthy habits like eating well, getting enough sleep, enforcing screen time limits, and exercising (also helps to be a good role model here too!); 4) Pick your battles and have realistic expectations; and 5) Get professional help if symptoms worsen or don’t improve.

Anxiety and depression often go together.  You know your child best and listen to your instincts if something does not seem right: it could be lifesaving.