What To Do If You Suspect Depression in your Kid

We see a lot of parents struggling with raising kids with Depression. Sometimes it’s situational, which happens often in our community when other problems are not identified or yet well-managed, like Learning Disabilities, ADHD or Anxiety. And sometimes it’s chronic — a co-existing diagnosis of Clinical Depression. Regardless of whether it’s a primary or secondary diagnosis, it is profoundly dangerous and scary for everyone involved –kids and parents, alike.

How do you know if a teen is “moody” or depressed? You don’t. So you’ve got to take responsibility for your child’s health care and find out for sure.

Some signs to look for include:

  • Change of energy
  • Change of friends or retreat from friends
  • Tendency to "seclude" or hide
  • Single-word responses
  • Deterioration of schoolwork
  • Retreat in the house
  • Stopping participation in family or household events or chores
  • Tendency to say no to things that they usually like
  • Stopping familiar activities like exercise, sports, etc.

Depression can also come out a lot like Anger:

  • Screaming
  • Fighting
  • Picking fights
  • Picking at everything
  • Being rude (especially when you know that's not what your child is generally like)

How DO you broach the conversation?

Trust your instincts here, Mom and Dad. Some of the signs above can be situational and one time only or it can be a new behavior that is now repeating. This is one of those times that I think parenting should be a Democratic Dictatorship: be transparent with your child, get his or her input — and then make a decision and take action.

You might say something like: “I love you, I’m worried about you, and I don’t know how to help you. It’s my job to take care of you and keep you healthy, and I need some help to do that. If it turns out you’re just a moody teen, then that will be great to know, and we’ll figure out how to handle it together!” (Depending on your relationship, as a humorous aside, you can make a joke here about what happens if YOU turn out to be over-reacting. Personally, my kid would love pizza for a week!) “But if you need some additional support that I can’t provide, I need to know that. I want to be the best parent I can be for you – and that means making sure I take care of all aspects of your health.”

THEN you can give your child some options – different therapists, perhaps, or methods for evaluation — so that she can be part of the decision-making and feel some control for her own life. But ultimately, it’s a parent’s decision.

It’s Not Rational

Be clear: Depression is not rational. You can’t plan for it. And it requires a quick response, because it is incredibly dangerous, sometimes with VERY little warning.

From a parent’s perspective, managing Depression requires strength, direction, and commitment. It means not worrying about being fair, or how you look as a parent. It means doing everything you can to keep a child safe.

And, to some extent, that means accepting that there is only so much you can do by yourself. This is NOT something you SHOULD know how to navigate. You need help – and you don’t want to wait too long to get it.

That’s a hard shift for a parent to make – we fool ourselves into believing that we should know what to do with our kids because we’re the parent – even when we’re exposed to circumstances that are completely foreign to us! But it’s better to be overly protective and proactive, than to spend the rest of your life mourning the loss of your child and burying yourself with regret and guilt.

Bottom line: Whether your child is Moody or Depressed – if you’re concerned, don’t ignore it. Get some help – and get to the root of what’s going on for your child.


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