1. Prolonged Sadness
Depression in young people is a risk factor for attempted suicide and should always be of concern. Signs can include prolonged sadness, withdrawal, and sometimes changes in eating and sleeping routines.
READ MORE: The Surprising Link Between Diet and Depression
What to do: Don’t be afraid to broach the subject with your child. It it certainly ok for parents to ask their teen if they are thinking or have thoughts about suicide and if so, if they have made a plan about it or attempted it before. Trust and openness is important, but if you’re concerned talk to your GP who may refer you to a specialist from school, a counsellor or to a helpline.
Self-harming is on the rise, especially in teenage girls. Physical signs include cuts, burns and bruises. Sometimes kids pull out hair, causing bald patches. Young people can go to great lengths to hide this behaviour from parents and friends by wearing clothing that covers physical signs, even when it’s very warm.
What to do: Establish trust about this and ask about triggers or things that make it worse. Before seeking help, it’s best to discuss the options with your child. These may include getting helping from your GP, school, online counsellors or telephone helplines.
Boredom is a common feature of growing up, but general apathy is another thing altogether and so is a loss of interest in favourite activities or sport.
What to do: Considering your child’s personality, look out for anything that is outside their usual way of operating. If your normally interested and outspoken child becomes disinterested and quiet, that would be a reason to ask them what’s going on.
4. Sleep Problems
Sleep disturbance can be a sign of depression and may also cause your child to become sluggish, irritable or physically agitated. Not getting enough sleep can make kids more prone to depression and those who are already depressed often have trouble sleeping.
READ MORE: 8 Ways To Help Your Child Sleep Better
What to do: If you suspect your child is awake in the middle of the night, it’s a good idea to have a conversation about sleep. Suggestions may include going to bed at the same time every night and leaving electronic devices out of the bedroom.
Children with depression sometimes feel worthless and may blame themselves for everything that goes wrong. This is a major worry, especially if it’s inconsistent with the child’s normal attitude. It’s hard for kids to know the difference between what’s normal and what’s not and many of them don’t feel comfortable talking to their parents’ GP.
READ MORE: 10 Signs You Could Be Hurting Your Children (Without Even Knowing It)
What to do: Talk to your child and try to get to the root of their guilty feelings. Spend time with him/her and gently coax your child to talk to you. Don’t feel annoyed or helpless if it takes some time – children need to be reassured.
6. School Avoidance
As well as being a symptom of depression, avoidance could be a sign your child is being bullied at school. Technology can give bullies instant access to their victims but if your child is being bullied online, banning them from social media is the last thing you should do.
What to do: Staying connected with friends online is a mostly positive thing and you can monitor their use of social media and teach them strategies to protect themselves from cyber bullies.
7. Sudden Drop In School Grades
When your normally A-grade student starts to come home with Cs and Ds, it’s a cause for concern and may be a sign of depression. Your first reaction might be anger, but before you get upset, calmly ask them what’s going on.
What to do: There’s generally a reason but if your teenager is struggling to stay engaged at school, it should be taken seriously and the best immediate response is a conversation both at home and with the school.
Inability to concentrate and obsessing over a particular problem can be signs of anxiety. There may also be physical manifestations like a racing heartbeat, tight chest, compulsive behaviour or hot and cold flushes.
What to do: Effective treatments for children with anxiety include Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) which can teach them strategies for controlled thinking. Teacher are generally fantastic at helping make these strategies consistent at school and at home.
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Text: Bauer Syndication / Additional Reporting: Elizabeth Liew