When you ask parents about the most challenging parts of raising their sons and daughters, they’ll nearly always cite the emotional toll that comes with watching them handle tough times. The first time another child says they don’t like them, watching them process the loss of friend or loved one, and being there when they don’t make the team are all examples of situations in which parents would do anything to take their sadness away.
We know occasional periods of sadness are a natural part of life for both children and adults. But there are times when that despair becomes relentless, and we start to wonder whether it’s normal sadness or crosses the line into depression.
As children navigate the complexities of childhood, they may encounter situations that make them feel sad, such as friendship issues, academic challenges, or family changes. Those temporary bouts of sadness usually represent a healthy response to life’s ups and downs, and we notice their effects in different ways. Sometimes, it’s a disruption to their normal sleep patterns of changes in their appetite. They might also have more difficulty concentrating than normal.
While sadness is a component of depression, it’s typically accompanied by other symptoms that affect a child’s overall behavior, thoughts, and physical health. Sadness tends to be brief, but depression has more persistent and pervasive effects on the child’s daily life. Some of the symptoms suggesting your child might be dealing with depression include:
- Prolonged and intense feelings of sadness that persist for weeks or months without lifting.
- Chronic insomnia, excessive sleep, and other changes to normal sleep patterns.
- Major changes in behavior, such as unexplained aggression or dangerous acts such as drug use.
- Significant weight and appetite fluctuations.
- Withdrawal from family, friends, and favorite interests and activities.
- Unusual and vague physical complaints such as stomach and headaches.
- Constant feelings of fatigue.
When should you consider reaching out for help from Care to Change or other professionals? Sadness may last for days at a time, but if the symptoms continue for several weeks or are interfering with your child’s daily life, it’s time to give us a call. That’s especially true if your child mentions or tries any kind of self-harm, whether that’s cutting themselves or talking about wanting to die.
Sometimes, parents hesitate to seek help for kids they suspect may be depressed because they don’t want to be viewed as overreacting, or they’re afraid drawing more attention to the depression may worsen it. Nothing could be further from the truth. Bringing your child to a professional is the best way to determine whether the situation is serious, and if it is, they can start receiving the help they need so they’ll stop hurting as much.
Our professional team will be happy to sit with both of you, evaluate your child’s well-being, and start them (and you) on the road to healing. If you’re worried, please call us. Even if the counselor determines there’s nothing to be concerned about, you’ll be glad you investigated … and your child will learn they can reach out to you when they need help. Your child is worth advocating for.