Anxiety and Depression in Children
May is Children’s Mental Health Awareness Month! The National Alliance on Mental Illness reports that 1 in 6 youth aged 6-17 in the United States experience a mental health disorder each year. Children may experience or express mental health differently than adults. Below are common signs and symptoms of depression and anxiety in children.
Signs of Depression in Children
● Lack of motivation or enjoyment of previously enjoyed activities
● Social withdrawal
● Poor performance in school
● Negative self-talk or increased criticism of self
● Low self esteem
● Changes in eating
● Changes in sleeping
● Trouble concentrating
● Acting out behaviors
● Physical complaints, without physical cause
Signs of Anxiety in Children
● Separation anxiety from caregivers
● Specific phobias
● School avoidance
● Frequent stomach aches
● Reporting headaches
● Excessive clinginess
● Difficulty sleeping
● Fear of new people
● Fear of embarrassment
So, How Can You Talk With Your Child About Mental Health?
1. Use Developmentally Appropriate Language
When talking to children about their feelings and mental health, be sure to use language that they can understand. Also, be mindful that young children may express mental health concerns differently than adults. Young children may express stomach aches when anxious or feeling tired when depressed, while adolescents may exhibit school avoidance or isolation.
2. Validate Their Feelings
If your child is expressing fear or sadness, take the time to validate their emotions, without judgment. As an adult, it can be tempting to minimize painful emotions or situations of children in an attempt to alleviate their negative feelings, but taking time to validate and listen is a better choice. A good rule for talking with children about mental health is to “Listen More Than You Talk”
3. Talk Often About Mental Health
Having many small conversations about mental health can have a very positive impact on a child’s openness to having bigger conversations about mental health concerns. If your child has heard open conversations about mental health and emotions throughout their life, they may feel more comfortable sharing with you as they grow. For small children, the NAMI “Meet Little Monster” book can be a great way to incorporate early conversations about big feelings.
4. Remind Them It’s Not Their Fault
Many children and adolescents internalize stigma surrounding mental health and feel guilty or responsible for their symptoms. If your child or adolescent is sharing about mental health symptoms, be sure to take time to remind them that those feelings or symptoms are not their fault.
5. Model Self-Care And Expression of Feelings
Prioritizing your own mental health and self-care can be a great way to model a healthy lifestyle to your children. From an early age, be intentional about sharing feelings and modeling healthy self-care to your children. Children learn so much from watching their caregivers and can pick up many cues about mental health just by seeing how you manage emotions.
Our therapists specialize in offering therapies such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Parent Child Interaction Therapy, Play Therapy, or Mindfulness-Based Therapy to best fit the needs of your child. If you’re looking for a mental health professional or Anxiety Therapist near you for your child, we have many counselors who are excited to help at Mind, Body, and Soul Therapy & Counseling!
Reach out to us by dialing at 856-834-3709 or by filling out a Request Form.