Back-to-school season can be a stressful time for everyone in the family — parents and children alike. Between extracurricular activities, school sports, and college prep, life can get so busy that you may not notice when your child is struggling. Yet depression and anxiety have increased in children in recent years.
That’s why it’s so important to look for signs of mental health struggles and offer your kids a listening ear, as well as tools and resources to cope.
Signs your child might be dealing with depression or anxiety
Common symptoms of depression in adults don’t always seem out of the ordinary for kids and teens. For example, sleeping and eating a lot can be considered normal if your child is an athlete or is generally active. Every child is unique, and you probably know yours best. Keep an eye on their everyday behaviors and note that mental health disorders like depression and anxiety in children can show up as:
- Abnormal eating patterns
- Avoiding school or other social environments
- Panic attacks
- Not enjoying activities they enjoyed in the past
- Self-destructive behavior
Make communication a priority
When you have a healthy relationship with your child and communication is a regular part of your routine, they will likely feel more comfortable coming to you if they experience bullying, burnout, or learning difficulties at school.
There are plenty of ways you can encourage open communication with your child. Make mental health a normal conversation topic, and don’t ever tell them to suppress their emotions. Remember that you are an example for them. Be honest with them if you want them to be honest with you. Take care of your own mental and physical health and encourage them to do the same.
When your child does come to you with a problem, be sure to thank them for being open and honest with you. This will encourage them to continue this healthy behavior, which can make a big difference in times of stress.
Reach out for help if necessary
Even parents and children with close, healthy relationships may need extra support. Don’t be afraid to mention any mental health struggles to your child’s primary care provider (PCP) or reach out to a behavioral health specialist. You can find resources online at healthychildren.org and kidsmentalhealth.org.