We tend to associate being a child with being carefree, and not with depression. But depression and mental health challenges are far from just for adults. Children can be more emotional than adults, and a certain amount of mood swings is part of being a kid. So how can a parent tell if their child is depressed, or just a typical child with ups and downs as they navigate growing up? 

1. Your child is exhibiting emotional responses that are not usual for him or her. Are they more irritable than you’ve seen them? Moping about and not wanting to play with their toys?

2. Their moods are lasting much longer than usual. or are changing far too quickly. If they were always the sort to have a quick temper tantrum but be fine an hour later, but suddenly seem upset for entire afternoons, it can be a sign your child is suffering anxiety or depression. So can incessant rapid changes in mood.

3. Their unusual behavior goes on for weeks. Depression is, if anything, persistent. Normal moods come and go. Depression goes on for weeks or months.

4. Their behavior doesn’t seem connected to circumstance. If they are sad and weepy but tell you they don’t know why, or if they are angry with a sibling who has done nothing wrong, it might be a red flag.

5. Your child’s emotions are affecting their functioning on a daily basis. Have teachers reported changes in their focus or ability? Do they seem uninterested in their hobbies or friends, are they socially withdrawing? Seem oversensitive to rejection?     

6. They are using a depressed perspective and phrases of doom and gloom. Children can be dramatic, naturally. But pay attention for changes in what your child talks about. Are they telling you that nobody likes them even when their friends are calling them? Then look for expressions of low confidence, such as ‘I am no good at anything’, or ‘nothing good ever happens to me’.

7. Your child is exhibiting regressed behavior. Are they suddenly whining, clinging, or otherwise acting less independent than usual? Are they sucking their thumb again, or even using baby talk? Wetting the bed again for the first time in years?

Kim Kirkup is a Milton local and owns The Milton Therapist at Crabapple in Alpharetta.  She is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) in the State of Georgia, and a National Certified Counselor, (NCC) with a Masters in Professional Counseling. 

She specializes in therapy with children, adolescents, and families, and also provides marriage counseling and life coaching. 



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