I recently wrote about the emotional fallout of returning to school, including the fact that reduced time schedules for in-person instruction and smaller classes which may not include best friends may mean that being back in school may not be as satisfying as kids would like. Hybrid models which involve some remote instruction may force kids and parents to revisit some of the challenges faced in the spring.
Now is the time for parents to be vigilant for signs of emotional upset, particularly depression and anxiety. This is all the more important as covid continues to restrict our lives in many ways.
While children may manifest signs of depression and anxiety in different ways depending on their age and temperament, here are the classic signs that parents should watch for in their kids (and themselves).
Depression is typically characterized by:
- Low mood (i.e. sadness) more often than not, sometimes presenting as irritability or anger;
- Socially withdrawn, lack of interest in peers or in activities formerly of interest
- Changes in appetite — either increased or decreased
- Changes in sleep — sleeplessness or excessive sleep
- Difficulty concentrating
- Tiredness, low energy, lack of motivation
- Negative thinking
In severe depression, thoughts become very negative, hopelessness may be observed, and in a worst case scenario, suicidal ideation or behavior may ensue.
Anxiety.org (https://www.anxiety.org/causes-and-symptoms-of-anxiety-in-children) lists the following signs of anxiousness in kids:
- Inattention, poor focus
- Somatic symptoms like headaches or stomachaches
- Refusing to go to school
- Meltdowns before school about clothing, hair, shoes, socks
- Meltdowns after school about homework
- Difficulties with transitions within school, and between school and an activity/sport
- Difficulty settling down for bed
- Having high expectations for school work, homework and sports performance
During covid, look for a lack of interest in online lessons and assignments.
Both anxiety and depression can share different signs and symptoms and both also may be comorbid (i.e. accompany each other). Consequently, if these signs appear and are marked by increased frequency, duration, and severity, a referral to a mental health professional will be important.
Parents, too, should watch for the above signs in themselves as they need to be healthy both for themselves and their kids.