Therapy is suitable for all ages, even children who are experiencing stressful or uncertain times. Therapy can be especially beneficial now, as children are missing out on many developmental and emotional guideposts due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
While it can be difficult to identify and even admit your child is struggling, ignoring the signs that your child needs help may cause not only immediate, but also lifelong damage to their mental health. Children experience many emotional ups and downs, which are exacerbated by the fact that the pandemic has uprooted our lives and challenged the way we view normalcy. Parents are learning to juggle work-life balance while stuck at home, and they’re tasked with homeschooling their children as well as doing their best to entertain their child and be their playmate.
When parents feel overwhelmed, they may miss signs of depression or anxiety in their children. Without in-person schooling, the ability to participate in extracurricular activities, connect in-person with classmates, and run around on the playground or schedule after-school playdates, children are left to exist in an isolated and uninspired world.
Here are Signs that Your Child Could Benefit from Seeing a Mental Health Professional:
1. Your child is seeking reassurance, or asking questions, about the future
In a digital age, it’s difficult to escape the influx of information we are constantly bombarded with. Television, social media, and the Internet have made information easily accessible to anyone looking for it. Unfortunately, overexposure can perpetuate a feeling of uneasiness in both adults and children. Because no one can predict the future, obsessing about the future is unhealthy for your child. If your child is consistently seeking reassurance about the future, they are likely experiencing high levels of anxiety and could benefit from seeing a therapist to calm their nervous system.
2. They isolate more than usual and spend more time in their bedroom
The majority of us are already confined to our homes, so if your child is further confining themselves to their bedroom, it may be a cause for concern. Isolation can heighten and prolong symptoms of depression and anxiety, and, therefore, it’s important to address this head-on and have your child speak with a mental health professional as soon as possible.
3. Their demeanor or temperament varies greatly
For children, anxiety often presents itself as agitation, frustration, and irritability. If your child has become more irritable than usual, or becomes frustrated suddenly and without apparent cause, this may be a sign they are struggling internally. Because of the pandemic, children are restricted from participating in many extracurricular and social activities that would normally help them clear pent-up energy. A therapist can teach your child healthy coping strategies when these types of uncomfortable feelings creep up.
4. You notice an increase or decrease in their sleep
School-aged children (ages 5-12) require 9-12 hours of sleep per night. Unfortunately, many children only get 7-8 hours or even less, which can increase the probability of experiencing anxiety, irritability, or moodiness. If your child is sleeping less than seven hours or more than 12, they may be experiencing anxiety or depression.
5. You witness changes in their appetite
Any changes in appetite, for both adults and children, are a clear sign that something is lurking beneath the surface and should be addressed. A primary symptom of depression is over, or under-eating. In addition, children aren’t running around or exercising as frequently as they were pre-pandemic, so it is important to incorporate walks or activities into their daily routine. Eating healthy and getting enough exercise is important for mental health and gives a natural boost to mood-boosting endorphins.
6. They no longer engage in activities they once enjoyed
This is a tell-tale sign of depression in both adults and children. Children indeed explore new hobbies more frequently than adults, and subsequently lose interest in them when they no longer feel the drive to pursue something they once enjoyed. More often than not, if this loss of interest is related to mood, fatigue, or hopelessness, it may be a signal that something is wrong and should be addressed quickly.
7. They exhibit signs of hopelessness or helplessness
Be on the lookout for comments like, “no one would miss me if I was gone,” “nothing I do matters anyway,” or “it would be easier if I wasn’t here.” Comments such as these may be a sign of suicidal ideation or self-harm and should be taken seriously. If you hear or come across notes your child has written or drawn, contact a mental healthcare professional immediately.
How to Approach the Topic of Therapy with Your Child
If you notice any of the above signs, it’s important to validate your child’s experiences, thoughts, and feelings. Try asking your child, “Does this feel like something you’d like help with?” More often than not, your child will be open to speaking with a “feelings friend” about their struggles if you come from a place of love and support as opposed to judgment and shame. If your child admits they are struggling, speak with your child’s pediatrician and contact a mental health professional.
Contact Creative Counseling Center
We support children of all ages who are suffering from mental health challenges. Request a free phone consultation to learn if we can help your child develop effective coping strategies to manage their anxiety and depression. Our child counselors and play therapists are truly extraordinary and we look forward to learning more about your unique circumstance to determine which of our therapists would be best suited to support your child.