If You're Depressed and You Know It

Dear Parentworks,

My daughter is only finishing kindergarten but I worry that she's been depressed this year. Is it possible for a child this young to feel depressed? What's normal? We've tried everything from hugs to cajoling her out of her moods but nothing seems to last very long. She has fun if she's at the local amusement park or if we're buying her things but once we're back home she soon reverts back to the same ol' mope. She wasn't like this last year or ever before - it's like she's a moody teenager, just way too soon. Is this what we can look forward to from now on with a girl?

- Mom of Moody


Dear Mom,

When in doubt, check it out. It is definitely possible for young children to feel depressed. Talk with your pediatrician and if you're still concerned ask for a referral to a qualified child therapist. Signs of depression can include (but are not limited to) changes in appetite or sleep, lack of interest in things which used to provide pleasure, more clingy or aggressive behaviors. There are specific diagnostic standards that will be explored. If these few areas described above give you pause, begin to note down your child's behaviors and times of day these observances take place. But do not delay in contacting professionals. Each parent is the expert for their own child, I encourage you to trust your own instincts and gut feelings about this and get it checked out. If it is nothing then you can rest assured but if there is something happening, the earlier the intervention to provide relief the better it will be for your child and for you. It's important to let your child know that you see that something is happening for them, even if you don't yet understand what it is precisely. Letting them know that their experience is valid and important to acknowledge to you and that because you love them you will do your best to get them the help they need can be very reassuring for them. Take care of your child during this troubling period but also remember to take good care of yourself and your own stress levels.