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How To Help A Child With Depression And Anxiety

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Childhood Anxiety Can Worsen As Children Grow Left Untreated Anxiety Can Impact Both Physical And Emotional Health Here’s How To Help Your Child Manage Anxiety On Their Own

How to help children with anxiety and depression

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Fathers bravely patrolling the perimeter of bedrooms to show a frightened child there arent any multi-legged, hairy creatures hiding under their bed is a nighttime ritual regularly performed in homes around the world. But when spider anxiety prevents you from sleeping away from home or traveling, thats a problem. Its not the spider that stops you from doing adventurous things; its youand your anxietythat stops you.

Its important to know the difference between normal anxiety and an anxiety disorder though.; Fear of spiders, bugs, birds, monsters, or strangers are considered common childhood fears that may cause temporary anxiety in a child. Thats a normal response. But, regardless of the trigger , normal anxiety turns toxic when it begins to occupy the childs thoughts in an all-consuming way and negatively affects the childs ability to engage in normal activities and behaviors.

When Should I Call The Doctor

Call a healthcare provider if your child has any signs of depression or anxiety. If your child is showing signs of suicide, get help right away. You can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800.273.8255. This hotline connects you to a national network of local crisis centers for free and confidential emotional support. The centers support people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. In an emergency, call 911.

A note from Cleveland Clinic

While it may be difficult to watch your child dealing with depression or anxiety, help is available. The right treatment can ensure your child continues to grow and thrive throughout their development. In addition to medical help, you can support your child by making sure they have a healthy environment at home, at school and in the community. Always let your child know they can communicate openly and honestly about their feelings.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 11/17/2020.


Depression In Children: Warning Signs

Parents should be particularly vigilant for signs that may indicate that their child is at risk for suicide.

Warning signs of suicidal behavior in children include:

  • Many depressive symptoms
  • Social isolation, including isolation from the family
  • Talk of suicide, hopelessness, or helplessness
  • Increased acting-out of undesirable behaviors
  • Increased risk-taking behaviors

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Fight Flight Freeze A Guide To Anxiety For Kids

For even more information and tools, visit MAP for Children! My Anxiety Plan is an anxiety management program designed to provide adults struggling with anxiety with practical strategies and tools to manage anxiety. MAP includes 6 easy to navigate units with 45 lessons.

Does My Child Have An Anxiety Disorder?

As discussed throughout this website, anxiety is useful in certain situations, some of the time. But how do you, the parent or caregiver, know when the signs of anxiety you are seeing in your child might be significant enough to qualify for an anxiety disorder? An appointment with your family physician or a trained mental health professional is a good first step. However, in preparation for that visit, or to decide whether a visit is needed, it can help to understand what professionals look for in diagnosing an anxiety disorder.

To begin with, there are eleven different types of anxiety disorders, and each anxiety disorder has a list of commonly occurring symptoms clustered into 4 areas:

  • Physical responses
  • Emotions
  • Behaviorus
  • Attending school
  • Joining social, athletic or recreational clubs
  • Meeting age expected demands such as sleeping through the night, doing homework, and making friends.

Common Topics for Children

Teenage Depression: Things To Try At Home

Childhood Depression: How to Identify the Symptoms in Your ...

If your child is suffering from depression, there are important things you can do to help in your everyday family life.

Physical health and wellbeing

  • Encourage your child to make;healthy food and drink choices. Make sure you have a variety of healthy foods in the cupboard and fridge, and offer tasty and nutritious options at meals.
  • Get your child to do some regular;physical activity. Staying physically active can help to improve your childs mental health. It might be as simple as taking a 10-minute walk every day to start with.
  • Encourage your child to;get enough sleep. If your child is having trouble sleeping, try not to let them nap during the day regardless of how tired they feel. Help your child make time for relaxing activities before bedtime and encourage your child to avoid screen time in the hour before bed.
  • If you can, make sure your child avoids;alcohol and other drugs. Using these to dull sadness or pain can make your childs problems worse.

Relationships and feelings

Everyday life

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How Common Is Anxiety In Children

Anxiety and anxiety disorders are considered the most common mental health problem in childhood. Separation anxietyis common in younger children, whereas older children and teenagers tend to worry moreabout school or havesocial anxiety. While OCD can occur at any age, in children it usually appears between the ages of six and twelve.

Learn More About Depression In Children

Children’s Health offers one of the most comprehensive specialty programs available for children and teens who need mental health services, staffed by experts with access to the latest research and treatments for depression and other mood disorders. Learn more about our Pediatric Psychiatry and Psychology services.

You can also access emotional care and support from the comfort of your home with Virtual Visit Behavioral Health. With a behavioral health care appointment, you can speak to a board-certified psychiatrist or licensed therapist using video technology. Learn more about Virtual Visit Behavioral Health.

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Depression At Seattle Childrens

Seattle Childrens;Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine;providers specialize in short-term care for depression in children and teens. Our goal is to help your child get back to doing the activities that give them joy.

  • The experts you need are here
  • Your child is cared for by a;team;including mental health therapists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, psychiatrists and psychologists.
  • Our approach is to share skills and strategies that have been shown to help. Were also doing research to develop new treatments and to find out which treatments work.
  • Were experts in dealing with the unique challenges of depression in children and teens and in the ways it affects families. But we realize that you know your child best. We work with you and your child to develop a treatment plan that addresses your childs individual needs.
  • We see many children and adolescents who are dealing with the stress of chronic illness, traumatic injury or serious disease. Well coordinate care with your childs medical team.
  • Care from birth through young adulthood
  • Everyone on our team is specially trained to understand and meet the specific needs of children and teens. Our pediatric experts tailor care to your childs age and developmental stage.
  • The;Mood and Anxiety Program;sees children ages 6 to 18 who have mood disorders, including depression and;bipolar disorder, as well as anxiety disorders and other conditions.
  • Resources for your child and family
  • What Should You Know About Antidepressant Medicines

    How to Help a Child with Social Anxiety | Child Anxiety

    Antidepressant medicines often work well for children who are depressed. But there are some important things you should know about these medicines.

    • Children who take antidepressants should be watched closely. These medicines may increase the risk that a child will think about or try suicide, especially in the first few weeks of use. If your child takes an antidepressant, learn the warning signs of suicide, and get help right away if you see any of them. Common warning signs include:
    • Talking, drawing, or writing about death.
    • Giving away belongings.
    • Withdrawing from family and friends.
    • Having a plan, such as a gun or pills.
  • Your child may start to feel better after 1 to 3 weeks of taking antidepressant medicine. But it can take as many as 6 to 8 weeks to see more improvement. Make sure your child takes antidepressants as prescribed and keeps taking them so they have time to work.
  • A child may need to try several different antidepressants to find one that works. If you notice any warning signs or have concerns about the medicine, or if you do not notice any improvement by 3 weeks, talk to your child’s doctor.
  • Do not let a child suddenly stop taking antidepressants. This could be dangerous. Your doctor can help you taper off the dose slowly to prevent problems.
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    Check In Frequently And Listen

    Check in with your child frequently about how they’re feeling and listen without interrupting. Hearing your child’s concerns, validating their feelings and keeping communication open is an important way to support them during this time.

    You can help your child manage feelings of anxiety by sharing ways you cope when you feel anxious. Let them know it’s normal to feel upset or anxious and that you are there to help. Ask your child how you can best encourage them when they don’t feel good.

    “For example, you can ask What are two of your best qualities I can remind you of when you’re feeling sad?’ or What is a book we can read together when you’re feeling worried?'” suggests Kumar. “Often, your child might just want to hear that you’re there for them and you love them.”

    It’s also important to create healthy boundaries when it comes to media coverage surrounding COVID-19, relying only on trusted sources of information. See more tips for talking to your child about COVID-19.

    What To Expect From Treatment

    Treatment for a depression can take time and sometimes involves some trial and error. No two kids are the same, and its important to remain patient with the process to help your child feel safe.

    • Education: Educating your child about depression is a crucial first step. This helps your child understand the possible causes , understand brain chemistry , and reduces self-blame. It also normalizes what your child is going through.
    • Psychotherapy: Counseling is a good option for kids struggling with depression. There are different kinds of counseling and what works for one might not work for another. For very young children, play therapy is an option. For older kids and teens, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can be effective. It can take time to find the best patient/therapist match. Make several calls and dont be afraid to ask questions. You know your child best.
    • Medication: Medication might be necessary for moderate to severe cases, but medication works best when combined with counseling. Medication management is important. Close supervision of the prescribing physician is recommended.
    • Hospitalization: For severe cases of depression, including suicidal ideation, hospitalization is sometimes necessary.

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    How Can I Help A Child With Anxiety

    Theres normal anxiety and then there are anxiety disorders. If you child has occasional anxiety that doesnt disrupt their life, you can help them by acknowledging how they feel, helping them take control of their thoughts and behaviors. If the child has a real anxiety disorder, its important they see a child psychologist or other health care professional with expertise in dealing with anxiety disorders. Whether the anxiety is mild or more extreme, experts agree that its important that parents do not accommodate the childs disorder. Be supportive, acknowledge what the child is feeling, talk to the child about the anxiety but dont become an enabler. Changing your behavior to placate the child is what experts call “accommodation.” It may keep the peace now but in the long run, it will make things worse.

    Tips To Manage Anxiety And Stress

    Helping Children with Anxiety About COVID

    Coping Strategies

    Try these when you’re feeling anxious or stressed:


    Fitness Tips: Stay Healthy, Manage Stress

    For the biggest benefits of exercise, try to include at least 2½ hours of moderate-intensity physical activity each week, 1¼ hours of a vigorous-intensity activity , or a combination of the two.

    • 5 X 30: Jog, walk, bike, or dance three to five times a week for 30 minutes.
    • Set small daily goals and aim for daily consistency rather than perfect workouts. It’s better to walk every day for 15-20 minutes than to wait until the weekend for a three-hour fitness marathon. Lots of scientific data suggests that frequency is most important.
    • Find forms of exercise that are fun or enjoyable. Extroverted people often like classes and group activities. People who are more introverted often prefer solo pursuits.
    • Distract yourself with an iPod or other portable media player to download audiobooks, podcasts, or music. Many people find its more fun to exercise while listening to something they enjoy.
    • Recruit an exercise buddy. It’s often easier to stick to your exercise routine when you have to stay committed to a friend, partner, or colleague.
    • Be patient when you start a new exercise program. Most sedentary people require about four to eight weeks to feel coordinated and sufficiently in shape so that exercise feels easier.



    If you are the parent of a college-aged child with an anxiety disorder, here are some tips to help with managing his or her anxiety.

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    How To Help Children With Depression And Anxiety Stay Calm

    By Candice Shaffer of;Una Residences, The XI, One Dalton, The Astor, and EVGB

    Though we often hear about the many mental health issues affecting the adult population, the mental health needs of children often go overlooked. Unfortunately, largely ignoring the problem has only exacerbated it for decades.

    In fact, according to research conducted by;Wolters Kluwer Health;found that one in 20 children is now struggling with either depression or anxiety. Even more dire, researchers at the;University of Missouri-Columbia;have found that depressed children are six times as likely as their peers to have deficits in skills, whether academic or social, than their non-depressed counterparts.

    However, while millions of kids are turning to medication that doesnt necessarily address their unique needs, there may an additional way to help battle those issues at home: music.

    Tips For Parents And Caregivers

    Here are things you can do at home to help your child manage his or her anxiety disorder:

    • Pay attention to your childs feelings.
    • Stay calm when your child becomes anxious about a situation or event.
    • Recognize and praise small accomplishments.
    • Dont punish mistakes or lack of progress.
    • Be flexible, but try to maintain a normal routine.
    • Modify expectations during stressful periods.
    • Plan for transitions .

    Keep in mind that your childs anxiety disorder diagnosis is not a sign of poor parenting. It may add stress to family life, however. It is helpful to build a support network of relatives and friends.

    It’s important that you have the same expectations of your anxious child that you would of another child, according to psychologist Lynn Siqueland, PhD. She has specialized in treating children and adolescents with anxiety disorders for more than 15 years. She offers these parenting tips for anxious kids,; as well as ways to manage siblings, whose lives are also affected.

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    Kids And Anxiety: By The Numbers

    • About 2.6 million American children and adolescents were diagnosed with anxiety and/or depression in 2011-12
    • The prevalence of current anxiety increased from 3.5%; in 2007 to 4.1 % in 2011-12,
    • Median age of onset for anxiety is 11 years
    • An estimated one in 20 American children has anxiety.
    • There areat least 1 in 200or 500,000kids and teens that have OCD. In children, OCD tends to first appear between the age of 6 and 12.

    Seven Steps For Parents Who Love An Adult Child With A Mental Illness

    How to Help an Anxious Child | Child Anxiety

    “I beg you take courage, the brave soul can mend even disaster” ~ Catherine the Great

    Every month I receive emails from parents of adult children who have a serious mental illness. You tell me many things, but the one on which you all agree is how painful it is to see your son or daughter in anguish yet at the same time not accept help. They’re angry with you, blame you, yell at you, yet need your help desperately. You tell me how helpless, how lost and how hopeless you feel. It is a journey of great pain. But there is also great hope. I know. My parents were on this very same journey. For five years, I was in and out of the hospital because of psychotic episodes. I not only refused help but refused to accept the diagnosis of bipolar disorder with psychosis and generalized anxiety disorder.

    H.O.P.E.: Hang On Pain Ends ~ Unknown

    There are myriad reasons a person refuses treatment. They can include denial, anosognosia1 , shame, emotionally overwhelming, stigma, lack of access to good treatment, insufficient education about mental illness, fear of change, and lack of skills or support to move through change.

    But there are steps you as a parent or support person can take, at least initially, if you are facing this situation. The suggestions may help you feel a little less powerless, a little less alone, and a little more hopeful.

    But I also know this:

  • You can do it. But you cant do it alone.
  • Things will change.
  • Recovery is possible.
  • © Victoria Maxwell 2015


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    Helping Kids With Depression Get Treatment

    Some teens will want to go to therapy when you ask them and some wont. For those who are resistant, know that they arent going to suddenly open up to the idea of therapy quickly, but you can help guide them towards treatment by opening the door and then waiting patiently for them to walk through it.

    Try saying, I know youre having a hard time, and I have some ideas of things that could help. If youd like to talk with me about them, let me know. Im here for you. Its also a good idea to ask them if they has any suggestions on how you might be able to help. You might be surprised with what they have to say.

    Be aware that your teen might tell you to back off. Thats fine; its their way albeit a slightly irritable one of telling you that they need space. Its normal for teenagers to want independence, and its important for you to respect that. You can respond by saying, Ill give you more space, but know that Im here for you if you ever want to talk or hear my suggestions.

    If they do come to you wanting help, be prepared. Do your research. Find two or three therapists they can interview and tell them that they can choose the one that they feel most comfortable with, and think will help the most. Finding a therapist who is a good fit is extremely important, and making the choice theirs will help them feel ownership over their own treatment, which is extremely important to teens and sets the stage for effective therapy.

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