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With the holidays approaching, everyone's spirits seem to soar. Festivities and family gatherings offer opportunities to make new friendships and re-establish old ties. Most people look forward to this season. Unfortunately, some people find the holiday depressing. Those without family or even those with family can get the blues because of circumstances. Some people just find the season stressful. What you may not realize is that one of those unhappy persons could be your child.

Holidays are not the only source of depression. School and peer pressure can create stress which can lead to depression. Children live their lives at a faster pace these days. They are involved in more activities. Technology and the internet has made it possible to produce more in less time. It also provides a very visible and public forum which can be abused by mean spirited kids. Children are being publicly bullied and humiliated. Those that have been bullied have been known to commit suicide. Last week a 15 year old boy armed with guns took his class hostage for a number of hours. When police finally got in to apprehend him, he shot and killed himself. Those who claim to know him seemed perplexed. They couldn't imagine why this seemingly well-adjusted boy would do such a thing. Well, we all know that well-adjusted happy kids DO NOT do such a thing.

Depression knows no age. According to statstics, about 3 of every hundred children are diagnosed with depression. While that number may not seem alarming, it is still significant. And that number only takes into account those with an official diagnosis. Depression is not easy to detect inn children. Adults often can't even recognize the symptoms in themselves. It is even less obvious in children. So as a parent, you need to be attuned to any changes in your child's behavior. Below is a list of possible symptoms.

  • Persisten irritability
  • Withdrawn and lethargic
  • Lack of energy or persistent fatigue
  • Changes in eating and/or sleeping habits
  • Withdrawal from family and friends
  • Feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness
  • Lack of interest in play or other activities previously enjoyed
  • Extreme sensitivity to rejectionor failure
  • Anxiety
  • Complaints of not feeling well
  • Activities that cause self harm
  • Memory loss or lack of concentration

In very young children developmental delays can occur or lack of speech and other missed milestones. Children can become hyperactive and fidgety (also a sign of ADHD). They can become reckless or become obsessed with an activity.

The problem for parents is in determining if the behavior is normal or a sign of depression. All children exhibit these symptoms during development. If there is a change in behavior and it is persistent (more than a few weeks), it is a good idea to take your child to a doctor. Most children have a hard time verbalizing their feelings. They may not be able to tell you they feel sad. A doctor can rule out any physical issues, and can refer you to a specialist in mental health if necessary. If your child is fine, then no harm done. But if your child really is depressed, you will have taken the first steps in the right direction.

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