Childhood Depression and Bullying - Understanding the Link

List: Posted: 01/28/11

Childhood depression is a very real illness, although it may not be as well known as adult depression.  In today’s society, there is a great deal of stress and anxiety to be found in every situation, including (sadly) in our schools.  Bullying is also incredibly common, and depression and even suicide attempts among young children are sure-fire signs that something is very wrong. 


The stress that parents deal with in their day-to-day life also has an impact on little ones, whether you mean it to or not.  Therefore, knowing the signs of childhood depression and what you can do to help is critical for every parent.

Childhood depression can take many forms.  You may notice that your child stops engaging with friends or starts spending more time alone.  They may become irritable, withdrawn, or even just more sensitive than usual.  They may also experience changes in appetite and sleep patterns, including frequent nightmares.  Older children may begin skipping classes or school in an attempt to avoid whatever (or whoever) is causing the problem.  If the problem stems from home life, your child may run away.  For younger children, bed-wetting in a formerly potty-trained child can be a symptom of extreme stress.


These symptoms are not just signs that they are growing up or changing and they need to be taken seriously, as childhood depression can damage your child if allowed to progress unchecked.

If you think that your little one may be suffering from childhood depression, talk to them right away.  Don’t accuse them or threaten them, but calmly encourage your child to come to you about whatever they may be feeling.  If they won't talk, then encourage physical activity, and try to spend time engaging in sports or games with your child.  Exertion produces hormones that can help combat depression, and bonding can certainly help alleviate childhood depression. 


Art therapy can also help.  Give your child a big pad of paper and some colored pens or paints, and encourage them to draw 'mood pictures' of whatever they're feeling right now.  This is a good way to open the door to your child's emotions if they are bottling things up.  Art therapy is a widely accepted tool among adult victims of trauma or abuse, and it can work for your little one to help them express non-verbally what they are feeling. 


If you suspect bullying, find a way to speak in confidence with your child's teacher or headmaster.  Tell them that you think your child is being bullied, and ask the teacher to keep an eye on your child.  You child may be embarrassed or angry at you if they know you have spoken to their teacher behind their back, so ask the teacher to keep your conversation confidential.  


For extreme cases of bullying where your child has been physically injured or threatened with personal injury by another child or group of children, you must act fast.  There are many well-documented cases of children committing suicide to escape this kind of physical bullying.  Speak with school authorities immediately and ask for their help in identifying the ringleaders.  Be sure to take photos of any injuries, file a police report if the injury is bad such as a broken limb or concussion, and keep a 'bullying journal' in case you have to go to court. 


Any good school will take reports of physical attack seriously, and you may want to involve the police if you believe an attempt on your child's life has been made.  Bullies should be made accountable for their actions, which in most cases will result in their expulsion from school.  If your school will not help you and the bullying is severe, consider moving your child to another school.  Never turn a blind eye and hope the kids will work things out among themselves, as once bullying starts it can usually only get worse.


Depression among children can have many causes, but understand that you also need to know that it is recommended to seek help for depression in your child.  Childhood depression can become worse if left untreated, and a professional will know how to best help your son or daughter.  If your child won't speak to you about what is making him or her depressed, they may find it much easier to talk to a stranger so they won't feel like they are being judged.

If depression is an issue for your little one, knowing how to recognize it and how to react is absolutely imperative to your child's long term emotional health.


    Golden Pond School specializes in early childhood education, offering a variety of part-time preschool programs and a full day kindergarten course. This school also offers a kindergarten enrichment program for children attending public schools. The curriculum involves introductory academics and Spanish. Children also engage in music and arts activities. Enrollment information is available on its website

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          The material in this article is for informational purposes only. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of See Additional Information

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