When looking after young children, you are always worried about minor scrapes and bruises. It is natural to be hyper-vigilant when kids are swinging in the playground on the monkey bars or diving about in the park playing football. However, mental health is different. Symptoms of depression in children are different. 

Signs of poor mental wellbeing are a little more tricky to keep an eye on. The symptoms of depression in children can be very subtle, and not everyone is aware of what exactly to look out for. 

Speaking about our mental health is challenging even for adults. So it is vitally important that we teach kids this important lesson – it is normal to discuss mental health like depression. Talking about mental health is an essential part of a healthy family environment. If kids understand depression triggers, they will help themselves and their friends.   

Sadly, signs of depression in teens and children are more common than you think. Recent research suggests that one in six children have experienced mental health problems. For example, anxiety disorders in teens are prevelant. But how can you spot the symptoms? How do you know your child is not just a typical moody teen? 

Here are some symptoms which you can watch out for.

Anxiety And A Lack of Confidence

Everybody gets anxious from time to time. Kids are no different. 

Children are constantly confronted by new things and new places. As adults, we take certain situations for granted as we have experienced them many times in our life. Social situations, for example, can be daunting for children prompting them to be a little timid and shy. Getting nervous like this is normal. However, parents and foster parents should watch for anxious behavior. Very low self-confidence and high anxiety could be a symptom of a bigger problem – depression.

What does anxiety or a lack of confidence look like?

  • Not wanting to attend school or any place where they might need to talk.
  • Not wanting to challenge themselves or compete with other kids at games.
  • Not enjoying engaging with their friends or family members.

Suppose you notice a bit of hesitancy that was not there before, it could be a symptom of depression. It is essential to motivate kids to have fun with their friends and family, even if they are nervous. Foster children especially might need more help to engage with new people. Dealing with significant trauma is not uncommon with fostering. A traumatic past incident could make foster children less confident socializers. With your support, they can completely change their confidence levels and be more positive.

Changing Sleeping And Eating Habits

You all know that kids and teens usually love to sleep and eat sugary treats. Waking up a sleeping teenager is never easy, even at the best of times. However, if your child’s sleep pattern changes or they start to refuse certain foods, you might need to pause.

Changing eating habits is a common symptom of depression for adults too. For example, people who are feeling low are likely to either overeat, which means they are eating a lot more than usual. Or sufferers of depression might undereat and likely lose a bit of weight. 

Signs of poor sleep and bad eating habits:

  • Binge eating a lot of food regularly.
  • If your child is not sleeping, then they will be dazed and unable to move their body in an active manner. 
  • If their energy levels during the daytime are visibly low. 

Eating and drinking the right things is vital for managing your mood. Make sure your whole family is cooking up balanced meals and not staying up too late.


In extreme cases of depression, some children might turn to self-harm. Living with depression makes sufferers feel very isolated, believing they have nothing to offer the world. If a child confides in you about self-harming thoughts, then you must seek professional support. A self-harming child is vulnerable, and they need your full support. 

Self-harm takes many forms, but there are some common ones:

  • Causing damage to the body through cutting or hitting.
  • Abusing dangerous substances like alcohol or drugs

Mental health is a complicated subject. But you cannot let it become a faux pas around the house. If you feel confused, you must approach medical experts. 

Self Injury Support This group supports young girls who have been affected by self-harm. 

Mind The charity Mind has created helpful video content about self-harm. Also, they offer good general advice about coping with mental health. 

Many mental health charities have sparked the national discussion on mental health. Mental Health Awareness Month in America and Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK both run in May. During this month, search for valuable resources that can assist you with understanding depression. 

Let’s start a conversation about mental health. Share this blog and information you find with your friends and spread awareness about the symptoms of depression in children. That’s the lesson kids should learn – start talking when you see a sign of bad mental health!


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