Dealing with uncertainty often results in feelings of anxiety or uneasiness that can also lead to depression. For some parents, it is alarming that their child may be experiencing these types of emotions. Are you worried that your child may be experiencing feelings of anxiety or depression?

Parents may be afraid to talk or ask about the status of their child’s mental health. Many children, and their parents, experience anxiety or depression, especially during times of difficulty. Creating a safe space and initiating open communication with your child about their emotional wellbeing is extremely important as untreated anxiety can lead to more complex feelings of depression. 

Did you know that 1 in 10 teens suffer from depression and that half of them may be undiagnosed? Depression can hide itself. Sometimes it is hard to tell if your child is dealing with depression or normal adolescent moodiness. Teens may feel more irritable, bored, or angry rather than “sad”. On the other hand, younger children may act overly shy, overly tearful, or may suffer from extreme separation anxiety. 

If you have concerns that your child may be struggling with anxiety or depression, you can discuss them with your TopLine MD affiliated pediatrician.  

Here are some simple techniques that can help manage and alleviate any anxiety you and your child may feel:

  • Establish routines: Routines may have been altered or interrupted during the pandemic – and that’s okay. Establishing new routines and new schedules, such as going back to school (virtual or face-to-face), can be helpful for children to adapt and adjust during these times.
  • Ensure a full night’s rest: At least 8 hours! At the minimum, children should have 8 of the recommended 12 hours of sleep that can help avoid sleep deprivation, mood swings, and difficulties with concentration.
  • Promote daily exercise: Make sure children go outside and participate in at least 30 minutes of outdoor activities. This helps to break the monotony of daily routines indoors and can also improve their mood.
  • Decrease screen time: Screen time innately increases levels of anxiety. While children may be experiencing more screen time with virtual schooling, it’s important to encourage other activities such as coloring, reading a book, or playtime. Setting screen time boundaries for your child can also benefit your family by spending more quality time together. 
  • Take deep breaths: In moments of stress or anxiety, remind your child to pause and take deep breaths to redirect their focus on their breathing. This neurochemically stabilizes the body and mind. There are some guided breathing and meditation apps like Headspace or Calm that can guide you with exercises.
  • Promote hobbies: Hobbies, such as reading, writing, photography, swimming, gardening, and coloring, are great ways for children to spend their time and build their passions. With limitations for public gatherings, get creative at home with parent-child projects.  

It is important to note that if you or your child feel they need help in this area, your pediatrician has resources available and is here to support your family. During your next visit, let your pediatrician know that your family may be dealing with anxiety or depression and they will provide you with available options and next steps. 

Author: Ana M. Hernandez-Puga, MD, TopLine MD Alliance affiliated Pediatrician

Ana M. Hernandez-Puga

About Dr. Hernandez-Puga: Born and raised in Miami, Florida, Dr. Hernandez-Puga is glad to be working in her own community. She attended Immaculata-LaSalle High School in Coconut Grove, graduating at the top of her class. She received her undergraduate degree at Florida International University as a Faculty Scholar and then attended medical school at the University of Miami School of Medicine. Dr. Hernandez-Puga is specialty certified in Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine by the American Board of Pediatrics and the Florida Board of Medicine. She is a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics.