Q. I have a 6-year-old boy. I noticed problems a year ago when he made some comments that sent up huge red flags: "I know you hate me and want me to die;" "maybe I'll just cut my head off;" and several others. Needless to say, I freaked out and took him to a few child psychologists. They both told me that he seemed a little "low." They put him on Adderall, but he's such a picky eater and the Adderall suppressed his appetite even more. I took him off of it and he seemed a little better for a while. He isn't violent and doesn't act out. His social skills are good; he's well liked by his peers and teachers, but seems to lack self-confidence. I'm afraid to continue therapy because I don't want him to feel like there's something wrong with him. He's very sensitive. Lately, he's been saying things like "nobody likes me." Or if someone (his teacher or myself) raises their voice, he starts to cry and says "I'm sorry, I'm sorry" -- even for the most trivial things, i.e., "I've told you twice to hang up your coat." I think he's depressed but most of the information I've found on childhood depression is related to teens and not grade-school children. I don't know how to handle this. --ferndalemom
A. This one is so hard, isn't it? First, depression "used to be" something we only assumed was a teen problem. We now know otherwise. Our younger kids are also susceptible. So you are wise to use your instincts, which are always the best gauge.
Watch your child closely. Continue to tune into those red flags. Friendship -- or having trouble with friends -- is highly correlated to our children's self-esteem and a continuous lack of friends can trigger depression. My advice is to continue going to the therapist for a while (if you feel there is a connection between the psychiatrist and your child). Meanwhile, let's boost friendship skills.
Friendship is made up of scores of skills and they can all be taught. I wrote a book, Nobody Likes Me, Everybody Hates Me, which deals with the top 25 friendship problems. Right now, your child needs ONE buddy, just one. That pal can make such a difference. ANY pal at this point is fine. If you can't find one in his classroom, ask the teacher for recommendations. Are any of the kids befriending your child or is there one child who seems to be a good match for similar interests or temperament? If so, befriend the mother and start inviting that child over. You might have to practice friendship skills with a younger child, neighbor, or cousin. And set play dates up for success. They should be shorter rather than longer and you can help your child know how to be a good host. He might even call the child before he comes to your house and ask what he likes to do so you can make sure that activity is available. This way something fun will happen during their time together. It is also best not to have interruptions with other siblings around.
Finally, take care of you, Mom. Find a trusted friend, relative, or teacher who cares about your child and can offer sage advice. Hopefully, the psychiatrist has additional ideas.