Posted: Sep 19, 2012 11:00 AM
Now that your child is a tween, she has more pressure on her than ever. We all have our ups and downs, but when she’s having a rough time, how do you know when to worry that it may be something more? The signs of depression in children may not always be obvious.

The tween years bring about many changes in your adolescent's life. The move to middle school brings added peer pressures, changing friendships and harder school work. Tweens are given more responsibilities at home and are expected to act more maturely than younger children. Schedules become crazier with sports and social activities, leaving tweens with less downtime than they previously had. Add in the hormones of puberty and it's no wonder tweens go through periods of feeling down, or even a bout of depression.

Is it depression, or more?

Many people mistakenly think that tweens are too young to suffer from actual depression. In reality, depression can affect tweens and even younger children. Knowing what to look for can help you recognize when a child needs help. Ignoring symptoms of depression -- or believing that a child will simply outgrow it -- can lead to devastating consequences. Untreated depression will continue to get worse, and may lead to self-harming behaviors, such as cutting or thoughts of suicide.

Signs to watch for

Symptoms of depression will not be the same for everyone, but here are a few signs to be watching for when your tween seems out of sorts:

Changes in sleep patterns^Difficulty sleeping or sleeping excessively can both be symptoms of underlying depression. Your child may be lacking the energy or will to get out of bed in the morning, causing her to spend most of her free time in bed. Insomnia and difficulties with staying asleep may also be a symptom.

Anger^ Most people would expect someone suffering from depression to feel sad all of the time, but many times tweens and teens become angry and agitated. If your tween is lashing out for no apparent reason, or seems unusually angry, it can be a sign of depression.

Feeling worthless, unengaged^ Does your tween express feelings about his life seeming pointless or worthless? Does he show a lack of interest in previous activities or seem to be withdrawing from friends? Lack of motivation and energy to do daily activities may be a clue.

Physical symptoms^ Depression may seem like it is all in your head, but there are distinct physical symptoms that can go hand-in-hand with depression: headaches, body aches, weight gain or loss, abdominal pain and generalized pain, can all be related to depression.

Changes in eating patterns^ Is your tween eating more than usual, or possibly no longer interested in eating? Both can signal underlying depression, especially in conjunction with any other symptoms.

By paying attention to changes in your tween's behavior, you may be able to spot depression before it gets worse. Know the signs and consult with your medical professional if you suspect that your tween may be suffering from depression.

More on parenting tweens

How to handle tweens with attitude
3 Things your tween daughter wants you to know
Signs you've got a gossip girl

Topics: puberty