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Depression or back-to-school blues?

How to know if your child is suffering

How to know if your child is suffering from depression or the back-to-school blues. Credit: iStock

Q. How can a parent tell whether a child is just feeling temporary "back-to-school blues" or is suffering from depression?

A. "It's very normal for kids to be grumpy and irritable coming back to school," says Deborah Serani, a Smithtown psychologist and author of the recently published "Depression and Your Child: A Guide for Parents and Caregivers" (Rowan & Littlefield, $27.25). "It's a tough time of year." The moodiness may last for a few weeks as kids adjust to new demands; it's when October hits that parents will better be able to tell whether kids need professional intervention, Serani says.

"Now is when kids are used to the new schedules," she says. The family should have a weekday routine down pat, and the kids should feel more predictability in their school days.

If a child still seems down, it might be time for some professional help, Serani says. "Kids have depression, just like adults do," she says, though their depression may present differently. "Kids don't have the verbal ability to express despair or hopelessness. They may say, 'My stomach hurts all the time' or 'I'm tired' or 'My head hurts.'"

If symptoms persist for an extended period -- not a day, not a week, but for two weeks or longer -- that indicates struggling, Serani says. She will be speaking on pediatric depression and signing her book at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Book Revue, 313 New York Ave., Huntington. It's free, and wine and cheese will be served.


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