Every child naturally has times when they feel happy and when they feel down. There’s usually a specific reason they feel this way. Often these low patches naturally right themselves over time and with your support.
But you may feel worried that your child seems withdrawn all the time.
You may notice they:
- Seem less interested in previous hobbies and interests
- Are becoming quieter
- Spend more time alone
- Don’t want to join in or avoid situations
- Are becoming less communicative
- Don’t seek adult attention
Talk to your child about what you can see. You could say, “I’ve noticed you’re not seeing your friends anymore. That makes me think you might feel upset or worried about something. Could you tell me about it?” Naming the emotion helps them to better express how they feel.
If your child struggles to talk to you, you could make guesses about what the problem is so they can agree or correct you. Be open and listen when they talk. Let them share their feelings and avoid leaping in to solve their problems for them.
There may be a specific reason why your child is becoming more withdrawn.
Common problems include:
- Academic worries and exam pressure
- Friendship problems
- A change to family circumstances
- Ill health
- Changing schools
Often, children seem withdrawn when they have low-self esteem. Praise your child, be positive and encouraging, and tell them what they are good at rather than giving them “tough love” or expecting them to get over these feelings.
Encourage them to have positive social interactions. If they are overwhelmed at big parties, you might just have one friend over for a playdate instead.
If your older child seems withdrawn
It’s normal for your relationship with your child to change as they grow older and go through puberty. It can be hard for you when they talk to their friends about problems they would previously have brought to you.
They may also make decisions they think you wouldn’t approve of and want to hide them from you.
Try to keep the lines of communication open and show them they can talk to you about any worries or problems.
If they do share something you disapprove of, avoid condemning them and instead explain why you don’t agree with their choice. Remind them you love them and you trust them to make their own decisions.
When to seek help
If you notice a sudden change in your child’s behaviour or it’s affecting their daily life, you need to seek help from your GP.
Behaviour you should be concerned about includes:
- Feeling misunderstood by everyone
- Becoming isolated from friends and family
- Thinking they are worthless and unimportant
- Stopping doing the things they usually enjoy
- Struggling in school
- Talking about or starting to self harm
- Risky behaviour such as drug taking and alcohol use
For further support, the Young Minds website has a range of parent resources about depression and low moods that can help if you’re concerned that your child is becoming increasingly withdrawn.