Can young children be depressed? I’ve come to realize something very important, 2nd grade is a turning point in a child’s life. This is where, as the Big Guy says, the rubber meets the road. Education gets real serious, real fast. Last year was playtime, this year is planners and hours of homework and violin and pre-ballet has now turned to ballet and there is no more time for childish games. Suddenly, everyone is serious.
This is the year that our children really begin to take it all in. It’s the year that grades are beginning to count, teachers expectations are raised and the age of reason. Obliviousness and the carefree, reckless abandonment of being a preschooler has to be shelved and children are forced to grow up in many ways. I’ve noticed this for my daughter and I’m not sure I like it, at all.
Clothes are starting to not feel appropriate because of her height. Flowers and polka dots are no longer an option and things like spaghetti straps and jeans cut to fit prepubescent Tweens have come into play. I do not approve. I don’t buy those pieces of clothing but we are quickly running out of options.
Kids at school are starting to have later bed times, watch different shows and think in a way that my daughter is not ready to do. Being that they are 7/8, they like to refer to the “younger” children as babies. I’ve known this & I’ve told her to ignore them because to me, it doesn’t seem like a big deal. But to her it is and that is what counts.
I’m a grown woman, I know that being called a baby may hurt but in the grand scheme of things it means nothing. I forgot to little people, the grand scheme of things doesn’t extend past their tiny worlds. Kids are labeling one another boyfriend & girlfriend & cliques are forming. Kids are starting to feel left out. It’s painful to see our children flounder in this part.
Add to that the fact that this is also the year when ballet gets harder. It’s the year of expectations and, as I found out from observation day, there’s a lot of constructive criticism falling on the ears of children, who up until now have only heard praise.
Put it all together; add to it an exhaustive rehearsal schedule & rigorous homework schedule & you end up with a mental breakdown. Or at least we did this past Saturday night.
It’s not like when she was a toddler. I know tired kids get cranky and stressed adults get irritable but all I need is look to myself for reference and I can see clearly that when I am overworked, overtired and feeling vulnerable, it’s not too hard to make me cry. Saturday night should not have been a complete shock that left me speechless but it did.
I sat their listening as a simple request that the girls go to bed quickly spun out of control & before we knew it, I was sitting in my office consoling a 7-year-old who is at her wits end. It’s hard to find the words for when grown up problems are coming out of your 7-year-olds mouth.
She’s feeling overwhelmed by all of her activity, the expectation at school & home combined with the constructive criticism at ballet & violin, add to that the social aspect of 2nd grade, the day-to-day roller coaster of popularity, and a severe lacking of free time and it’s all becoming too much.
As the parent, it’s so easy to only recognize what “we” are doing for our children, to make life better to give them all the things they want & need & we get caught up trying to get these things done & we miss what they need the most, our attention to the little things, the things maybe only a mother would notice.
Believe me, I sat in that room for a couple hours, my heart breaking with hers, feeling small and guilty for failing her. This is not debatable , for her to feel this way and be so overwhelmed and, dare I say, depressed, I have monumentally failed her as a mother. There is nothing sadder in the world than a truly sad, deflated and lonely child. No child deserves to feel that way, ever.
I should have known before a breakdown that it was too much for her to handle. I know this semester has been stressful. I can feel it. There is NO downtime. After exhausting every question I could think of to try and pull out the root, I realized its all the things that I mentioned above and one more was too much for her little shoulders to bear.
An older girl she looked up to at school( who is a talented singer) belittled her singing ( which by the way my daughter herself is a great singer, for 7-years-old) it made her feel so small that she thought she would disappear and she got frightened and lashed out and broke down to make sure we were paying attention.
It’s miserable to feel so helpless but I am so glad that now I am aware of how she is feeling. Sunday, I declared a day off. I’m so behind and the house is a complete wreck but my daughters were smiling, giggling & happy and that is all I wanted. That’s a band-aid for now. We’ve decided to streamline the schedule so that the weekends are free. We told her that she has to honor her obligations until the end of the school year but after the holidays, more play will be replacing obligation. There has to be decompression. I talked to her about the kid at school and I emailed the teacher to make him aware of the situation because when my kid comes home deflated because someone else told her that doing something she loves so much makes her sound like a “washed up cow” that’s not okay.
I’m paying attention now. I’ve got my mommy senses on high alert and I have a recommendation for a therapist. The situation has been addressed through the school and we’ve talked it out. My daughter needs to know that I am always here for her and that my top priority is to make sure that she feels safe. I can’t make people like her but I can make her feel secure enough in who she is and that she has unconditional support and love. My biggest fear is that one-day a 7-year-old turns into a 12-year-old who can’t take it anymore and throws herself off a bridge.
I have to make this right. It’s not okay for 7-year-olds to feel so overwhelmed and beaten down by life that they want to quit school. I often joke that I would beat up bullies to protect my children and I probably would but the most important thing is not beating up the bully, it is making my own children not feel powerless against the bullies of the world. As parents, we need to stay aware of what is going on in our children’s lives, who their friends are, how their days went and more importantly how they are feeling. Being overwhelmed is like drowning in sadness and obligation. I wouldn’t let me child drown in water; I won’t let them drown in sadness.
This situation is new to me and I don’t want to fuck it up, my kid’s self-esteem depends on it. What would you do if your kid was being bullied and felt depressed?