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Psychotherapy and Mental Health questions

Worried About 4-year-old with Depression

Mon, Apr 18th 2011

Good Morning Dr. Schwartz:

Perhaps you could make some general comments regarding my 4-year-old daughter. I am trying to decide if I need to seek professional help or if we can do something as parents to weather or improve an ongoing concern.

I am in the military (mother) and have traveled a great deal while my daughters are young (now 8 and 4 years old). The absences have not exceeded a couple of weeks at a time, but for a while they were frequent and soon will be again. Both girls are in the German schools system and are fluent in German (we live abroad). The eldest is happy and outgoing - a joiner. The youngest is in a very nurturing kindergarten and gets on well with her peers and sister.

Our concern: The 4-year has a wide, extreme range of responses to situations. One minute she's enraged, the next she's crying inconsolably. She destroys things on purpose and can be very oppositional. Even at an early age, when upset, she would crawl or run away and hide her face and refuse comfort. I have always approached this by holding her anyway, and being with her until she calms down. But at times she has seemed simply sad.

Three factors that may have affected her - I had an extremely high stress pregnancy. Also, her father and I have had some serious marital problems and arguments - some of which have left the children frightened and in tears. The marriage is on much better terms now and the arguing in front of the girls has ceased for the most part. We are working hard on the family atmosphere and the girls are enjoying this. Also, I think her father and I are both prone to depression ourselves although we have different ways of expressing it. He gets grouchy. I get sad.

The oldest daughter and I have been able to talk about much of this and she seems to have a good sense of control and security. I can't say the same for the youngest and am not sure how to approach it with her.

Do you have suggestions for approaching this? I am thinking in terms of improving the sense of security and resiliency in my youngest and could use some advice. I also would like to know what to look for in case there is a more serious problem. I am not a fan of medications for young ones and want to avoid this if possible. Many thanks.

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