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Can my DS1 (5) be depressed? Is this normal behaviour?

(16 Posts)
Pixipie Thu 13-Mar-14 20:01:35

I feel at the end of my tether and I would really appreciate some advice as I feel like I have lost sight of what is normal or not. DS1 (5 and a half) is a model student at school, in Yr 1 and seemingly happy, lots of friends, fairly quiet in class but studious, works hard, likes his teacher etc. However at home he seems constantly miserable, to the extent that this evening he told me he is "never happy at home" (said during a heart to heart conversation rather than in a fit of rage) which understandably made me feel incredibly sad. I love both my DSs to bits and gave up my job to be a SAHM a year ago to spend more time with them and try and help their childhoods be happy and fun. Whatever we do after school / on the weekend seems to make DS1 upset - he complains & moans about EVERYTHING, yet most things we do are things for him and his younger brother, all the usual boys' weekend stuff, ie football, trips to the playground etc. There is always some tantrum from DS1, whatever we do, to the point that I feel it is futile to try and organise anything fun for them at all at the weekend / after school as DS1 just is so negative about everything. The only thing he genuinely seems to enjoy at home is playing on the iPad on his own, which he is only allowed to do as a treat at the weekend if he has behaved well. I don't know if this is normal behaviour for a boy of this age, as he really seems to have some deep-rooted sadness despite coming from a very loving home. I am unsure of whether to take any action like speaking to a psychologist - which seems a drastic step - or just to ride this out and hope he 'gets happier'. Any advice from anyone who has experienced similar behaviour would be much appreciated!

ianleeder Thu 13-Mar-14 20:18:20

Does he have any friends at school? Are they any after school activities which he can go to with his friends?

Pixipie Thu 13-Mar-14 20:27:47

He has lots of friends and does lots of activities, but always complains before / after "I hate football / tennis" etc. He is just an incredibly negative child but not sure if this is normal for a 5 yo boy or if there is more to it.

Misty9 Thu 13-Mar-14 20:35:24

How long has this been going on? Is it possible he's worrying about something at home/school? Could be worth reading a book like "big bag of worries" and seeing if it raises anything? (I am a psychologist if that helps...) given his age, did he start school last September? How was that?
How much younger is his brother? Do they get on? How has their relationship been in the past?

What about if he's given the choice of what the family do? Could you jointly have a list of activities he likes doing?
Excuse all the questions!

kalidasa Thu 13-Mar-14 20:38:38

Hmm is there anyone who might be 'modelling' this behaviour? You don't sound negative yourself but what about your partner or someone else living with you - is there anyone who has a habit of speaking negatively about things even if they don't really mean it?

Our local children's centre has an in-house psychologist - might be worth ringing somewhere like that and seeing what they suggest or if there's someone you could see, even just for a one-off discussion?

DeWe Thu 13-Mar-14 20:55:13

Is he using it as an attention getter?

My db was like this right the way up.
"Would you like to do <insert treat>?"
"I suppose if I have to, but I'm only doing it because you want to. I won't enjoy it."

That meant two things, firstly if it wasn't as fun as it was expected to be he could blame dp for taking him, and if it was he'd claim another treat for "doing it for dp". hmm Dp used to get so worried that he was "always having a dreadful time" that they offered him things that me and dsis could have only dreamt of.

Worked well for him until he was 14/15yo when he replied to an offer of a treat in his usual way, something else came up and he wasn't taken. he then had a major strop because they weren't going. That made dp realise how much of an attention seeking act it was. Once they stopped throwing things at him to try and get some pleasure from him, he started appreciating things a lot more.

Pixipie Thu 13-Mar-14 20:59:21

Thanks for the replies. This has been going on ever since I can remember - he has always been very negative. I don't think DH or I are particularly negative, although I will keep an eye out for similar behaviour from us as perhaps we are unaware of it in ourselves? School has always been fine as far as I am aware, I help in the classroom one day a week so can see firsthand there are no obvious issues. In fact he seems a lot happier at school than at home sad. His brother is nearly 3 years younger and v much in the terrible twos at the moment - in fact he is very difficult and DS1 recognises it and is very mature about it, ie DS1 encourages DS2 to eat his supper etc. I love the idea of a joint list of activities Misty9 - although I fear his contributions will consist of iPad / TV and activities that are unrealistic for the average weekend / after school, ie Natural History Museum etc!

Misty9 - as a psychologist do you think it is possible for a 5 yo to be mildly depressed? There just seems no reason for it which perplexes me as we are a genuinely happy family with no major worries, which sounds smug but it makes me more concerned about DS1's behaviour.

Queenofknickers Thu 13-Mar-14 21:03:34

My DS was diagnosed with depression at 5 - he had 2 years of therapy (sand tray, mask painting etc) and books like 'my big bag of worries' and he got through it. Big hug to you - seeing your child unhappy is so painful x

oolaroola Thu 13-Mar-14 21:04:15

Perhaps he's very tired? School makes my 6 yo DS very tired and sometimes he seems down because of this. It comes in phases, but he perks up in the holidays.
He also just wants to watch tv or play on an iPad when he's knackered.
I think school is very hard at this age - out of reception, more work expected and the social side of things is tough.

Pixipie Thu 13-Mar-14 21:37:51

Oolaroola I think he is tired a lot. He is the youngest in his year and school does take it out of him, but not sure what the answer is. I don't want to just let him sit in front of a screen every afternoon and all weekend, and I think it's important for him to try activities and clubs etc, and to play with his brother. Also, we live in a part of London where there is definite competitive parenting, and I am conscious (rightly or wrongly) that I don't want DS1 to be left behind if we stop his sports activities and everything else he complains about and let him just do what he likes (ie mooch about the house, watch TV / iPad).

Misty9 Thu 13-Mar-14 21:40:20

It's certainly possible to have an episode of low mood as a young child - and sadly it's on the increase in children generally. Is he open with you about his feelings? You said the 'unhappy at home' comment wasn't said in anger, so did he elaborate?

One thing to try is role playing, or play targeted to any potential problem. For example, with a dolls house to replicate the routines/environment of home; with two dolls (one older than the other) to role play any feelings he might have about his brother (or two of any toy, dinosaurs etc)
You could role play a family and a conversation about what they choose to do at the weekend?

Wrt a list of activities, initially ignore any constraints like time/money (don't make any promises at this point!) then slowly filter it down and suggest things related to the unfeasible options - this way you can come up with ideas you might never have thought of smile

One thought - is his reaction similarly negative if it's an activity with just you/his dad? Do you remember him being an especially negative toddler, before his sibling came along?

I can imagine it must be really tough to see your child seeming so down; is it possible that he feels pressured to enjoy things, and therefore doesn't? How do you respond to his negative comments?

MerryMarigold Thu 13-Mar-14 21:48:12

He is very young and it sounds like he just needs a bit more winding down, even at the weekend. How about fun but relaxing things like making a den in the living room and watching a DVD? Also my dh takes my kids out individually for hot chocolate, cake and chat. It is not stressful/ high energy and they always come back glowing. I think some kids have a more melancholic temperament and always will have (my ds1 is very anxious), but talking through stuff is good too. I genuinely think he sounds like he needs to relax more. Maybe he feels more pressure at home, our maybe his brothers behaviour gets to him...

MrsRuffdiamond Thu 13-Mar-14 22:15:24

I can appreciate where you're coming from, op, re: not wanting ds to miss opportunities with activities etc., but certainly during infants school, I can remember my 3 ds not being able to cope with anything more than school, downtime (yes, it was vegging in front of tv or the Super Nintendo I got at a car boot!) ) spellings, reading for school, tea and bed during the week.

We didn't really branch out into after-school activities till they were at Junior school (yr3). It hasn't held them back!

I personally think the benefits of sometimes just 'chilling' are hugely underestimated. Maybe you could try letting him have just a little more ipad/tv time during the week?

For better or worse, tv and games are quite important for children when socialising, as they are such a common denominator. Maybe he hears other children talking about what they have watched/played on and feels like he's missing out?

Pixipie Fri 14-Mar-14 09:47:05

Thank you for all the replies - we have planned a 'DS1' day tomorrow where we have a day out of his choice, and I have explained that it will be a much happier day (and therefore likely to be repeated) if there is no moaning / complaining. Also I have taken on board the need for more chill time, maybe an hour every now and again slumped in front of Ben 10 is not such a bad thing. I'll see how we go but am feeling more positive about it all today, thanks.

MerryMarigold Fri 14-Mar-14 10:22:41

Sounds good. You could perhaps say that he will have a chance to say all the things he would change about the day when you have a chat at bedtime or when you get home so he doesn't feel like he HAS to enjoy it (can make it harder to enjoy). As an aside, my kids are allowed to tell me things they don't like, but not to use a moany voice. I am deaf to moany voices!

Flexiblefriend Fri 14-Mar-14 10:31:23

I think the extra chill time is a very good idea. My DD is 6, so one of the oldest in Y1, and she really needs half an hour after school to switch her brain off and sit in front of the TV like a zombie. Once she has had that, and a snack, she is able to cope with doing different things, but she gets very upset if we have to go straight out after school.

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