Anxiety & Depression in Preteens

Parent Q&A

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  • 12 year old's Social Anxiety

    (1 reply)

    My 12 year old daughter has been diagnosed with social anxiety. I am looking for a therapist or group therapy for her. Any recommendations?  I am concerned shelter in place is going to make it worse. 

    We have an adult son who was diagnosed with social anxiety disorder and selective mutism from elementary school through high school. Through my advocacy work with the national non-profit for selective mutism, I've gotten to know several clinicians from the The Child Mind Institute. They have a large group specializing in anxiety disorders, including social anxiety. Check out their website,, which has a lot of good articles. Recently, Child Mind opened a clinic in San Mateo. The individuals I know are in the New York City clinic, but if I were looking for treatment for a child or teen with anxiety, I'd look into the San Mateo group. 

  • I have a son who has anxiety and fears which leads to him feeling bad.  I would like to help him learn some coping skills for his anxiety. He worries a great deal.  The "what if's?" are a big part of his thought process.  It makes me so sad.  I really want to help him.  I think with some tools he could really improve Does anyone know of any classes/workshops that teach coping skills for anxiety and fear for kids?  We live in Lafayette.  My son is 12 years old.  Or does anyone have an advice on how to help my son?  Would a meditation class help or yoga?  Any recommendations for kids classes here too.  Thanks for any help you can provide. 

    Dear Parent, 

    My son went through a period of anxiety in elementary school. We had good success using a self-help program called Turnaround - Turning Fear into Freedom. It is here:

    It consists of a workbook they complete and a series of characters acting out scenarios on the CDs. There is a parent CD too. I see they also have an online version now. My son liked the stories and the characters and liked working through at his own pace in an independent fashion. The program helps the child identify anxiety and how it affects them and then provides strategies for minimizing it's impact.

    We went from daily anxiety attacks to occasional ones and my son also gained confidence in himself.

    I highly recommend trying this program if your child is willing to work through it. There are drugs too, but I would try this first!


    Mom of mostly anxiety-free child!

    My 19 year old daughter suffers from anxiety and on medication. Not sure if you have thought to go this route.  She is also in therapy with Bay Area Children Association in Oakland and has done well there so not sure if you are doing therapy yet, but it will help him and the rest of the family.  Yoga would also help.  Any form of exercise helps a person with anxiety.  Just remember to listen and not try to fix everything for him.  You can be there to listen, hold his hand, and gently push, but be very gentle.  Start reading on anxiety, there are many on line articles and they help.  As for the what if's, - part of this is being 12 and part is the anxiety.  When he get's in his head, take him for a walk, get him out of his everyday world.  Ask him if he wants to talk, but do it away from the house.  Don't create bad energy in the house.  Anxiety can go into a panic attack very quickly so getting him outside away from the house really helps.  Even if he does not want to go, make him go, tell him you need the walk and the company.  Share with him your day, get him thinking outside the box.  Find out his interests and expand on them.  I hope this helps. Just love him.  Give him time and space.  I know what you are going through, it's hard and sad.  

  • Sad 10 year old

    (3 replies)

    Hi There,

    My 10yr old daughter will begin crying for no reason and tell me she feels sad, but has no idea why. I was diagnosed with depression 16 years ago and have been on low doses of medication ever since.  Could she have depression so young? I'm very concerned that she's feeling so sad and says she doesn't know why.

    Hello- It could be.  I recommend a proper dose of fish oil. Nordic natural sold at whole food makes a great on for kids- i think it is called jr.  All the research says anyone with depression should be on fish oil.  Also, I believe diet plays a crucial role.  Does she get enough protein? Also B vitamins, especially niacin.  Maybe she could have some blood work.  I have suffered with depression all my life and was on medication for 10 years.  Although it did help the side effects were terrible, dried out my mouth which cause a lot of decay! I have found proper nutrition and proper sleep are crucial.  I highly recommend the documentary called Food Matters.  Dr Andrew Saul talk alot about vitamins. You can see a clip from the film on youtube.  He also has a website called  Lastly any sort of cranial subluxation can cause depression.  I have a 10 yr old daughter and when her neck is "out" she is a train wreck.  I take her to dr Jill Hikari- she does not crack at ALL only use NSA which is completely non invasive and safe.  Also, hormores are starting, the fish oil can help regulate hormones.  All the best, Jennifer (school psychologist, MFT intern)

    Yes, she can be depressed at that age - especially as she's probably hitting the very beginning of puberty. You should talk to your doctor.

    Yes, you can have depression at 10 years old -- I did.  It's worth trying to identify specific problems triggering the depression. I don't know anything (pro or con) about anti-depression medication for kids her age, but there are other options to explore first.

    I'd recommend spending some time doing things with her -- she may open up during an afternoon of shopping or while on a hike. Especially at age 10, it's often hard to put a finger on whatever it is that's bothering you. She may be reacting to problems with a teacher, a friend, or a bully, or simply needing more mom time. .

    If that goes nowhere, try starting with some talk therapy with an adult she will like and trust before. Perhaps the school counselor can work with her, or you can find a highly recommended therapist. Also, look into some after-school activities she may enjoy.

    Like you, I take medication regularly now, but I do wonder if I would need to if someone had paid attention and provided a safe place for me to open up.

  • New to Kaiser - 12YO daughter's anxiety

    (7 replies)

    We are new to Kaiser and I would like to explore options for my daughter and hours of anxiety/hormones at age 12. How do I go about it? We do not have an established relationship with a pediatrician which makes it challenging. Any advice/refs would be so appreciated. I prefer Kaiser Alameda or San Leandro vs Oakland. Also- I have heard Kaiser is not very good for mental health - is it true??

    Thanks BPN community--

    Hello! We recently used Kaiser for our son's anxiety issues. We got a referral to the Mental Health department through his pediatrician. I don't think that you need to have a long relationship with a pediatrician to get the referral. My son met with a psychologist but because he is only 7, it was difficult for him to talk about his feelings even though I felt the psychologist was doing a great job with him. We followed her recommendation and had him attend their 5 week "Unwind" class (a more kid-friendly name than "anti-anxiety) and it was helpful. We will now see how he does; if things go well, that's great, but if not the next step will be to discuss the possibility of medication.

    We currently go to the Mental Health department in Pleasanton. However, we have also worked with the department in Oakland and were pleased with our care. Good luck!

    YHello, I recommend Dr. Sue Minger at the Alameda medical offices.  She is soft spoken, but always approachable, andyou speaks directly to my 13 YO son about his health and concerns.  She also asks if Mom should leave the room if there's anything he wants to discuss without me there (and I'm OK with that).  Go online and make an appointment with her or call the Member Services number on the back of your card if will not let you do so (it can be squirrelly).  Inform them you're new to KP and want to book with Dr. Minger. FYI, that's one of my least favorite things about Kaiser:  you have to be assertive and direct them rather than the other way around.

    As far as mental health, yeah, they are rather understaffed.  I recommend Ed Spolarich in juvenile behavioral health, which (unfortunately) is in Oakland.  He helped my son through some really rough times in school.  Because they are understaffed, one generally gets one appointment every three weeks or per month, unless, again, you're the squeaky wheel.

    Another alternative to consider to individual counseling are the group sessions that KP offers at the Oakland behavioral health site.  We've successfully used them for general information sharing, coping strategies and social skills building.  We also met a social worker that we worked with as part of the classes named Adrian Rivera who was very good at getting to root causes of issues, and would have an individual session with a parent and/or child if he felt it would help.

    So, bottom line, behavioral health at Kaiser is crowded, but if you are assertive and insist on services, their social workers and counselors are responsive and caring.  I think it's just a matter of getting a toe hold into the system.

    Yes, in the past they had an inadequate number of clinicians. But they've upped their staff (it will still take 3 to 4 wks to get a first appt so call soon. I go to Oakland and have been pleasantly surprised by the effectivess of my treatment. (I am a trained LMFT.)
    A friend's teen is seen weekly so I know that's possible if needed. Non Kaiser clins can run $130 +. Hang in there

    The mental health part of Kaiser is somewhat separate from the rest- you do not need a referral from a pediatrician, the intake is directly through child and family psychiatry (Google that for the number). The only locations in the East Bay are Oakland or Richmond, so Alameda and Dan Leandro are not possible. Give them a call during their regular hours and they'll take your name and number and have an intake person call you "within 24 hours" to get more information (we went through this in October... It took them 4 days to call me back). Kaiser has been sued in the past, multiple times apparently, so their system is a combination of a reaction to that and their normal standardized set of treatments. From what I hear (not my personal experience in the mental health department), their first step is the same as in their medical areas: first you take a class or series of classes, then if you want to continue on, you may get individual sessions. So your daughter would probably start in their next available anxiety/depression class, then after 6 weeks or so of that, could see a therapist or doctor. The other possibility (probably a result of the lawsuits) is if your child is a danger to herself/others, but then your option is to go to the ER and a member of the child psych team will evaluate to see if they need to do an involuntary 72 hour hold. If your child is not in immediate danger and is safe to send home but does need serious help, at that point you may be able to make an appointment to see a doctor individually without jumping through the classes hoop.

    Personally, we opted to pay out of pocket for private therapy rather than subject our child to that red tape, but we were just seeking counseling, not medication. If we were considering medication, we'd have to jump through one of those 2 hoops first. Since you said you want to explore options, looking into the classes may be a right and good step for you to take.

    Hi - Try Dr. Phoung as a pediatrician (san Leandro). We had her for a very short time but liked her. She was the in between pedi when our pedi from birth transferred and after meeting her a couple of times our kids wanted to go to the "teen"dr (they were 14-15) and didn't like sitting in the waiting room with little kids).  You just need a referral to mental health from whomever you choose for her pedi.  The pedi's at Kaiser do not get invovled much in mental health. Once you get a referral,if you can make it to Union City, I recommend it.  They have great therapists, children psychiatrists and classes to Learn methods on how to lessen anxiety,etc.  They also have support classes for parents.  If you go with a thetapist request one who sees mainly pre teens and teens.  Ask your daughter whether she likes her therapist and if not ask to meet with another one.  Good luck

    Some info you may not have heard (your doctor either, unfortunately...).  If you daughter snores, is a mouth breather, or grinds her teeth - she is probably experiencing apnea, which will cause anxiety as well as other negative effects on her whole system (just as it does at any age).  Tongue tie can cause her to do any of the three, as well as cause other issues.  She may have nutritional deficiencies (D, Bs, iodine, magnesium, etc) and/or an MTHFR mutation (easy blood test or 23nMe) which have been linked to higher rates of depression, anxiety, bi-polar, and more.   Kaiser may be able to help, or not.  A functional medicine doctor can.  So often these days young girls/teens are being given birth control pills when there are better and more natural ways to deal with menstrual difficulties.  And it is looking like many of those who do not have regular periods for at least two years are not developing enough glandular breast tissue to breastfeed.  Not always obvious, because they can develop breasts - but w fatty tissue, not glandular tissue.  

    If you have Kaiser coverage through UC Berkeley you also have a "carve out" benefit included with Optum providers. Contact the UC Berkeley benefits department or call Optum directly 1(888)440-8225. The website is

  • Hi there,

    My husband and I are looking for recommendations for an SF-based pediatric psychiatrist for our 11 year-old daughter. We've always thought she was predisposed to anxiety and lately it's become clear that she needs more help/support than we can give her, possibly in the form of medication. We are insured through Kaiser but I don't trust them with this matter (I am a patient of their psych department so I speak from experience). Can anyone please recommend someone in the SF area who might be available to help? The UCSF Child Psych (Langley Porter) facility looks promising but I'd like to approach them with a few names if possible. Also, if you have pointers about paying for this, since it would be out of our Kaiser network, I'm all ears. A single evalution is $651-$872 per 45-minute session and we just don't have that kind of money. Your advice is gratefully appreciated. Thank you.

    Beside Myself with Worry

    Dr. Dongmei Yue

    +1 (415) 600-0997

    She's with CPMC. Excellent credentials. 


    Although I don't have a recommendation, I do agree that Kaiser for therapy is not realistic due to the distance between sessions. However, you can still have appts for medication purposes and see someone cheap on the outside. What I am saying is that you don't need a MD on the outside because you will have that in Kaiser for meds. My daughter saw a therapist on the outside at about your daughter's age for anxiety and eventually - at start of HS - we went to sertraline. It was a huge success - so many problems resolved themselves and although she was a bit more uninhibited initially until we got the dose right, it has made a huge difference in success socially for her. I am glad you are considering meds because it might take both a load off of you and her.

    We've faced similar challenges at that age, and found it was related to undiagnosed non-attentive ADHD. Cognitive behavioral therapy has been wonderfully helpful to our daughter. We see someone in Berkeley - Ilyana Romanovsky - who has been great, and don't have advice for SF, but I'd suggest looking for CBT if you can. It will get better. Good luck!

Archived Q&A and Reviews


7th grader hit puberty and is so sad!

June 2012

My 7th grader just hit puberty and all of a sudden is so sad! She was never like this before, and I don't remember being like this (although apparently my sister was). She cries and cries, alone in her room. We have always been very close, and now she just wants to be alone in her room. Normal things that I used to do (like open her shades in the morning, or open her window) she gets very upset about. I am finding that I cannot keep up! She went from being a little girl to a teenager literally over night (I have read about this, but could not imagine it ever happening to my daughter). She has always been exceedingly sweet and honest and caring, and over night she is moody, crying, sad, and very frustrated. Is this simply puberty? Will it mellow out? I am surprised at how lost I feel. Advice from those who have walked this path would be wonderful! Mom of teen

A friend of mine likened the onset of puberty to being hit by a truck - all of a sudden, everything is different. And very difficult. I think it's particularly hard if you had a close relationship with your daughter, as I had. It takes a while for everyone to adjust to the new dynamic. So first, give yourself a break. No, the sweet pre-adolescent girl is not going to return, so it's appropriate to grieve that loss. And your role is most effective if you're a little detached. (My stock response for a couple of years - once I adjusted to my new role - was ''I'm so sorry you feel that way.'') The good news is that they do return. My sister, who teaches high school, tells mothers of her students ''A monster is going to take over your daughter for 5 years, but at the end of those 5 years the monster leaves and you get your daughter back.'' For us it wasn't a full 5 years, but I could tell crazy stories about lying, meanness, betrayal. That said, now I'm now calmly teaching my 15-year-old daughter how to drive a stick shift, and on New Year's Day she actually said to me ''Mom, it's, like, such a relief that I don't have to lie to you...'' Take a deep breath. Find fellow mothers to commiserate with. It's not going to be easy, but it won't last forever. Good luck. Been there.

I missed your question the other week, but saw this week's response and want to reiterate that although the initial shock of adolescent moodiness/nastiness/coldness is pretty awful, daily life eventually improves quite a lot, usually after two or three years. If it's any consolation, our daughters DO realize, sooner or later, when they've been mean; mine would sometimes apologize very sweetly for being cruel, especially if she was left alone or allowed to talk out her emotions. I think they actually want to stay close, but worry that they can't grow up unless they separate (and that's probably true). And I really agree with the value of becoming detached. I found life worked best when I refused to be treated rudely, but reacted to her moods as calmly as possible, even if it meant I had to go out later and take a walk to cool down.

One idea: See if you can get her laughing. I'm convinced that a lot of teenage awfulness resides in their emotional turmoil and the resulting physical stress and snappiness. When my daughter was being obnoxious, I'd suggest an after-dinner Monty Python or M*A*S*H episode, and that almost always lightened things (and gave her an excuse to mellow out while still saving face). Also, look at Mike Riera's books on parenting teenagers--very good, practical advice.

Lastly, if your daughter is on the intense and obsessive side, this is a useful technique when she gets into an emotional tailspin and won't be consoled. I came across it a few years ago, and realized I had done the same thing with my girl (only less structured and minus the new-agey trappings):

Best wishes to you and your daughter. Some day she'll be pleasant company again, and probably love and admire you all the more for putting up with her so gracefully. Melanie


Relaxation Tape for 12 yr Boy with Anxiety

Dec 2011

My 12 year old son has situational anxiety/panic issues related to when he goes to the dentist for anything else but a cleaning or has to go the doctor for shots. I am looking for an mp3 relaxation or hypnosis recording he can listen to that can be download from the web. Most importantly it needs to be a recording that a 12 year boy can relate to (i.e., no flowery imagery ). Any suggestions?

If you would like a tailored MP3 recording, I have seen a great hypnotherapist named Lucy Seligman who does a session and records it. She is really talented, and I think the benefits of a specifically-tailored recording might be worth the price. Right now she has a holiday deal for $55 per session; you can contact her at 510 710 3917, or email her at lucy [at] The MP3 recording is included in the price. Christine

Here's an idea. On his own or with you, create an mp3 based on images and ideas and perhaps music or sounds that your son loves and that calm him down. Decades ago when I got divorced, I recorded an inspiring poem in my own voice and played it over and over before I left for work each morning. It was empowering to hear my own calm voice claiming all this good. You can use your phone (free conference services offer recordings of calls or your cell phone may have an app), the computer, or a recorder. Record instructions like breathe deeply and relax the body parts; picture, feel, hear, taste whatever he feels will calm him. Reply if you want some more ideas how to do this. Even if you purchase a professional recording, this might be an additional tool that will empower your son. Nancy

We've had good luck with a small, portable device called Stress Eraser (, which helps users modulate their breathing and heart rate. It's not an audiotape, but it trains people how to control feelings of panic. Once you learn how to do this, it often just takes a minute or two with the device to get yourself back to a better place. It also helps with stress-related insomnia. Best of luck. Margaret S.

12 year old with anxiety attacks

Sept 2008

My twelve year old niece suffers from anxiety attacks. In her mom\x92s words, she gets stuck in a \x93whirlpool of worries that she can\x92t get out of.\x94 Her mom has found books directed at the parents of children struggling with anxiety, but I\x92m wondering if anyone has any suggestions for books or programs for the children themselves. Thanks. Concerned uncle

Both my girls went through the same thing - it started around age 11. Check out ''Dr. Fear'' who teaches phobease group classes for kids at Kaiser Valleojo twice a year. You don't have to be a Kaiser member, the cost is resonable (? 100 for 6 weeks). He uses cognitive behavioral therapy techniques - will give homework each week. Very empowering for the kids to see they aren't ''crazy'' and that there are very concrete things that they can do to stop the anxiety. I think the next class starts in October. Google it for contact info. grateful mom

I don't know where you're located but UC Berkeley's Psychology Dept has interns who do therapy under the guidance of an experienced therapist. You can specify cognitive therapy, gender of therapist, etc. I would recommend the cognitive behavioral therapy for this, having gone through it with my child very successfully. Who knows if later she may benefit from traditional therapy, but this is where I'd start. If you're not near there I suppose you could try calling other universities? Oh, the benefit, excellent work at a sliding scale. - been there

Hello, I think it would be helpful for your niece to actually learn some strategies for dealing with anxiety. I have an anxiety prone 6-year old and my mom got her a CD which teaches her relaxation and mindfulness strategies. It is called: ''Still quiet place:playful practice to promote health and happiness'' by Amy Saltzman MD (contact info is dramy [at] She may also have a CD for older kids, but I have to say I enjoy this one myself when I feel stressed. mgh