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How to Deal With Mood Swings in Kids With Down Syndrome

by Shellie Braeuner

Children with Down syndrome have many of the same emotional issues of any other child, including mood swings. However, many of these children lag behind their peers in their ability to express feelings or triggers to their emotions. This means that parents must work harder to identify and help their child who has Down. According to Dr. Sue Buckley, founder of Down Syndrome Education International, social competence is the singlemost defining factor of a Down syndrome child’s well-being as an adult.

Take your child to the doctor. Mood swings can have a physical cause. Many Down syndrome children lack the ability to fully realize or express any changes in their bodies. Some health challenges are due to the chromosomal issues surrounding Down syndrome, such as hypothyroidism, sleep apnea or leaking heart valves. All three are associated with fatigue and depression. In addition, poor muscle tone causes constipation in some Down syndrome children, leaving them uncomfortable and moody. Make sure to check your child's vision and hearing for any problems that might lead to unnecessary frustration. Taking your child for a physical can rule out any medical reasons for the mood swings or treat the underlying physical cause.

Set bedtime routines and stick to them. Dr. Nicole Phillips with the University of Michigan found that children with Down syndrome didn’t sleep as well as their peers. These children tend to wake in the night, spend less time in restful sleep and more time sleeping lightly than other children the same age. This leaves many children tired during the day and more likely to experience mood swings. Parents can combat this problem by setting predictable bedtimes and preparing the child with relaxing routines. Limit stimulants such as caffeine that might be found in soda or chocolate. Talk to your child's pediatrician about any medications that might contain a stimulant such as decongestants.

Look for social outlets for your child. Down syndrome children need healthy peer interaction, just like any other child. However, your child might need a sheltered environment. Look for outings such as camps specifically designed for Down syndrome children. Talk to teachers, scout leaders or club moderators to ensure that your child’s social needs are met.

Encourage your child’s independence. From a young age, allow your child to be as independent as possible. Reward age-appropriate activities and behaviors. Don’t allow other family members or those outside the family to “baby” your child. By teaching your child independence, you help her explore her own abilities and learn confidence.

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