What is typical sadness?
It’s typical for children and adolescents to feel down when bad or unexpected things happen—we all do. We then begin to feel better when things take a turn for the better. When children remain sad despite positive things happening to and around them, that is concerning.
When should I be concerned about a child’s sadness?
While children tend to be less moody, adolescents often are, so it can be difficult to recognize persistent sadness. Caregivers may first notice that their child stops participating in activities they would typically enjoy. Or perhaps, the child engages but does not enjoy themself. Excessive smartphone or computer use may also be indicative of a child or teen’s attempt to distract themself from feeling sad.
Signs that your child may be experiencing problematic or persistent sadness include:
- Being easily and frequently annoyed.
- Expressing hopeless feelings most of the time.
- Lacking energy or seeming lazy for most days.
- Losing interest in previously enjoyed activities.
- Having trouble concentrating, even in simple tasks.
- Having trouble making decisions.
- Struggling with or putting little effort into schoolwork.
- Saying negative things about themself.
- Expressing negative thoughts about the world, other people, and the future.
- Changing eating patterns for either eating too little or too much.
- Gaining or losing weight in a short period of time.
- Social withdrawal.
- Being tired much of the time.
- Having trouble sleeping.
What can I do to help a child with persistent sadness?
Caregivers know their children best. If you are a caregiver, there are a few things you may attempt:
- Be there for your child. You can provide quality time and a supportive ear to listen to your child or adolescent about what they are going through. If they can articulate what they believe is making them feel sad, acknowledge it and encourage an open, non-judgmental discussion.
- Suggest and encourage new experiences. Suggest your child to try new social activities or school clubs. Because children tend to withdraw when they are feeling sad and isolated, it is important for these students to be around others while participating in enjoyable activities.
- Encourage your child to engage in a healthy lifestyle. The body and mind are strongly connected. Eating the right food, exercising, and getting enough sleep can have a positive impact on an individual’s mood.
- Not having reasons to be sad is no reason to be happy. Sometimes it is hard to understand why children or teens feel sad when they seem to have everything they need. However, remember that feeling sad is not a choice.
- Avoid pushing too hard if you see that your efforts are not being very helpful. If your child is persistently sad or has lost interest in favorite activities, forcing them to have a good time or to participate will not help to improve their feelings. In that sense, avoid being critical to your child.
If you have already tried some or most of these suggestions and the problems your child is facing persist for more than a month, it may be time to seek out professional support.
Sadness that is too frequent, intense, present in many different contexts, discrepant from those experienced by children the same age, and that negatively interfere with your child and family’s daily lives may indicate the possibility of Depressive Mood Disorder.
What kind of professional support can I seek out for help?
It is not unusual that some caregivers feel embarrassed, inadequate, or guilty if their child is struggling with persistent sadness. But, if you are concerned about your child's excessive sadness, support and guidance are available now. Communicate concerns during and between visits with your child's doctor.
Pediatricians or family physicians can help to address initial concerns and refer to specialized professionals. Also, whenever possible, a consultation with a mental health professional may be helpful. These professionals also work with caregivers so that they know how to support their children outside of therapy sessions.
The public system provides services through the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) and Centers of Multidisciplinary Assessment, Counseling, and Support (KEDASY).
Where to find more information
Specific, detailed, and clinical information on Depressive Mood Disorder can be found at [clinical short guide at the program website].
If you want to know more about the closest available services for educational and public health systems for children and adolescent assistance across the country, go to our Services Mapping webpage here.
You can also find more information by pointing your phone camera at the QR code below or by clicking here.