10 Ideas to Support Persistent Child Sadness

persistent child sadness

Reading time: 3 minutes

Suitable for: Families of primary-age children

It’s difficult to deal with child sadness. While we want our children to have wonderful careers, a family of their own, and a healthy income, the thing you probably want most for your child is for them to be happy. 

So when you notice your child seems frequently sad, it can be very challenging to deal with.

Why do some children feel sad all the time?

Long-lasting, persistent depression in young children is unusual. But many will go through periods of sadness. Some children are simply more sensitive to strong emotions and seem to feel them more deeply.

For others, difficult life circumstances have an enormous impact on their overall happiness:

  • Financial hardship
  • Family turbulence
  • Changes to circumstances
  • Family or personal ill health
  • Low self-esteem
  • Friendship issues and bullying

If your child is feeling low because of a specific life event, like a bereavement, they will most likely adjust to the change over time. Circumstances may change or they’ll learn how to think about the situation in a more positive way. 

What does persistent child sadness look like?

Everyone feels sad from time to time, usually because of a specific reason. Persistent child sadness lasts for longer and isn’t necessarily triggered by one event.

You might notice your child is:

When we feel down, our brains focus on the negatives. Your child might say they feel sad all the time, and will struggle to remember any of the good things that are happening in their life. 

Happy family going for a walk

10 ideas to help with child sadness

You may find it frustrating or annoying if your child is always feeling sad. Or, you might feel helpless because you want to make them happy, but don’t know how. 

There’s no magic bullet to make your child feel happy, but there are lots of practical things you can do:

  1. Avoid getting angry with them. This tells them that feeling sad is bad and something to be ashamed of. 
  2. Be patient. It’s hard when you want to change things, but you can’t force them to suddenly “be happy” or “get over it.”
  3. Look at their physical health. Are they getting enough sleep, exercise, and nutrition?
  4. Empathise with them. Imagine how they feel. Be open and ready to listen when they want to talk. 
  5. Use emotional vocabulary. Help them understand and express how they are feeling.
  6. Identify triggers. Help them identify any triggers and plan together how they can manage or avoid these situations.
  7. Talk about the positives in their day. You could say, “Tell me three nice things that happened today.” You’re not trying to ignore or suppress negatives, but reframe the conversation to emphasise the positives. 
  8. Boost their self-esteem. Praise them when they do well at something, encourage them to develop a hobby, and talk to them about their strengths.
  9. Encourage them to socialise with friends and family. It’s important for them to have an emotional connection with others.
  10. Keep them occupied. Show them activities to occupy and distract their mind when they’re feeling sad, such as colouring and drawing, knitting, crafts, Lego, sports, or getting into nature.

Getting help

It’s important to get help if you feel worried about your child. The sooner you ask for support, the quicker your child will get the help they need. Talk to your GP for advice.

NHS support

  • For further information about depression in children, visit the NHS website

Charities supporting children’s mental health

  • ChildLine provide a free helpline and 1:1 online chats for children and young people
  • On My Mind, by the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families, provides advice to help young people make informed decisions about their mental health
  • Mind is a charity that provides mental health support, including information for young people aged 11-18
  • Stem 4 supports teenage mental health with a wide range of information for teenagers and their parents
  • Young Minds are a young people’s mental health charity with a wide range of resources designed for parents

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