When Your Kids Feel Sad

There’s no denying that it can be tough to be a kid. Grown-ups make the rules, things are built above hand- or eye-level, knees get skinned, and worse. So feeling sad once in a while is totally normal and healthy. Use the tips below to help your children learn to deal with sadness in positive ways.

Tips for . . .

  • all parents
    • There are types of sadness kids feel that aren’t healthy. Diagnoses of depression in children and teens are the rise, whether from an increase in incidents or keener detection. Fortunately, depression is highly treatable through a variety of medical and behavior means. Here are symptoms that can indicate your child is too sad and may need professional help:
      • Loss of interest in friends, eating, previously enjoyed activities, or other aspects of normal life.
      • Comments, thoughts, or expressions about death, hopelessness, or suicide.
      • Reclusion
      • Significant change in appetite or body weight
      • Constant fatigue, changes in sleep patterns
      • Anger, irritability, or agitation
      • Inability to concentrate
      • Alcohol or other drug use
    • Symptoms of depression can build gradually or appear quite suddenly, sometimes triggered by an event. These can also be symptoms of substance abuse, which often is associated with depression. If you suspect your child is battling depression, talk with your doctor.
    • parents with children ages birth to 5
    • Attend to babies when they cry. Try to determine whether they are hungry, tired, frightened, or uncomfortable. Do what you can to sooth and calm them.
    • Tell and show your kids it’s okay to be sad by affirming their sad feelings and being open about your own.
    • parents with children ages 6 to 9
    • When your children are sad, try to find out why. If they don’t want to tell you, let them know you’re ready to listen whenever they are ready to talk.
    • Never scold your children for crying, or tell them they are too old (that big boys and/or girls don’t cry), or pass judgment in any other way on their expressions of sorrow.
    • parents with children ages 10 to 15
    • Know that your children’s bodies can wreak havoc on their feelings at this stage. Biological changes can lead to drastic and sudden mood shifts. Be patient.
    • If your kids are feeling sad, be with them to comfort, console, or listen.
    • parents with children ages 16 to 18
    • Your children need to learn problem-solving skills for life, and sometimes things that make them sad can be the motivation they need. So when your kids feel sad about disappointing or difficult situations, offer guidance and ideas, but resist the urge to step in before they’ve had a chance to handle it on their own.
  • Recognize that most teens this age won’t tell their parents everything they are feeling. However, they’ll want to know you’re there if they need you. If your children seem sad, ask if there’s anything you can do or if they want to talk. If not, remind them that you’re there if they change their minds.

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