There may be many events that cause a child to be sad – losing out on a role in the school play, being bullied, not making the team, not getting that “A” on a test, the death of a best friend’s family member, a breakup, the loss of a pet. One thing we’ve learned as parents is that sadness is normal and should be honored. Just because we might not know what is causing the sadness or don’t understand why our children are sad about a particular event, we know the feelings are real and they should be honored. We shouldn’t try to talk our child out of being sad.
If sadness continues over many days or begins to have a negative impact on normal activities like homework, extracurricular activities, or being with friends, then something more serious may be at work and professional help should be sought. Sadness is normal but it should not be allowed to proceed for a prolonged period of time, particularly if it includes other signs of disinterest, pulling away from friendships or normal activities, brooding or anger. Seeking help is not a failure. It is an important responsibility of a parent.
Everyone gets sad at one time or another. It’s a natural emotional reaction to things that happen to us. Sometimes you just have to acknowledge your child’s sadness. Sometimes children need to develop solutions themselves. It may help to share a story about a time you were sad and what you did about it. At times, it requires a hug, a word of confidence, or encouragement from friends. Often it can help for your child to reflect on his accomplishments, what she is good at, what he’s succeeded at. Sometimes it takes diversion, doing something else like playing a game, taking a walk, or watching a movie. Children need to learn to overcome challenges themselves and if they can be helped to deal with their emotions, they can progress more easily in life. Resiliency is important for success.
Is it depression?
True depression in children is often undiagnosed and untreated because it is seen as normal emotional and psychological change. But children with increased sensitivity, hopelessness, listlessness, anger, changes in appetite or sleep patterns, inability to concentrate, health complaints, a change in social activities, loss of interest in school or substance abuse, require a closer, professional look. Parental involvement is important to get proper diagnosis and treatment.
Handling emotions is an important skill for the young and for adults as well. Recognizing when sadness approaches depression is important in order to seek necessary help and take care of a problem that could seriously sidetrack your son or daughter.
Tom Tozer and Bill Black are authors of “Dads2Dads: Tools for Raising Teenagers.” Like them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter @dads2dadsllc. Contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org.