Written by Dr. Joshua Harwood
Josh is a chartered clinical psychologist specialising in working with children and families.
Experiencing sadness or low mood is a natural response to certain events that occur in our own and our children’s lives. Being left out by peers, failing an exam and grief are all things that can make children feel sad.
With support from their loved ones or resolution of the situation, these feelings typically pass with time. In cases when sadness continues for a long period of time, it may be a sign that something’s not right and your child may be struggling with depression.
Depression is a mood disorder causing persistent sadness and a loss of interest in activities they previously enjoyed. Although it’s more commonly thought of as a difficulty that affects adults, children can experience depression too. The symptoms, however, tend to be slightly different in children, making it more difficult to spot. They are more likely to come across as irritable and grumpy and may have more physical health issues.
Depression can make emotions feel overwhelming for children and prevent them from leading a normal childhood. They may isolate themselves from friends and family and find day-to-day activities such as going to school more difficult.
If you’re worried that your child may be struggling with their mood, it’s important to seek appropriate professional support, even if you’re unsure. This may be your GP in the first instance, or our Ask the Expert service, which can provide health information and support via email. Getting help as early as possible is vital to ensure your child’s low mood doesn’t turn into a long-term problem. You may also find it helpful to learn a bit more about depression and some tips and tools you can use to help your child manage their mood.