Sadness & Depression in Kids
Berkeley Parents Network >
School-aged Kids >
Sadness & Depression in Kids
How does one know if their emotionally sensitive daughter is just
going through a phase or is truly depressed? Depression runs in
my family so I tend to think it's the latter. Recently, my
daughter, who has always been sensitive, can find no positive
things to say, or rather finds the negative in almost everything.
For example, when she goes to bed at night, after our routine,
she decides to tell me how awful her day had been because of the
''bad'' thing that happened earlier in the day. Maybe she ''lost''
her favorite toy, but really it was misplaced, and she found it.
She focuses on the ''losing'' part of the story, instead of the
''finding'' part. An incident that lasted maybe 5 minutes in an
otherwise perfectly good day defines her day as ''awful'' or
''really bad.'' Nevermind all the good things that happened that
day. I tell her to think about those things, ie. she got to go to
the movies that day and see ''Wall-E.'' Instead of focusing on the
treat that was going to the movies, she said that part of the
movie was ''sad'' and that made her feel sad. I put my hands up in
frustration! She's always been sensitive, but was really a happy
kid. She does well in school, has TONS of friends and play dates.
Her friends parents love her and are always telling me how lovely
she is to have around. How come I never see this behavior? What's
changed? Recently, I too have been feeling a little depressed and
stressed. Is she simply mirroring my behavior and not really
depressed? I don't know what else to think....
Your child might be depressed, or you might be the person she
vents to. I know that my daughter often talks to me about things
that bothered her during the day near bedtime -- there's
something about relaxing for bed that makes her more vulnerable
to things that disturbed her. I don't make too many global
statements but just try to listen and sympathise. I remember she
had one friend she complained about all the time, and I wondered
if it was a good friendship. At some point she told me she
didn't talk to me about the ways the friendship was fun, just
about the parts that bothered her. I suspect that your daughter
is fine with the good parts of the day, and needs to talk about
the rest of it. You might want to try just listening for a week
or two and see what happens. If she's happy during the day,
learning and getting along well with others it doesn't seem
likely she's depressed. My understanding is that depression
would effect her in more ways than in needing to vent to her
Before you run off and have your child be drugged, realize that
they are emotionally maturing around this age and lots is
happening. My 7-yr old has suddenly been so much more emotional
and dramatic than usual. In talking with friends who also have
7-yr old girls, I realize that I'm not alone. It's something
that they're going through. If this continues for many more
months you might consider other options. However, for now I
would just chuck it up to the age factor.
It sounds like your child is pretty well-adjusted if she has a lot of
friends and is
well-liked by her peers and other kids. She may just be imitating you.
was depressed after the birth of my 2nd child, and my older one started
exactly the same as what you describe your daughter doing, focusing on
negative, et cetera. I noticed that whenever she spent time with
members who are generally upbeat and outgoing, however, she didn't do
thing with them.
It seemed that she also did it to get attention from me sometimes- when
depressed I become spacey. I made an effort to talk to her about the
in my day, about my friends and hobbies, and that really seemed to help.
accompanied her on the playdates and became closer to her friends'
went to her preschool a few times to help out during events but also to
she was with other kids. I saw that many times she would overreact and
something, for example, a child would approach her, turn away from her,
she would say that child didn't want to play with her.
I tried to model being friendly to others and not taking it personally
turns away from you. If you're not in therapy, I highly recommend it.
It really is
helping me to sort out what is my own baggage that I am projecting onto
what is her behavior. A helpful book is Raising a Secure Child:
Availability Between Parents and your Children by Zeynap Biringen.
depressed mom who's been there
Apparently at least some of this is normal. In fact, the book ''Your
Seven Year Old''
(from the Louise Bates Ames series) is subtitled ''Life in a minor
I actually use some advice I got from the ''Greater Good'' website, and
old son and I each list 3 good things that have happened to us during
the day, at a
special time at dinner.
She may also be mirroring your behavior. I'd try to be more positive
react with sympathy, but not too much attention, to all the negativity
(you know, the
''Ah, I see'' sort of comment).
If this goes on for a long time, or gets worse in some way, or
interferes with her
enjoyment of something while it is happening, then I'd check with a
I think it is the age!!! my always sensitive, always well mannered,
happy little girl who
is 7 tomorrow has recently turned into a raging tantrum thrower- I hear
''nothing ever goes right for me'' ''I hate my life'' etc. and this can
be over the smallest
of things, like not reading a hard word right on the first try. Also
focus has shifted to
what she wants rather than what she has, which is something we have
about not doing. She would NEVER EVER do this kind of complaining to
anyone but me.
I HOPE it is the age. Please, let it be the age and let it be grown out
I feel your pain
Read the book, Your Seven Year Old: Life in a minor key, by Ames
and Haber -- it is very common for a child this age to appear
depressed. I understand your genetic concerns and by using
natural and effective means for curbing depression now can help
for the future, such as making sure your seven year old gets
enough sunshine, especially in winter. Diet can play a role in
depression, too. I don't have any links to share with you, but
if you do a google search for natural rememdies/prevention for
depression, you should find some good resources.
Former kid in a minor key!
I wouldn't claim to know for sure, but it sounds like there's a
possibility that you're depressed and are just perceiving the
same in her because of your own attitude. Maybe she just needs
to get some of the negative stuff out of her system, and maybe
you shouldn't repress that just because it makes you
uncomfortable (or makes you worry that there's more to it). Maybe
the bad stuff just stands out to her because everything else went
so well. She's still little; she's not required to ''have a good
attitude'' about everything, for cryin' out loud. Take a deep
breath and let her have her frustrations/sadness/whatever.
I'm responding because I have a ''negative'' or pessimistic
daughter. The 1st thing when I pick her up from school is what
went wrong or who got into trouble, etc. She selectively
chooses to tell these things first because there are plenty of
good things that happen that eventually get out later. SO the
negative is offset with positive comments as well. How I would
distinguish between a pessimistic personality and a depressed
child is if the child were sad or angry for no apparent reason,
dragging around the house, or bursts of anger. The negative
stuff is annoying but not necessarily an indicator of
depression. Of course, if you are really concerned, see a
professional and get an evaluation.
My almost 5 year-old daughter, who constantly amazes me with her
ability to articulate feelings, also worries me at times when she
expresses things that probably mean something different in kid
language than in adult language. Tonight when we were cuddling
at bedtime she said ''I have a lot of sad things happening in my
life right now'' and launched into a long narrative that wove
together the death of Charlotte in Charlotte's web, a friend
moving away, and a ''best friend'' from preschool who has recently
demoted my daughter to ''2nd best friend.'' I suspect this last
one is at the heart of her sadness and so I'm glad she can
express feelings about it, but it breaks my heart to hear her
talk about ''being on a sad path right now.'' Is this a good thing
that she can identify and express feelings? Worrisome that such
a little girl is identifying as sad? Anybody with words of
wisdom to share?
I have a similar kid, who is often painfully explicit about her feelings. Right now, for
example, I'm expecting my third child (she's the oldest, at nearly five) and she says
quite often that she's worried that 1) when the baby comes I won't love her
anymore, 2) that because she's bigger and the baby will be small she will be less
lovable than the baby, 3) that I won't have time to take care of her anymore etc etc.
The middle one just wants to know if the baby will fit in the toilet. I've talked to her
teachers, read books, and attended a lecture about helping your child with their
feelings and the net net appears to be this: We should both thank our lucky stars
that our children are telling us how they feel. We should empathize with their
feelings without necessarily offering solutions (ie, with the friend at school thing,
just saying stuff like 'how did that make you feel' and 'i can see why that would
make you sad' rather than offering solutions, which I find very hard, but that's the
advice the therapist at the lecture gave) while at the same time offering concrete
reassurance (ie I say stuff like having a baby is a lot of work, and I will be tired some
of the time, but nothing, nothing at all, will ever change how much I love you, and
explain how daddy will be around to help and we'll have a babysitter she likes
around too, so I can still take care of her etc etc). I also praise her for talking about
her feelings, and have bought many books about feelings (When I Feel Sad, etc etc,
can't remember the author, they're on Amazon). Her dad suffers from long-term,
successfully medicated depression, so I feel my antennae wave a bit, but on the
whole I just do what I can to be there for her. I asked her once, recently, what I
could do, if anything, to make her feel better, and she said 'more hugging'. So that's
what I do. Good luck, and let's both hope they keep talking to us for the rest of their
If she can express both her sadness and the reasons for it, if
she trusts you enough to tell you what's in her heart, and if you
can hear it and give her comfort and a stable place to feel that
sadness, I say you are a lucky mom and she's a lucky daughter.
But I do understand your concern. It's hard to have anyone you
love be sad. I recently found a book of poems called ''This Place
I Know'' that might be a little old for a 5-y-o, but it is for sad
patches in a child's life. The poems open up a realm of
acceptance of emotion and then movenment through them that I
thought was quite lovely. I found it at Cody's. you might also
consider asking her to draw pictures during this time--even just
draw with colors, not representational. Or you might take
dictation for her words. Maybe she is a budding artist or poet
herself. The point is movement through and expression of
sadness. Otherwise, again, you--and she--are rather lucky.
I can really relate. Recently, my 5-year-old son was at his best friend's house while
his friend's mother was very ill (in fact, she died some days later). Her family was
there, and the atmosphere was pretty serious, though folks were doing their best to
give the kids a happy playtime. That night, when I was putting my son to bed, he
told me, ''If you hear me crying after you go upstairs tonight, you don't have to
come down to help me. I haven't hurt myself. I just feel really sad, and I don't know
why.'' I just about started crying myself right then.
Kids do have sad stuff happen in their life. And as hard as it is, we can't keep this
from happening. But it's great that your daughter could tell you how she felt, and
come up with an explanation for why she felt that way. It seems to me that the best
we can do as parents is to help kids understand that sad things do happen, and that
it's completely normal and healthy for us to feel bad, that there are things we can
do to help ourselves feel better -- and that sooner or later happy times will come
again. Also, that they can always tell their parents about what's bothering them,
and we'll do our best to help them.
I think it's great that your daughter is expressing herself
verbally so well. So many kids this age express themselves
physically and we are left to ponder what the heck is going on!
Hooray to you for gearing her in the that direction and giving
her a safe environment to express herself freely. Obviously you
take the time to honor those sad feelings when she's expressing
them. I would only suggest that after you honor those feelings,
engage her in a conversation about the things that made her
happy that day, what made her proud of herself. Tell her what
made you happy (I always start out with telling my son that
snuggling with him in the mornings and at night makes me very
happy, even those little things count) and what may have made
you sad and then weigh out that there was more happiness than
sadness that day... or the opposite and remind her that without
a little sadness, we wouldn't appreciate the happy times as
much. Trying to focus on the positive without dismissing the
negative, I think is a healthy way to promote optimism.
Seems like you have a daughter with a full range of emotions and how wonderful
that she can A) articulate them and B )Invites you into her world with those
precocious comments.You said you both were cuddling before bedtime - she must
have felt that was a really safe time to express those difficult feelings. I can totally
understand how you must be feeling as a parent. No parent wants to see their child
sad even though we know intellectually that sadness is a part of life and is hence
unaviodable. And the things your daughter said she was sad about are pretty heavy;
the death of charotte, a beloved character, the loss of a friend due to a family move
and the ''loss'' of her best friend via friend demotion - WOW! That is a lot to think
about and process for anyone - let alone a five year old who is new to these harsh
realities of life. The best you can do is listen to her with an open heart, validate her
feelings and comfort her. You cannot take her sadness away but you can support
her. Your daughter's comments were solicitous to you; don't pass up the
opportunity for real intimacy with her just because the subject matter is less than
boyant. Sometimes just sitting next to someone and feeling sad together can be a
good luck working through it together!
My 6 year old is similar, expresses her complex feelings very
well. It is also sad for me to hear her express pain. But I
also see her being happy and joyful so I think I shouldn't
overweight those conversations. Additionally I think ages 5-6
are very complex for girls and the emerging of social issues like
your daughter described are tough on sensitive girls, so expect
more. The times before bed are sometimes particularly emotional
for my daughter as well, she is finally quiet enough to real
cuddle and doesn't want me to leave, she is trying to sort out
her day. My daughter likes it when I tell her a story of my
childhood. For example about a friend of mine who moved away and
made me sad. But I try not to make it overly preachy and just
assure her that she is loved no matter what by her parents. I
also think I need to be very aware of her listening to the news
etc because she is very sensitive to other sad things. So Net...
I think the ability to articulate her feelings is great, and as
long as the sad dicussions are balanced with joy and good coping
provide her a safe space to discuss, assure her and watch the
outside influences that are sad (our news!). That's what I am
Good for your daughter for being so expressive. I have a 4
year old daughter and I know if she told me those things, I'd
be sad and concerned for her too. I'd try to remind myself
that ''being on a sad path'' might be a strong statement for an
adult but could mean something less serious for her. I'm not
trying to invalidate her feelings, I'm sure she is sad that her
friend demoted her (5 year old girls!) but it's probably not as
bad as it sounds. I think an important indicator for whether
you should be concerned about something is how she is acting,
her personality, does she really seem down, etc. It's great
that she talks to her loving mama so openly about it.
we all get sad!
I think it's wonderful that your daughter can express her
feelings so clearly and so well. I would just encourage her to
talk about the things she brings up and try to empathize. we all
have different feelings given and we all try to make sense of our
feelings often by assigning a cause to them - sometimes we're
right. let your daughter have her sadness growing up is hard.
this too shall pass
i try and remind myself, especially when my daughter is
learning how to deal with an unpleasant emotion, that as her
mother, i am here to help her understand and deal with her
emotions in an appropriate manner. i can't save her from
them. my daughter just went through a similar situation with
her buddy from school, and she was demoted on the ''friend''
totem pole too. my daughter did not want to go to school, and
even pretended that she was sick (she's three). my advice
would be to be there to hug her, and give her ideas about
playing with other children.
it breaks my heart too!
We have an 8 year old girl who is frequently sad, to the point
of crying, without being able to articulate what is wrong. This
normally happens close to bedtime and she starts complaining that
she doesn't like to fall asleep. She also is frequently scared
about what it will be like when she dies. We try to reassure her
that she is a healthy kid who doesn't have to worry about that
for a long time but she continues to be anxious about it. Her
uncle passed away about a year ago from cancer and she talks
about it occasionally as a reason for her fears. Any suggestions
on how to deal with such fears and anxiety in a fairly young
child? We've thought about taking her to a therapist, any
suggestions on a good one?
Your daughter may have some form of anxiety that comes out when it is time to go
to bed. Her whining & crying is probably her way of avoiding the act of going to
sleep. If you have Kaiser Insurance their Pediatric Behavioral Medicine Dept, has a
class that is helpful. The class is both for the children and for their parents. The
group discusses their fears and anxieties and helps both the kids/parents to identify
signs of their anxiety, the avoidant behaviors and they help develop coping
strategies. The children meet as a group and while they are meeting...the parents
meet separately. If you don't have Kaiser...ask your pediatrician to refer you to a
child therapist. If your daughter is not that expressive...sand play or play therapy
may be an avenue you want to explore. Good luck
Hi - I've started reading Raising An Emotionally Intelligent
Child by Gottman - based on the book Emotional Intelligence
(EQ). I'm trying to not repeat the lessons that my parents
taught me about avoiding/hiding emotions, etc.. not that they
had bad intentions, etc. It's a great read thus far, and I
highly recommend it! There's a lot we can do to help our
children work thru their sad/angry/frustrated feelings - and
not ignoring them. Good luck!
I am sorry that she is going through this and I am sure this
must be very worrisome for you. I have an 8-year-old daughter
who is a very emotional child, just as I was. When I was a
young girl I had frequent bouts of crying. I think that my
parents dismissed a lot of my feelings because they thought
that was just they way I was, and they were dealing with their
own divorce. They did try and put me in therapy but they did
not search for someone that was right for me, they did not
continue any therapy, and most importantly they were not
available as I needed them.
My problems increased without this support which led to
depression in adolescence and an abusive boyfriend in high
school. Please do not dismiss any of her feelings, keep looking
into the problem, and give her as much attention and support as
you can. Also know that each stage of development always has
room for a lot of change and growth.
It sounds like you, and/or your daughter, could use some
professional support. I would like to recommend Rosemary Bower,
Ph.D in El Cerrito. Her number is (510) 233-8655. She is a very
experienced child therapist, qualified with the courts, and her
work is efficient. I think she has a sliding scale. More
importantly you need to find out if she is a good match for
I wish you and your family the best in dealing with this
a concerned mother
Two recommendations for child therapists--both will want to work
with your whole family some, but both have a lot of experience
with children and families: Amy Wallerstein Friedman, LCSW
482-9889; Diane Ehrensafe, PhD, 547-4147. It's not terribly
unusual for these kinds of concerns to arise after the death of a
relative, and with children it sometimes takes a while for them
to begin to express their concerns. Good luck to you and your
I'm the father of a 7 year old son who seems to be suffering
The other day he was set off by needing a shampoo (which he
hates) and ended up complaining that he ''can't do anything'' and
he doesn't want to do anything and that ''everyting is a
problem''. He doesn't want to get out of bed in the morning, and
shows no enthusiasm for anything. When asked what he wants (to
wear, to do, to eat for lunch, anything) he never has anything
to say, but will have plenty to say about what he doesn't like
after some one picks for him. He seems bored and resentful and
is becoming less communicative.
He has always been moody and thoughtful (especially compared to
his younger brother) but in the past 6 months he has become
withdrawn, with fragile moods (up one minute, near tears the
next), and becomes angry, cynical and lacking in confidence.
He's woken up several times this month crying that he keeps
thinking about dieing (his dieing, us dieing, etc). He's told
me he thinks about it almost every night, and when he has a mood
crash I can some times get out of him that ''I'm thinking about
it again''. He has also said (and demonstrates) that he feels
angry all the time, and tells he he's tried to stop being angry
and can't stop. I think he's not very popular at school these
days too - for obvious reasons. These feelings all the more
obvious because he's sensitive, and very advanced verbally; he
can make his feelings quite clear.
I grew up depressive (as did my mother) so these experiences
sound very familiar to me. As an adult, my moods are well under
control and quite manageable (I also take a light dose of
Paxil). Our kids are adopted, but he seems to have picked up
the family legacy when we signed the papers - he could not be
more our son if he was biological. My partner does not
understand depression because it's not in his family and he has
never experienced the ongoing emotional snowfall that always
threatens to smother us if we sit still. I've tried to arm my
son with strategies that helped me - it won't last forever, keep
busy, replace those feelings with something positive. Still, I
want to look for professional resources.
Can anyone recommend a child therapist or child psychiatrist in
the east bay to help us.
My son also showed similar thoughts and behaviors, escalating
around the same age as yours (about 2 years ago). When he
started expressing thoughts of ''wondering what it felt like to
be dead'', we got a speedy referral from our pediatrician for
psychologist Meshulam (''Shuli'') Plaves, on Ward St. in
Berkeley. He met with my son weekly, and with me and my husband
periodically, and it has helped immensely. He is now seeing him
once or twice a month. While my son still has worries, and is
working on his sometimes ''explosive'' anger response, he is
definitely now a much happier child. Dr. Plaves helped us see
that, at least in our son's case, much of his worry came from
his own temperment and tendency to think deeply about things
that most people don't think about until they are quite a bit
older. I don't really know what they talk about specifically,
but my son recognizes that it is helpful,and lets us know when
he feels he needs to see Shuli more. I also want to mention
that we were a little concerned about how my son would feel
about us sending him to a psychologist. He was totally
relieved. We let him know that the ''worry doctor'' was good at
helping kids who had worries like he was expressing, and he
couldn't wait to get started!
mom of formerly-morbid worrier
My ten year old son has been attending group therapy with several
other boys dealing with issues similar to your son - sweet but
very sensitive kids, feeling depressed about their lives. He
enjoys it immensely and feels it has helped him deal with his
life. He feels he has better control over his feelings and feels
better about himself knowing other guys are going thru the same
things. He sees a wonderful psychologist who facilitates the
group and certainly has a very good grasp of my son's personality
- Maria Antoniadis in Berkeley @ 649-3399. He has also seen
Kathryn McCarthy in the same office and benefited from her help.
The groups meet once a week for 1 hour @ $60 a session. They
usually don't meet over the summer so now would be a good time to
Your message certainly struck a chord here. At about the same
age, our son became an emotional wreck. He had always been
intense, funny, high energy, sweet, etc. But he started going
into out-of-control crying jags out of nowhere, screaming fits
over things like taking a bath, saying negative things about
himself and his world, feeling like no one understood him, and
pretty much the stuff you're talking about. It only got worse;
it was heartbreaking to see how miserable he was in his head. We
finally went to see a child psychologist, who after background
info and one visit with us parents understood it was
not ''environmental,'' but far more complicated.
Our son is now 10 and 1/2, and he still sees Diane Ehrensaft.
We adore her, she totally understands him, and she is a great
resource. She is not pro-medication (we were anti-meds when we
first came in), but she is very good at diagnosis and well-
respected and well-connected in the pediatric community. Our son
is on an anti-anxiety medication with a clinical anxiety
diagnosis (depression being a variation, it depends on the
kid). Diane has an especially great reputation working with
young boys, and it can be a wait to get in to see her. Her
number is 510-547-4147 and she is near Childrens Fairyland in
Good luck on your journey.
Mom of Intense Child
My heart goes out to you and your son. From your description
(and my personal battle with major depression for over 10
years), I hope you can find a good therapist soon. I would like
to recommend mine- her name is Alisa Genovese, 286-7599. She is
in Kensignton (right off Solano). I don't know if she works
specifically with children, but if not, she will have excellent
referrals. She is a mother or two and specializes in post-
partum depression, so she is very familiar with depression as it
relates to families. I have been to almost a dozen local
therapists in the past 20 years and she is, by far, the most
skilled practitioner I have ever worked with. Spiritual, but
practical, compassionate, and down to earth.
Best of luck to you.
My son has been sad and moody, too. Meg Zwieback 836-1450 has
helped us. I think it's important to send a message to kids
that one can take steps to fight depression rather than sitting
back and letting it take over. Best of luck to you.
Cindy Blackett in Berkeley (her office is near intersection of
Ashby & Telegraph) She sees a lot of children and I've heard
good things about her from a co-worker. 540-5409
this page was last updated: Jan 25, 2009
BPN is now a 501(c)(3) non-profit and we are building a new website!
Read more, and see how you can help:
The opinions and statements expressed on this website
are those of parents who subscribe to the
Berkeley Parents Network.
Disclaimer & Usage for
information about using content on this website.
Copyright © 1996-2015 Berkeley Parents Network