Childhood Depression: What Parents Can Do To Help

What is childhood depression?

Depression may be present when your child has:

  • A sad or irritable mood for most of the day. Your child may say they feel sad or angry or may look more tearful or cranky. 
  • Not enjoying things that used to make your child happy.
  • A marked change in weight or eating, either up or down. 
  • Sleeping too little at night or too much during the day.
  • A lack of energy or feeling unable to do simple tasks.
  • Trouble with focusing or making choices. School grades may drop.

Any of these signs can occur in children who are not depressed, but when seen together, nearly every day, they are red flags for depression.

What should I do if I think my child is depressed?

  • Talk to your child about his feelings and the things happening at home and at school that may be bothering him.  
  • Tell your child’s doctor. Some medical problems can cause depression. Your child’s doctor may recommend psychotherapy(counseling to help people with emotions and behavior) or medicine for depression.

What can I do to help?

Promote health

  • The basics for good mental health include a healthy diet, enough sleep, exercise, and positive connections with other people at home and at school.  
  • Limit screen time and encourage physical activity to help develop positive connections with others. 

Provide safety and security 

  • Talk with your child about bullying. Being the victim of bullying is a major cause of mental health problems in children. 
  • Look for grief or loss issues. Seek help if problems with grief do not get better. If you as a parent are grieving a loss, get help and find additional support for your child.
  • Reduce stress. Short-term changes in the amount of schoolwork, chores, or activities, may be needed.

Help your child learn thinking and coping skills

  • Help your child relax with physical and creative activities. Focus on the child’s strengths. 
  • Talk to and listen to your child with love and support. Help your child learn to describe their feelings.
  • Help your child look at problems in a different more positive way. Break down problems or tasks into smaller steps so your child can be successful.

Make a safety plan

  • Follow your child’s treatment plan. Make sure your child attends therapy and takes any medicine as directed. 
  • Locate telephone numbers for your child’s doctor and therapist, and the local mental health crisis response team.


If you or someone you love is living with adolescent depression, consider learning more about Segal’s clinical study opportunities. Fill out the prescreen form below or call (877) 734-2588 for more information.

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