Going through different emotions is part of life. While it can feel worrying as a parent, it is normal for young people to feel low sometimes, and this can be a natural response to what’s happening around them. Often, the passing of time and support from people they’re close to can help things feel better again.
When a young person is feeling depressed, however, sadness and low feelings become more overwhelming, persisting over a longer period of time and making day-to-day life difficult.
Knowing that your child is feeling depressed can be incredibly worrying as a parent. But remember that lots of young people go through depression and come out the other side and feel okay again, and that there are things you can do to help them - including providing emotional support, working on practical strategies together and finding the right professional support if they need it.
Symptoms of Low Mood & Depression
As a parent, it can be useful to understand the difference between having a generally low mood and feeling depressed. This can help you to think through what your child is experiencing and the type of support they need.
If your child is experiencing a low mood, they may feel more sad, tearful, worried, tired or angry than usual, or feel low and less confident about themselves – but then feel better after a few days or weeks. They may also start to feel better quite quickly after making small changes in their life or routine – for example after resolving a disagreement with a friend, getting to the end of a stressful time at school or starting a more regular sleeping pattern.
When a young person is depressed, sadness and low feelings do not change or go away with time. These feelings can become overwhelming and stop them from doing or enjoying things they normally would. When a young person is experiencing this, it’s very difficult to shift the situation without extra help and support.
While every young person is different, and these feelings are often expressed differently at different ages, some signs that your child may be feeling depressed include:
- withdrawing, or avoiding friends or social situations
- finding it hard to concentrate, and/or losing interest in schoolwork
- not wanting to do things they previously enjoyed
- feeling irritable, angry or frustrated
- feeling tearful, miserable, lonely or hopeless
- feeling empty or numb
- being very self-critical, or feeling less confident
- sleeping more or less than normal
- eating more or less than normal
- feeling tired or not having any energy
- showing less or no interest in self-care activities like washing
- wanting to self-harm
- experiencing suicidal thoughts
If your child is experiencing one or two of these things, it does not necessarily mean that they are experiencing depression. But it’s important to speak to your GP as a first step so that you can explore what’s going on together.