Sad feelings

What to do if your child is showing signs of depression

Q: At times, my six-year-old son seems to be intensely sad. For example, today the story of Puff the Magic Dragon left him in tears. Other times, sadness will just seem to sweep over him and he’ll be non-communicative, maybe just wanting to be held. I have a history of depression myself, and I hate to think he’s destined to suffer in the same way.

A: There are ways to prevent your son from following in your footsteps. Continue to hold him when he wants to be held and talk to him about his sad feelings; it will help your son immensely to know he is not alone with his sadness. If he is non-communicative, you can reassure him that it’s OK to feel sad, that everyone feels sad sometimes and you’re there for him. When you talk to him about what may have happened to bring on these feelings, remember that worries or troubling memories can sometimes be the cause.

If you still have concerns about your own depression, it’s important that you seek help. The best thing you can do for your son is be well yourself.

That being said, depression can occur during early childhood. If your son’s down times continue to trouble you, consider meeting with a qualified child psychotherapist who can assess whether there is cause for concern — and, if so, help your son feel better.