7 Tips to Support Your Child with Depression

Having children is rewarding but can be challenging. One of the toughest parts of having a child is dealing with your child’s pain. Depression is among the most common mental health disorders in children and young people. The three main symptoms are changes in mood, negative thinking, and a decline in engaging in regular activities. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence estimates the prevalence of childhood depression to be 1% in pre-pubertal children and around 3% in post-pubertal young people.

If your child is depressed or you suspect your child might be experiencing depression, here are some steps you can take to support both your child and yourself.


1. Recognise warning signs

Teenagers and children go through various stages – there are inevitable mood swings and episodes of emotional instability that come with growing up. The first step in helping your child manage depression is learning how to spot it. Below are some things to look out for:

  • Negative comments about themselves
  • Overly critical of their own work
  • Spending excessive time on their phone
  • Lack of engagement with friends
  • Changes to sleep habits

Once you have spotted these signs, prepare to provide them with emotional support.


2. Give emotional support

Your child will need emotional support when going through a difficult time or having received a diagnosis. Focus on listening, try not to lecture, instead be with them. Try to resist urges to criticise or make any judgments. Once you and your child are talking, the important thing is that your child is communicating. Talking about depression and the experience of being low in mood can be very tough – it can be challenging to find the words to express these feelings, especially for children.

Make sure you spend quality time together:

  • Put some time aside to spend with together – clearly communicate that this time will be for some 1:1 time together
  • Ask them what they’d like to do with you
  • Go for a walk in the park
  • Have a picnic in the garden

Ask open questions:

  • What’s going on for you?
  • How are you feeling?
  • What could I do that would be supportive for you?

Be gentle but persistent, don’t give up if they shut you out, and continue to be present for them as and when they feel they can respond to your being there.


3. Make physical health a priority

Physical and mental health are very closely connected, and depression is exacerbated by inactivity, inadequate sleep, and poor diet. Unfortunately, children, particularly teenagers are known for staying up late, eating junk food, and spending hours on their phones and devices. These behaviours often feed into negative cycles of low mood. As a parent, you may need to work to combat these behaviours by building and maintaining a healthy, supportive home environment.

  • Get your child moving
    • Go for a walk
    • Dance around the sitting room
    • Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box
  • Set limits on screen time
    • Watch a film, then have a change of activity
    • Monitor scrolling
    • Use technology for a purpose, try to avoid technology as an escape
  • Eat nutritious, balanced meals
    • Healthy fats
    • Quality protein
    • Fresh ingredients
    • Get your child involved in making dinner!
  1. Encourage plenty of sleep
    • Aim for 9-10 hours per night
    • Try to keep bedtime consistent
    • Limit screen-use prior to bed time


4. Involve your child in treatment choices

If you are engaging in treatment options, involve your child in these choices, this will help improve their engagement and motivation. Research shows that when motivated and engaged with treatment, the child will likely experience a longer-term impact on their well-being. Try to avoid making decisions for your child. Have conversations with them, ask them what they need, and discuss the options. “Would you like to try a talking therapy?”

“Who would you like to see? I’ve pulled a couple of different profiles for different doctors, shall we have a look at them together?”

“How do you feel about the medication options the doctor suggested?”

Keeping them involved with their treatment choices will also make them feel listened to, they might even suggest something useful that you may not have though of.


5. Don’t be afraid of the word “suicide”

Engaging in conversations about suicide or even using the word with your child can feel extremely daunting. For many parents, even the idea of asking your child if they are having suicidal thoughts fills them with dread. Having spoken to different parents about this, there’s this assumption that by asking you’re placing an idea in their heads.

Talking about suicide with your child can be important for many reasons. Most importantly, having honest conversations helps to dispel misinformation. It helps to create a safe environment where children can ask questions.

  • Perhaps start the conversation by asking what their understanding is
  • Provide clear and simple answers to any questions
  • Be honest – give some details but try and keep your answers short
  • As your child gets older, talk about the warning signs, ask them what they understand about it
  • Feel ok with leaving the conversation open, let your child know you’re happy to come back to it as and when they feel they may need


6. Be patient

Depression doesn’t turn around overnight. Being patient with your child and allowing them to share how they’re feeling tells them you’re on this journey with them.

If you feel like you need help coping with the situation, you might want to try individual therapy or family counselling.

  • Take time out when you need to
  • Talk to friends
  • Take time before responding to questions

Remember one good day doesn’t mean that they have recovered from depression but that good day might make for a good talking point, ask your child to reflect on what went well on that day, what did they do differently that helped improve their mood and encourage them to keep doing it.


7. Support yourself

Taking care of yourself and your mental health is vital to supporting your child. Try not to blame yourself for your child’s feelings. Depression can and does happen and is brought on by many factors. The best thing you can do is be available to support your child as they need.

As a parent, you may focus all your energy and attention on your child and neglect your own needs and the needs of other family members. It would be best to continue caring for yourself during this difficult time. A support system will help you stay healthy and positive as you work to help your child.

  • Practice mindfulness – there’s some great apps out there like Headspace and Calm
  • Have a bath
  • Go for a walk
  • Remember to share the load – reach out to those around you for support when you need to


Don’t bottle up your emotions. It’s okay to feel overwhelmed, frustrated, helpless, or angry. Talk to friends, and perhaps consider seeing a therapist yourself.





How to seek help

If your child is experiencing one or a combination of the symptoms mentioned above, it may be time to seek professional advice and support.

There are lots of options for treatment. Talking therapy can be highly beneficial. Primarily talking therapy provides a safe space for open and honest sharing of how one is feeling. Having this space can prove to be healing for your child as well as for you and your whole family.

At Psymplicity we have a team of specialist child and adolescent therapists and psychologists. We offer therapy services for children, parents, and families. Initial therapy assessments allow you to meet with one of our Child & Adolescent Psychologists and discuss how our therapy team can support your current challenges.

If you feel your child would benefit from an in-depth assessment to understand their current difficulties with the possibility of considering medicinal support, consider a General Psychiatry Assessment with one of our specialist Consultant Child Psychiatrists.

If you recognise that you or your child is struggling, do not hesitate to get in contact, and our admin team will be happy to support you and your family with getting started on your journey.

Contact us now to speak with one of our specialists and begin a personalised treatment plan. 

Sebastian Lucas

Sebastian Lucas

Sebastian is an Assistant Psychologist specialising in CAMHS and working with Adults. He has completed a BSc in Psychology at Birkbeck College, University of London and a Master’s in Applied Neuroscience at King’s College London. Sebastian works with individuals presenting with a range of psychological challenges including mood disorders, ADHD, Autism, brain injuries and emotional wellbeing difficulties.

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Mavish S

Mavish S

Mavish is a BABCP Accredited CBT and EMDR Therapist and CBT Clinical Lead at Psymplicity. Since beginning undergraduate studies 13 years ago, Mavish has worked in various mental health settings within the charity, NHS and private sector. Mavish’s passion for learning and professional growth has led to a vastness of experience and accelerated growth in her career while delivering one-to-one therapy, group workshops, training and supervision for professionals and senior team management. Mavish is a keen writer and writes many of the articles on our website, as well of our self-help resources.

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