Parenting a Child with Depression


Parenting a depressed child can be very difficult. Here are suggestions for helping your child with depression.

Parenting is already a tough job. Parenting a child with depression is even tougher. Keep in mind that depression is a medical condition. Your child is not acting this way on purpose.

Here's what you can do to help your child with depression:

Honor your child's feelings. It is difficult to see your child sad and in pain. Your first response might be to try to cheer him or her up. Don't. Trying to make depressed children and teens happy makes them feel like depression can be willed away. It is more helpful to listen. Acknowledge their feelings, and take them seriously.

Use encouraging statements rather than punishment. Instead of yelling, "Turn that television off! You haven't done your homework yet!" say "When you finish your homework, you can watch television."

Separate the deed from the doer. If your child constantly forgets to take his or her lunch money to school, don't say, "You are so forgetful! You can't remember a simple thing like your lunch money!" Instead, say something that focuses on the behavior, not your child, like "I know it has been hard for you to remember your lunch money. What can we do to make sure it gets put in your book bag every morning?"

Focus on consequences rather than punishment. For example, if your child breaks a lamp during a temper tantrum, use a logical consequence (like having your child help glue the lamp back together or use his or her allowance to have the lamp repaired) rather than issuing an unrelated punishment (like sending your child to his or her room for the rest of the evening).

Help your child build a "feeling vocabulary." Many people have difficulty finding the words to describe how they are feeling. Helping children and teens to label their feelings gives them a vocabulary that will enable them to speak about feelings. For children, posters and coloring pages that contain lists or drawings of various emotions can be helpful.

Show unconditional love and support. Many depressed children and teens feel unloved and unlovable. Say, "I love you" often. Hug or pat him or her on the back. With young children, be sure to cuddle together.

Encourage your child to engage in activities. Consider the activities your child enjoys and suggest doing those together. But don't force, threaten, or bribe him or her to do so. If your child is not feeling well enough to participate, honor that feeling.

Create good sleeping habits. Children and teens with depression often have difficulty sleeping. This leads to more irritability and exhaustion. Sticking to a consistent bedtime, stopping caffeine intake, and getting regular exercise can improve the quality and quantity of sleep.

Understand that depression is a medical condition. Although it is often difficult to keep your cool when your child is acting out, it is important not to punish or say hurtful things. Your child can't help feeling and behaving the way he or she does. You can be angry at the depression while still feeling love and concern for your child who is hurting


  • Families for Depression Awareness

APA Reference
Staff, H. (2008, December 29). Parenting a Child with Depression, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 23 from

Last Updated: August 19, 2019

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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