How do you know when a child has been too sad for too long? TVOParents and the mental health experts at theHincks-Dellcrest Centre have pulled together the following lists of sadness-related behaviours for ages 6-11 to help you decide when sadness has become a problem.
Sad behaviours are divided into three categories below; Typical (not to worry), Monitor (reason to continue monitoring behaviours) and Seek Help (behaviours that may indicate a mental health problem). These are only some of the highlights from the ABCs of Mental Health on the Hincks-Dellcrest site. Click here to see the full lists of behaviours and things you can do.
The following behaviours are normal and to be expected. Click here to see the full list of behaviours for ages 6-11.
- Faltering self-confidence and mood when the child is lacking opportunities for active engagement in his environment.
- Social withdrawal, anxiety and loss of interest in things when the child is separated from her parents or other adults to whom they’re attached. However, this should not continue for more than two weeks.
- Sadness when hungry or lacking sleep.
- Sadness when the child's behaviour is being excessively restricted.
- Sadness as a result of poor health.
- Signs of sadness when attending a new school; however, this should settle down within about two weeks.
- Listlessness if the child is bored and activities have become too monotonous for him.
- Getting upset and sad when upsetting things happen, such as a friend moving away or not achieving a goal.
To be cause for concern, the following signs have to be a change from previous typical behaviour for the child. If it's not unusual for the child, it could be caused by something other than sadness, and other causes should be explored. The sad child typically exhibits a cluster of the following behaviours. Click here to see the full list of behaviours for kids aged 6-11.
- A sad mood (crying, yelling, irritable, hostile).
- No longer enjoying activities the child used to and becomes intense as time passes.
- The appearance of listlessness, apathy or lack of motivation in school.
- Aggression towards others, e.g. tormenting pets.
- The child does not pay attention to personal appearance; appears sloppy.
- Extreme sensitivity to rejection or failure. Getting a ‘C’ grade, for instance, can lead to tears and the child withdrawing for days.
- Hopelessness, by saying things like, ‘nothing will ever change.’
- The child seems passive or withdrawn.
- Complaints of low energy and seeming tired even after sleep.
- Stomach ache, headache and other physical symptoms, although not suffering from illness.
- Difficulty making basic decisions; demonstrates confused and unclear communication.
- The child dismisses her achievements, tending to focus on the negative.
- Excessive reactions to any criticism or failure.
- The child talks negatively about himself, saying things like, ‘I’m so dumb, what’s the use in trying?’
- Moving from one activity to another without finishing the first task. Shows concentration problems.
- An increasing number of unexcused absences from school.
- Grades and motivation at school are falling.
- The child does not seem concerned about falling grades.
- Not taking care of valuable possessions as she has in the past.
These behaviours need to be a change from the child’s usual behaviour, otherwise they could be a result of another problem.Behaviours may indicate a mental health problem when they interfere to a significant extent with the child’s ability to function in school, with friends and with family.Any of the behaviours below need urgent professional intervention and assessment. Click here to see the full list of behaviours for kids aged 6-11.
- Sad, angry or anxious behaviours most of the time, most days for two consecutive weeks.
- Sadness and worry so severe that the parent is unable to reassure the child, and interventions have not helped much.
- Sadness significantly interfering with the child’s home, community, school and social functioning.
- Physical complaints that interfere with child’s life.
- The child draws or writes about aggressive themes or death about himself or others with progressive frequency.
- No longer showing interest in activities she used to enjoy.
- The child expresses pessimism, dismisses his accomplishments, magnifies failures.
- School avoidance has increased consistently.
- The child takes no care with personal appearance.
- Extreme sensitivity, hopelessness, fatigue.
- Talk about hurting himself and/or hurts himself.
- The child is giving away all of her things.
- Getting involved in risky, escapist behaviour.
Need Help? What To Do
- You may want to speak to your doctor about referral to a pediatric mental health specialist if your child is showing worrisome symptoms, particularly if he is talking about, or is, harming himself or others.
- Another avenue you may want to consider is asking your child’s teacher about enlisting the aid of school professionals. Children’s Services may need to be involved in this process.
- Consider whether your child may benefit from an adjustment to the school day and discuss with his/her teacher.
- Keep a journal of all of your child’s concerning behaviour so you can remember details and describe what’s been going on to professionals accurately.
- Accentuate the positives in your child.
- Don’t ‘bubble wrap’ your child. Protecting her from upsets in life doesn’t prepare her for real life.
- Shape situations in which your child is apt to feel successful.
- Make sure all parents and caregivers are working as a team in their approach to dealing with the child’s struggles.
- Try to talk to your child about his day each day and engage him in conversation to draw him out.
- Try to help her to engage in some of the activities she liked in the past.
Find more recommendations for your sad child in the ABC's of Mental Health section of the Hincks-Dellcreste website.