Sadness is a normal, healthy way to respond to a negative situation, difficult family/social environments, or a stressful life event.
However, some people struggle to overcome this emotion and deal with their sadness in an unhealthy way — allowing it to take over their lives for an excessive amount of time or to an extreme degree.
This is especially true with children. Any sad event, whether it’s big or small, can affect a child very deeply as they are not as experienced or mature enough to deal with issues that even adults struggle with.
Anything can trigger sadness. The loss of a pet or loved one; moving to a new home; not making the sports team; not being invited to a birthday party; even something as small as having a bad meal.
Some children manage to deal with these feelings and overcome them with a little time and care. Others, however, find it very difficult to move beyond their feelings of sadness and express them in inappropriate ways.
“Appropriate sadness” is tough to define, but it’s easy to see when an episode of sadness becomes inappropriate. You know your child best and will know if she is not acting like herself.
There is no fix-all formula but the advice below can help to provide her (and you, as a parent) with ways to overcome her sadness.
1. Know that she’ll have support, but it is her problem to overcome.
She is not alone in her feelings and she is not a hopeless case. That being said, she is responsible for making herself feel better. She can, and will, have your support but ultimately she is the only person who can do anything to change her mood and lift her sadness.
2. Talk to someone about her sadness.
Even the most capable kids need support. No matter what, your daughter should talk to someone she trusts. It’s very important for her to accept and share her feelings as this will help her feel less alone.
She needs to know that no matter what she may feel like right now, she has the love and support of a group of people and that talking about her sadness will help to resolve it.
3. Try not to isolate herself.
When one has an unhealthy level of sadness, even getting out of bed in the morning can be difficult. The problem is that isolating oneself only makes the sadness worse. Your daughter should make a real effort to stay social, even if it the last thing she wants to do. Being out in the world will make her feel much better.
It’s important to maintain friendships, especially with upbeat, active friends who make your child feel good about herself. This is helpful as these friends can:
- Listen and talk with her about her feelings.
- Remind her that things can get better and that they are there for her through the ups and downs.
- Help her see the things that are good about her life, even when it's hard for her to notice.
- Keep your daughter company and do enjoyable or relaxing things with her.
- They can give your daughter honest compliments and help her find things to laugh or smile about.
4. Keep her body healthy.
Making healthy lifestyle choices can do wonders for your daughter’s mood. Things like getting enough sleep coupled with a healthy diet and exercise have been known to alleviate the symptoms of sadness. When we exercise, our brains are flooded with endorphins, making one feel instantly happier. Tell your daughter to get involved in sports, ride her bike, or take a dance class. Any activity helps, even a short walk can be beneficial.
5. Avoid alcohol and drugs.
Your daughter may be tempted to drink or use drugs in an effort to escape from her feelings and get a "mood boost”. It’s important that she knows that drinking and taking drugs will make her feel worse and not better in the long run.
6. Ask for help if she’s stressed.
Stress and worry can take a big toll on an already sad child. You should encourage your daughter to talk to a teacher or school counsellor if her exams or classes seem overwhelming.
7. Utilise creative self-expression.
It is very beneficial for your daughter to channel her feelings through art, music, or journaling. This, coupled with daily exercise, meditation, exposure to sunlight, and concentrating on positive emotions can all affect the brain's activity in ways that restore mood and well-being.
8. Teach her to be mindful of her feelings.
To ensure that your daughter’s mind is not a runaway train of sad thoughts, encourage her to practise mindfulness exercises specifically designed to notice how she feels and why. She should identify her troubles and negative thoughts, but not dwell on them. Rather, she must learn to accept however she is feeling and remind herself that her sadness will pass and that she will feel better soon.
9. Stay positive.
The most important thing when trying to overcome an unhealthy, excessive episode of sadness is to keep a positive attitude and think positively. Every time your daughter feels a pang of sadness, she should think of one or two good things about herself or her life. There's always something good — she just needs to look for it!
10. Put herself in a good mood.
Teach your daughter to shake off an episode of excessive sadness by doing things that put her in a more positive mood. A great way to do this is to find something to laugh about, like watching a funny movie.
11. Think of solutions.
Coming up with ways to solve a problem or cope with a situation can help your child feel strong and confident in herself. It's hard to stay sad when she is feeling so capable!
12. Help her identify coping skills.
You should teach your daughter that coping with her sad feelings is a skill she can learn. A skill based on a set of repeatable behaviours, not luck or a magic trick. Once she understands this, the next step is to get her to identify problems and develop the behavioural tools to deal with them.
If you ask your daughter, “What are your coping skills for dealing with your sadness,” and she replies, “I go to my room. I listen to some music. I count to ten.” the that is great! It shows that she has created a practical set of behavioural steps to follow that will make her feel better.