What’s Behind Discouragement in Children?

Every child is sad or irritable at times. However, you must be aware if this situation prolongs. In this article, discover what’s behind discouragement in children.
What’s Behind Discouragement in Children?
Elena Sanz Martín

Written and verified by the psychologist Elena Sanz Martín.

Last update: 27 December, 2022

Children, like all other humans beings, may feel sad, irritable, or listless at times. Their temperament and personality will also determine their degree of vitality. However, sometimes, discouragement in children may disguise more serious realities that may require intervention.

What’s behind discouragement in children?

When apathy, sadness, or disinterest represent most of a child’s mood, it becomes necessary to investigate what lies behind these emotions.

  • Major life changes, such as the death of a loved one, divorce, a school change, or any other situations that stress the child, may be possible causes. If these circumstances aren’t properly handled, they can cause discouragement or even childhood depression.
  • School bullying or harassment can also be traumatic. Having to endure this on their own without the support of their loved ones can aggravate the situation, causing the child serious emotional problems.
What’s Behind Discouragement in Children?
  • Undetected educational needs, such as attention deficit disorder, dyslexia, or even giftedness can lead to the child not getting the attention and resources they need. So consequently, this may lead to an internal state of anxiety, discouragement, and a sense of personal failure.
  • Low frustration tolerance may also be behind discouragement and lack of interest in children. As the child doesn’t have the skills to handle mistakes, failures, or “no’s”, they can go from “I can’t” to “I don’t want to.”

How to detect childhood depression

As we mentioned above, it’s normal for children to manifest different moods and not always remain curious, enthusiastic, and vivacious. However, when apathy prolongs and interferes with the child’s daily functioning, they may be suffering from a depressive state.

The main warning signs are low or irritable mood, disinterest, and negative thoughts. Thus, children tend to focus on problems and negative situations and are very critical of themselves. In addition, they’ll no longer enjoy activities that they used to love and they’ll be demotivated.

Also, they tend to isolate themselves from family and friends, manifest sleep and appetite changes (over or under sleeping or eating), or often complain of physical problems, such as headaches or stomachaches.

Sometimes, it’s possible to detect childhood depression when the child tends to draw sad images or choose sad stories or even when they regress to baby talk or start wetting the bed again.

What’s Behind Discouragement in Children?

How to help discouraged children

  1. Firstly, you need to be patient and understanding with your child. Perhaps their behaviors are a call for help. Therefore, don’t reproach or recriminate their actions. Instead, try to engage them and give them your unconditional love and support.
  2. Talk to them about depression. You need to understand that it’s very difficult for children to understand what’s happening to them and express it in words. Try to explain where their feelings might come from and assure them that you’re there for them to help them feel good again.
  3. Make sure your child has a structured and healthy daily routine. A nutritious diet, good sleep hygiene, or regular exercise can have a real impact on their mood. In addition, try to do positive and enjoyable activities with them.
  4. Offer them a positive stimulus or new proposals to distract them from their negative thoughts and help improve their mood. Together, look for an activity or hobby that they like to help them recover their motivation.
  5. If the situation prolongs in time or causes your child a lot of discomfort, contact either a pediatrician or a child psychologist. Both specialists will be able to provide guidelines to help your child overcome the situation. If left untreated, childhood depression can become chronic and affect children as adults.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Méndez, X., Rosa, A. J., Montoya, M., Espada, J. P., Olivares, J., & Sánchez-Meca, J. (2002). Tratamiento Psicológico de la Depresión Infantil. Psicología Conductual10(3), 563-580.
  • Larraguibel, M. (2003). Depresión y distimia en niños y adolescentes. Boletín especial Sociedad de Psiquiatría y Neurología de la Infancia y la Adolescencia14, 21-4.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.