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What to Do When You Feel Sad

When you're in a sad mood, it can seem like it will last forever. But most of the time, sad feelings don't last very long.

Everyone feels sad sometimes. It’s good to know how to help yourself feel better when you’re ready. So here are some things every kid should know:

  • You can deal with sad things when they happen.
  • A positive attitude helps you figure out how to feel better.
  • When you’re sad, it helps to tell someone how you feel.
  • You can do things to help yourself feel better.
  • If you feel depressed (you feel really sad or the sadness doesn’t go away), you should talk to an adult so they can help you.

How Can I Cope When Sad Things Happen?

Lots of things can make kids feel sad. They might be big things or small things. Sometimes kids feel sad because they have a problem at home, at school, or with a friend. Maybe they got in trouble with their parent or someone called them a name at school. Sometimes kids feel sad and can’t figure out why.

Most of the time, it helps to:

Name how you feel. Just tell yourself (or someone else) that you feel sad. “I’m feeling sad.” Simple, right? Naming a feeling can help you figure out why you feel that way. If you can, name that too: “I’m feeling sad because my team lost.” But don’t dwell on it too long.

Know you’re not alone. When you’re sad, try not to get upset with yourself. There's a reason you feel the way you do. “We lost — and I really wanted us to win. Now we can’t go to playoffs.” It’s natural to feel sad when something doesn’t work out as you hoped. “I guess other kids feel sad when they lose a big game. My teammates probably feel sad too.” Be kind and patient with yourself. Your sadness will pass, and you'll feel better.

Take a few calm belly breaths. It can help to let yourself just feel sad for a few minutes. While you’re doing that, take a few easy, slow, calm breaths. Close your eyes if you want. Let your belly expand when you breathe in. Let your belly get flat when you breathe all the air out. Notice how you feel after you take three or four calm, slow breaths like this. Maybe some of your sadness has floated away.

Keep a can-do attitude. When things don't go your way, don't give up. Tell yourself, “Oh well. It didn’t work out this time. There's always next time.” Don’t blame yourself. Give yourself credit for trying. Then focus on what you need to work on. Get ready to try again.

What Else Can I Do to Feel Better?

If you tried those things, you might already feel better. But here are more things that can help when you’re feeling sad:

Get support. Tell someone how you feel. You could tell a parent, a teacher, or a friend. They can listen to how you feel. After they listen, they might say, “No wonder you feel that way, I see why you feel sad.” It helps to know they understand.

Sometimes, that’s all you need to start feeling better. Other times, you want to talk more about your feelings. Talking about how you feel helps you get ready to feel better.

Think about good things. When you’re ready to feel better, think of a few good things. Was there something good in your day? Was someone kind? Did something go well? You can think of other good things, too. Like your favorite books, games, or shows. Think of the people, places, or pets you love. Write some good things down, say them out loud, or draw them. Even if you’re not in the mood to do this, try it anyway. It’s hard to stay sad when you’re thinking about good things.

Get active or make something. Shake off a sad mood by doing things that put you in a brighter mood. Play a game or sport, ride a bike, dance or run. Take a walk, make art or music. Spend time with someone you like. Have some fun and feel better.

Learning to cope with sad feelings takes practice. But it helps you make room for more positive feelings.

What If I Feel Depressed?

Some sad feelings go on for too long, hurt too deeply, and make it hard to enjoy things. This deep sadness is called depression. People of any age can feel depressed — even kids.

Kids might feel depressed if they have been sad or lonely for a long time, or if they have had a lot of tough things happen. Kids might feel depressed if they are apart from people they love. Or if their family is going through hard times. Or if a loved one has died.

Kids who feel depressed may need extra help to feel better. If you feel depressed, or if you have sad feelings that won't go away, talk about it with an adult you trust. You could tell a parent, relative, doctor, teacher, counselor, or coach. They can make sure you get the help you need to feel better.

Some kids talk to a therapist when they have sad feelings that are hard to cope with. A therapist is someone who listens to kids talk about feelings (and sometimes plays, too!). Therapists can help kids find ways to solve a problem or give them new things to try to feel better. Many adults and kids talk to therapists and feel that it helps.

There is always somebody to talk to when you are sad or depressed. Most kids feel better when someone else knows what they are going through. The other person can do things to make the situation better, too.

It helps to talk about what's wrong, but be sure to talk together about good things, too. Paying attention to the good stuff (especially during sad times) can make you feel more hopeful and more interested in doing things that help you feel better.

Reviewed by: Elizabeth M. Schilling, PhD
Date Reviewed: Apr 15, 2022

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