Home > Kids > Children's General Health > Mental Health > Depression in Young People

Expert Iconexpert advice MORE

Depression in Young People

Elementary School Expert Advice from Barbara Potts

Q: We have two sons, ages six and nine. We are very worried about our six-year-old. He cries very easily and has said that no one loves him and that he wants to die. I show him a lot of love, but it doesn't seem to help. He often pulls away from my hugs and kisses.

He told his class last year in kindergarten that no one likes him. The teacher handled it well, but it upset her and some of the other children. He has very low self-esteem. He is a very caring boy and would do anything for anyone, but I have noticed that when he does have friends over he pulls away from them or they end up fighting.

I am most worried about him saying he wants to die. I don't know if he is doing this to get my attention or if he was overly tired. What can I do?

A: You are right to be concerned -- this is not typical behavior for a six-year-old child. It's frightening for a parent to hear a child of any age talk about dying, but it is especially scary in one so young. Does your son watch a lot of violent television shows? Or has he been around someone who is depressed or has discussed suicide? Most children would not spontaneously talk about wanting to die. If this was a one-time occurrence I would think that it might be an attempt to get your attention, but it sounds like it has been ongoing.

A child's concept of death changes as he gets older. Children ages three to six often think that death is reversible and that a dead person will return. At around age six until around age nine most realize that death is final, but some may still think that the dead person could come back. Your son may be viewing death as an escape from his current unhappiness, but one from which he could return when things are better.

I would begin by taking your son to his pediatrician. Doctors today are recognizing depression in younger and younger children. Fortunately, depression is treatable with medication and therapy. You could also ask your pediatrician or your child's school counselor for a referral to a therapist for further help.

You don't mention your son's or your relationship with his older brother. Is he a "super kid" to whom your younger son may be compared by others? How does your younger son view your relationship with his brother? These are topics you may want to discuss with the therapist.

More on: Expert Advice

Barbara Potts has worked as an elementary school counselor for many years. She has a BA in psychology from Wake Forest University, and an M.Ed. in Guidance and Counseling from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of FamilyEducation.com should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.


Zika Virus Q&A: 4 Facts for Pregnant Women & Families
Zika virus is pretty scary. Pregnant or not, learn what steps to take to protect your family from Zika, including travel restrictions and mosquito bite prevention.

Find Today's Newest & Best Children's Books
Looking for newly released books for your child? Try our Book Finder tool to search for new books by age, type, and theme!

Ommm! 5 Meditation & Mindfulness Activities for Families
Family meditation and mindfulness can help reduce anxiety and promote health and happiness. Learn some fun and easy mindfulness activities for kids, and set them on the path to inner peace!

Ready for Kindergarten?
Try our award-winning Kindergarten Readiness app! This easy-to-use checklist comes with games and activities to help your child build essential skills for kindergarten. Download the Kindergarten Readiness app today!

stay connected

Sign up for our free email newsletters and receive the latest advice and information on all things parenting.

Enter your email address to sign up or manage your account.

Facebook icon Facebook icon Follow Us on Pinterest

editor’s picks