Children & Young People's Emotional Health

Low Mood

Feeling down or ‘low’ is normal. We all have times when we feel sad and it is hard to keep going. Often this will last a day or two and then it will pass.

Children and young people can have low times as well as grown ups. Sometimes there is an obvious reason - like changing schools, hormonal changes, friendship or relationship difficulties, or parental conflict.

Some ways your child might show they are feeling low might be;

  • Easily getting angry or frustrated.
  • Being tearful.
  • Worrying a lot and having a low opinion of themselves.
  • Feeling tired and lacking energy – having trouble sleeping /sleeping too much.
  • Changes in eating habits.
  • Not wanting to be with family or friends and losing interest in things they usually enjoy.

The Psychology in Schools Team delivered a parent workshop which looked at how you can support your child or young person with low mood. You can watch the recording of the workshop below.

Dive Deeper

Small Changes

It is difficult as a parent to see your child feeling down. There are things you can do that can help them manage their feelings and lift their mood;

Spend time with others

  • When you feel down it can be tempting to hide away from family and friends.
  • Encourage your child to join in watch a film with each other, play games, or cook a meal together.

Be active

  • Being active is really good for mood - releasing hormones that make us feel better.
  • You might start by getting out for a family walk.
  • Finding a sport they enjoy will help them build activity into their lives and this is a good habit for mental and physical health.

Help others

  • Helping others is good for self esteem and lifts mood.
  • Are there older family members your child could ‘help’?
  • It could be helping someone round the house or baking them a cake.
  • Giving to others makes us feel better.


  • Learning mindfulness techniques can give your child some ‘tools’ to manage the harder days.
  • Focusing on what is going on in the present moment and not letting worries take over your thinking.
  • Try breathing exercises.
  • Writing down thoughts and feelings or drawing pictures can help us make sense of how we feel and think too.

Talking To Your Child

If you are worried your child is feeling down it can be hard to know how to help them open up and talk about it. Finding the right time when you both have the space to really talk and listen is important.

It can help if you are doing something else together at the same time – drives in the car or cooking together can make it easier to talk about hard things.

You could start the conversation by trying some of the phrases below;

  • It sounds like you are feeling sad/angry/worried. Tell me more…
  • You seem sad/upset. Let’s talk about it…
  • It is normal to feel sad sometimes. It often helps to talk about it..

Don’t feel you have to have all the answers for your child. Being listened to and knowing how they feel is important to you will help.


Meditation is one way of being more aware of the present moment, including your thoughts and feelings, your body and the world around you. Over time, it can help to improve low mood.

Paper Chain Activity

This paper chain activity can really help your child to see who is there for them. Ask your child to place themselves in the middle of the paper chain and draw those who are important to them on either side.

Remind your child that they can always talk to their important people if they are ever upset or need help. 'I'll speak to daddy because kicking a ball helps me forget I am sad'. 

The paper chain can be as big or as small as your child would like it to be. It can include family, friends, teachers or anyone who your child thinks is important to them. Your child will be able to use the Paper Chain People to remind them who to talk to if needed and is a visual reminder of the support around them. 

Making Paper Chain People

Set aside some time to be together for this activity.

You will need:

  • Paper
  • Scissors
  • Colouring pencils or pens

  1.  Print / draw your template.
  2.  Begin to fold your chain backwards and forwards.
  3.  Cut around your people being careful not to cut between their linked hands.
  4.  Ask your child to draw themselves in the middle of the paper chain. Ask your child who is important to them. Your child can draw these people onto his/her chain.
  5.  Remind your child that they can talk to these important people if they are feeling low or sad.



Self-Care Ideas

When feeling low it is important to look after ourselves and this can be done by incorporating time in your day for self-care. These do not need to be complicated activities, just do something that you enjoy or makes you feel good. This could be;

  • Listening to music.                   
  • Do some arts and crafts.
  • Taking a bath.    
  • Turn your phone off for an hour.
  • Pamper yourself.
  • Meditate.
  • Look at funny memes.          
  • Take a walk.
  • Cuddle your pets.                     
  • Call a friend.
  • Read a book.                           

Most importantly be kind to yourself.

Activities that work will be different for each child. Talk about this with your child and tailor it to what they enjoy. Why not make a poster as a reminder for them to do these activities.

Stay connected

  • Message a friend.                          
  • Talk to a family member.
  • Talk to Samaritans.                           
  • Talk to Childline.

Shelf Help Books

Books about mental health for 13 to 18 year olds, with advice and information about issues like anxiety, stress and OCD, bullying and exams.

All Shelf Help books can be reserved for free from any Norfolk library, or online. The books are available to borrow for up to six weeks.

Health Uncovered Podcast

Health Uncovered is a series of podcasts that aims to get young people in-tune with their health and wellbeing. The series is hosted by BBC Radio One presenter Cel Spellman and features young people and health professionals from our Norfolk Healthy Child Programme.

Life isn't always easy - and young people across the country have been helping us explore the issues that they’re facing today. From online bullying to sexual health, body image to mental health. They've been asking the questions you want to hear answered, joined by the health professionals that help young people, like school nurses and mental health specialists, to provide solutions, support and understanding.

Who can Help?

If feeling low goes on for a long time (more than a couple of weeks) and gets in the way of your child managing day to day life it may be depression. It is important to get some advice to see how best to make things feel better again. You can call your GP, 111 or call Just One Number on 0300 300 0123 to discuss the best way to help them.

You can contact the Healthy Child Programme by calling Just One Number on 0300 300 0123 or texting Parentline on 07520 631590. Our opening hours are 8am-6pm Monday-Friday (excluding bank holidays) and 9am-1pm on Saturdays.

If you are 11-19 you can text ChatHealth on 07480 635060 for confidential advice from one of our team.

For 11–25 year olds Kooth is a free, confidential and safe way to receive online counselling, advice and emotional well-being support. 

Childline - Children and young people under 19 can call 0800 1111 for free support.

Young Minds Parents Helpline - Call 0808 802 5544 for free Mon-Fri from 9.30am to 4pm.

To speak to other Norfolk parents and carers, you can join our online community forum below.

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