When Your Kid is Feeling Down


A while back I had to go to the ER because of some abdominal pain. It was pretty minor and all is well now, but what I want to talk about is how this whole ordeal really affected my child. When we get sick, especially as parents, it usually is at the most inconvenient time. When I wasn’t feeling well we didn’t have time to wait for family or a babysitter to watch the kiddos, so when I went into urgent care my poor husband had to take me in and we also had the kids with us. Because of the chain of events my daughter saw me getting IV’s and medicine, being put on a stretcher and rolled to the ambulance. 

In hindsight, we realize her witnessing this was very traumatic to her. That night my daughter refused to eat and didn’t talk much. Then in the following days she also said she didn’t feel well, continued to not want to eat and didn’t want to do anything. Really, all she wanted to do was just lie around (she didn’t even want to watch tv!!). Needless to say we started to get really worried. I will be the first to admit I am naive to nurturing and fully understanding depression, and my first initial reaction was to want to demand she snap out of it. But of course that doesn’t work and you can’t force someone to feel better emotionally. From my initial feelings it really made me aware of not only myself, but in the bigger picture that we as a society aren’t fully educated or aware on how to handle depression and mental illness.

Before talking more about this subject, please know I am not an expert on this subject. And it’s easier for me to talk about this because my daughter’s ‘off’ behavior was short-term. But sometimes the best thing we can do is just bring up these topics, research and learn more about it so we can be equipped to nurture and best help our kids when these things do happen. And know when to ask the experts when need be. I asked a few good friends who are much more knowledgeable about the subject for advice. They provided the following tips that you can do with your children if something like this happens to you.

  1. Make sure to talk about what happened, validate your child’s feelings, such as, “that was really scary, but now mommy is feeling really good because the doctor took care of me.”
  2. Look for books that talk about getting sick and going to the doctor that you can read to your child. Here are two that I would suggest: Bear Feels Sick and A Sick Day for Amos McGee.
  3. Have your child draw pictures when they are down or scared (they may not have the words yet to articulate how they are feeling).
  4. Role play doctor with them using stuffed animals. Take turns playing patient and then doctor. Use the play as a catalyst for conversation.
  5. Spend extra quality time with your child. 

As impressionable as kids can be, they also can be resilient and stronger than we think. Sometimes all they need is time. Once I started feeling better it took our child a couple more days to get back to her normal self. 

If your kids are experiencing depression and it’s lasting for weeks or their behavior is worrying you, it may be beneficial getting professional help. Below are some resources that serve the Madison area. Please note some places take insurance but others do not, the same with Medicaid. You may also want to call your insurance company first to see who is in your network. Lastly, the listed references are for all types of situations, my daughter’s experience was from an acute (one-time) event. But there are of course situations for chronic (ongoing) events as well.

Clinical/ Private

Access Community Health/ Behavioral Health Services
(608) 443-5480
Our Behavioral Health Consultants provide brief, solution-focused options as part of your primary care visit

Counseling Resources-Neuropsychological Associates, LLC
4785 Hayes Road, Suite 100, Madison, WI 53704, 608-242-7160
Mary M. Rhoades, Ph.D., Licensed Clinical Psychologist
Accepts Medical Assistance
She specializes in developmental disabilities, Autism, Asperger’s Disorder, ADHD/ADD, as well as issues of organization, time management, study skills, memory, and regulation of moods, arousal, and focus.

Family Therapy Center of Madison  (private practice)
700 Rayovac Drive Suite 220 Madison WI 53711, 608-276-9191
We are a group of independent practitioners of psychiatry, psychology and clinical social work. Provide a range of services including assessment of emotional/cognitive/learning difficulties. Adults, couples, families, children and adolescents.
Erica Serlin, PhD, Psychologist
Special Interests include: “Asperger’s Disorder in children and adolescents”

Healing Hearts Family Counseling Center
1268 W. Main Street, Sun Prairie, WI 53590, Phone 608-834-1122
Email [email protected]
Pat Ann St. Germain, MA, LPC
Heather Edge, MSW, LCSW
Leah Thompson, BA, COTA (neurofeedback)
Jeremy Pieper, MS, MFT
Healing Hearts provides counseling for children, adolescents, adults, and families. We address issues related to adoption, foster care, trauma, abuse, neglect, abandonment, multiple moves, out of home placement and general mental health. Our counseling services are grounded in research-based practices from Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy.
Insurance: Accept BadgerCare- Dean HMO only (not currently accepting any other Medicaid or BadgerCare). Covered by BCBS, WPS, WEA, and many other private insurance companies, even if out of network.  Some of these companies will pay for neurofeedback services, as well. NOT covered as a provider through GHC, Unity, or Physician’s Plus (unless PPO).  

Jennifer M. Warner, LPC (Licensed Professional Counselor)
780 Regent Street, Suite 302, Madison, WI 53715, 608-251-6590
Jennifer works with children, adolescents, families, and adults. She has worked effectively with people who were struggling with a wide variety of personal and interpersonal issues.

Madison Psychiatric Associates 
5534 Medical circle, Madison WI 53719, (608) 274-0355
recommend calling and leave information.  
Some providers will accept Medicaid

Open Door Center for Change

6502 Grand Teton Plaza, Suite 102, Madison, WI 53719, 608-827-7220
Email: [email protected]
“We can help with unique educational challenges, substance use evaluation, Substance Abuse Professional Services, mental health/psychiatric assessment, vocational assessment, and more. Call us to see how we can help you understand your situation and identify a plan to help you achieve your goals. All services are confidential and we work with Medicare, Medical Assistance, self-pay, and many commercial insurance plans.  We also offer a sliding scale for those who need it.”

Patrick Kane, Ph.D., Psychologist and Nationally Certified School Psychologist

The Psychology Center, 6510 Grand Teton Plaza, Suite 406, Madison, WI 53719,
608-833-9290,  [email protected]
“Dr. Kane provides individual and group counseling services for people with high-functioning autism and Asperger’s Syndrome using behavioral and cognitive-behavioral techniques. He performs independent educational evaluations and consults regarding school and family issues.”

Pediatric Health Psychology Services- at American Family Children’s Hospital

E3/343 Clinical Science Center, 600 Highland Avenue Madison, WI 53792-3228
Appointments: 608-263-8415
Joel Wish, Psychologist, Rehabilitative Medicine ([email protected])
Stephanie Farrell, PhD 608-262-9185
Kathryn Hammes, PhD 608-890-9352
Kelli Harford, PhD 608-890-8196

The Psychology Center (private practice)
High Point Plaza, 7617 Mineral Point Road- Suite 300, Madison, WI 53717, 608-833-9290,

The Rainbow Project, Inc
831 East Washington Avenue, Madison, WI 53703, 608-255-7356
Providing services to children & families experiencing stress related, but not limited to, the effects of:  Trauma, Neglect, Attachment Issues, Witness to Domestic Violence,  and other biological & environmental stressors.

Woodview Counseling Center, LLC
330 S. Whitney Way, Suite 303, Madison, WI 53705, 608-268-0341 
Email: [email protected] /  [email protected] 
Marilyn Holschuh, LCSW, ACSE, 
and Maura Taggart, PhD, LCSW, ACSW
Individual and family counseling for families caring for person with a disability or chronic illness. Each of our clinicians specializes in working with families on special issues including adoption and attachment issues, disability and chronic illness, grief and loss, and other major life transitions (expected and unexpected).

WisPIC- Wisconsin Psychiatric Institute and Clinics

6001 Research Park Blvd, Madison, WI 53719, 608-232-3171
-Those with Physicians Plus or Unity need to call the Behavioral Health help line at 608-233-3575
– Those with Medicaid fee for service, may call WisPIC directly at 232-3171
– Dean and GHC insurance will not cover WisPIC services

Again, I know I only scratched the surface. For those who have dealt with this in a much bigger picture and are willing, please feel free to share your tips, advice or additional resources in the comments below.

Melissa is a mom of a 2 year old and expecting her second child any day now! She's a foodie, loves spending time with her family and friends, enjoys reading a good book, designing, crafting and taking as many family adventures as possible. Fitting that in of course is a juggling act between being a busy stay at home mom, but she wouldn't want it any other way. Before having kids she studied and worked in architecture. She and her husband have lived in Chicago, Norfolk, Va, San Francisco and just recently moved back to Madison. You can also read about her adventures on her personal blog www.defininglovely.com.


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