Have you ever wondered if your unhappy or irritable teen might be suffering from depression? Most teens will have mood swings and seem troubled at times, making it hard to tell if they have depression. If your teen’s unhappiness is coupled with other signs, such as a sudden drop in school grades and withdrawal among others, it might be linked to depression and if this lasts for over two weeks, it may be time to intervene.
Depression in teens can result from social issues at school, poor coping skills, troubled relationships with parents, living in a hostile home, neighborhood, or school environment, the death of a loved one, sickness, or parents’ divorce, amongst others.
Warning Signs of Depression in Teens
A depressed teen can exhibit all or some of the following signs:
Isolating and preferring to be alone
A feeling of sadness, hostility, and anger
Dropping in school grades
Uninterested in the activities they used to enjoy
Engaging in reckless behaviors such as alcohol or drug abuse, or unprotected sex
Experiencing pains such as backaches, headaches or stomach aches
Feeling worthless and guilty
Frequently feeling tired or lack of energy
Change in how they dress and think about their body
Excessive makeup or no makeup at all
Socializing with the wrong crowd
Difficult in concentrating
Lack of self-esteem or confidence
Changes in their appetites or weight
Thinking of committing suicide
Teens might not always go to their parents first when they need to talk about this, but as a parent, it can be hard to just watch and let this happen. So, what can a parent do to help?
It is important to respect your teen's boundaries, but as a parent it is important to know when to intervene.
Here are some tips parents can do to help their teens suffering from depression:
Communication: Begin by opening a dialogue and let your kid know that you have noticed their perturbing behavior, and encourage them to talk with you about what they are going through. Keenly give them your ear without interrupting to ask questions or lecturing but let them know that you will be there for them no matter what. They might shut you out at first, but be unrelenting yet gentle. Keep in mind that opening up about depression for teenagers can be difficult. Also, accept their feelings without trying to talk them out of them as this will go a long way to make them feel that you understand and support them completely.
Be Understanding: Teens with depression go through challenging moments with strange and unpredictable behaviors, and in most cases, they may behave out of their character like being rude, reckless, or irritable. Understand that they are going through a difficult time and don’t mean whatever they do or say during their current situation. This is not time to blame them or being mad; instead, try to reassure them that things will be okay. Wait until they are calm to help them develop better and healthier strategies to deal with their feelings.
Be patient: To fully recover from depression, it may take an extended period, and parents should never try to rush them into healing. Instead, parents should patiently provide support and comfort while allowing the teen to let go at their own pace. For some individuals, they have to battle depression for the rest of their lives, which means they have to learn how to cope with it and prepare for relapses. Where they have begun treatment, it can take a while before they can start to feel better. At this point, what they require from you is patience, love, and support. Let them know that you care by listening and appreciating them for who they are.
Encourage social connection: Teens going through depression tend to withdraw from friends and family and the activities they used to enjoy. Even when you are running a busy schedule, set some time every day to talk with your teen since connecting face to face can play an important role in making him/her feel better. Please encourage them to go out, perhaps for a movie with friends, or invite friends to the house.
Encourage physical health: For one, exercising is very vital for mental health. Encourage your kid to exercise every day to keep them active. Suggest going for a hike, jogging, dancing, and yoga, which is beneficial. Secondly, provide them with well-balanced meals as eating sugary and fatty foods worsen their moods. Thirdly, they should have enough sleep for normal functioning, aiming for 7-9 hours.
Counseling: When support and healthy lifestyle changes do not make a difference, it may be time to think of other things. Where depression is severe, the best resort is to seek professional help. Ask them whether they are willing to see a therapist and let them know the benefits of this treatment. It may be hard for them to accept the idea of therapy, but give them time and guide them towards treatment, and wait patiently for them to embrace it. Family counseling is also an alternative if the teen is not open to have individual therapy.
Teen depression can be both physically and emotionally draining on the parent’s side, but you can help your daughter or son overcome it by following these tips. Besides, know that you are not alone and can find support when things are tough. Familiarize yourself with your kids' behaviors so that you can detect when they are acting strange and help them before they get worse.
Your Therapy Friend,
Sofia Robirosa is the owner of Infinite Therapeutic Services and is a Perinatal & Relationships Expert. She offers individual, couples, and family counseling to individuals seeking to enhance their relationship with their children and significant other. Her private practice is located in Plantation, FL. She attended Nova Southeastern University for both her Bachelor and Master Degrees in Marriage and Family Therapy and in Business Administration. She is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, a Perinatal Mental Health Certified Professional, and a Leader in Active Parenting for children and teens. She loves her family, which consists of her husband, daughter and son, and two dogs. Some of her interests outside of work include spending time outdoors, traveling, and dining. Read more about her at: www.infinitetherapeuticservices.com
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