The teenage years can be both joyous and tumultuous! The variety of stresses that they go through vary from emotional and hormonal to the challenges of managing school, family, social life, outside activities, and the impending pressures of higher education. It can be overwhelming and though some are able to handle it with relative ease, for others, it can become unmanageable. When the pressures start to build up it can cause mental health challenges like depression, eating disorders and substance abuse.
The signs of someone who is suffering from depression can be overt, yet it is still hard to treat or talk about. Some signs your child could be dealing with clinical depression are seen as changes in their mood and sleeping patterns, a change in their academic performance, if they suddenly seem fearful or hopeless, if they are spending more time alone or disconnected from their friends, and if there are changes in their eating habits with either a drastic weight gain or loss. These are red flags that what they are going through is more than the typical teen blues and it should be addressed with a doctor.
If this is your reality, keeping an open and honest line of communication between you and your child will be very beneficial. Tell them you understand how challenging this time is and talk to them about your experiences at their age, and let them know that what they are going through is difficult but also normal. Allow them to open up to you and talk about how they feel, what they fear and what they are going through, but remember to let them talk. Sometimes just opening up the discussion and showing them that they are not alone in this can make a big impact.
If the symptoms of depression continue, gather information on mental health disorders in kids and teens so that you are better informed and equipped when speaking with your child. There are also many resources you can tap into starting with your pediatrician, school counselor, religious leaders, or you can always go to your local health services department for references.
Keep a close eye on them during this challenging and emotional time in their lives and tell them and show them that you are there for them no matter their needs. It may take them a little while to open up, but stay at it, keep calm, be kind, and offer them a shoulder.
Parents are used to problem-solving, but this may not be something that you can do on your own so don’t be afraid to lean on those you love and trust, and get the professional advice and counseling you need in order to help your teen.