There are six primary ways that parents can support their teens, regardless of whether they are depressed. Although some of these might already feel natural, it’s easy to get carried away with other aspects of life and forget the ways that your teen needs you. This is particularly true because teens are pulling away from parents; they are seeking their sense of self through friends and social groups. Yet, the need for parental love and acceptance is still there. And that’s where parents can provide support and prevent teen depression, an illness that is commonly occurring among adolescents.
Love Your Teen Unconditionally – The relationship between child and parent is essential during adolescence. As described above, your teen is going to want to pull away. Nonetheless, showing that you are there for your teen, making sure that you have a relationship that is open and honest can create a feeling that your teen can come to you when he or she needs to. Some ways to do this is to
- Set aside each day to talk.
- Find out what your teen is excited about.
- Praise his or her achievements.
- Offer positive feedback.
- Respond to your child’s anger with calm assurance versus more aggression.
Foster Friendship and Social Networks – It’s actually important that your teen spend time with friends. He or she is searching for a sense of self during this life stage and being able to be with others is an essential component to this life task. Positive experiences with friends and peers can help prevent depression.
Monitor Media Use – Adolescents tend to stay focused on their individual lives, lost in their smart phones, and having their attention shift from one piece of technology to another. There’s no real connection that might be satisfying and psychologically nourishing. Preventing depression includes encouraging your teen to have interaction with others that are fulfilling and engaging. Furthermore, much of the media, including television and movies include a large amount of violence, which can aggravate feelings of depression.
Encourage Physical Activity – Physical activity can release endorphins, which alone help to boost positive feelings. However, exercise can also help with long-term mental health, including making new connections in the brain, which alone can facilitate enduring change. Furthermore, to experience these benefits from exercise, your teen doesn’t have to run three miles a day; taking a walk regularly can boost mental health.
Promote Good Sleep – Although this might be difficult to establish at first, a teen who goes to bed and rises at the same time every day might feel the difference in his or her mental health. Depression usually inhibits a regular sleep schedule; it will either cause little sleep or oversleeping. Yet, having a regular schedule can help with getting the right amount of rest. If sleeping becomes a challenge, remove the distractions in the bedroom such as a television or computer.
Know Symptoms of Depression – Of course, another way that parents can be supportive is to recognize symptoms of depression in their teens and to have their children assessed if needed. Some of the depressive symptoms that teens might experience include:
- Anger and aggression, especially in male depressed teens
- Low self-esteem, high self-criticism, extreme pessimism, especially if they are female
- Confused and dysfunctional thinking
- High self-consciousness
- Irritable / depressed mood – the DSM allows for irritable mood to substitute for depressed mood in the criteria for making a diagnosis for depression.
- Loss of interest in activities
- Poor interpersonal problem solving and high stress from close relationships
- Antisocial behavior, particularly in males
- Sleep disturbance – insomnia / hypersomnia
- Appetite disturbance – weight loss/gain
- Difficulty coping with stress from relationships, family environment, or depressed parents
- Symptoms of other mental illnesses, which are common to co-exist with teen depression, such as ADHD, eating disorders, anxiety disorders, and substance use disorders.
- Suicidal thoughts
- Poor concentration
- Poor memory
- Slow thinking
If you see any of these symptoms and you suspect depression, it is always best to err on the side of caution. You can begin by taking your child to be psychologically assessed. Even if you find out that he or she does not have an illness, at least you can be assured that you did what you could for your teen’s health. Untreated teen depression can lead to suicide, and in this way, to the loss of life.
Breyer, Melissa. “8 Health Benefits of Laughter.” Care2.com, 23 Aug. 2011. Web. 04 Mar. 2014.
R. Morgan Griffin. “10 Natural Depression Treatments.” WebMD. Web. 04 Mar. 2014.