Q. My concern is that my teenage son who has been struggling with remote learning and isolation, is of a generation that grew up having to be worried about school shootings, climate, higher levels of political divide, protests and rioting, and now a pandemic. I’m wondering if I should have an in-depth conversation with him about anxiety and depression in relation to the fact that he has grown up with these things and therefore is at greater risk. On the other hand, am I sending him the message that you should be anxious because you’ve grown up with these things? His symptoms are not what I would consider to be serious, but I’d like to prevent them from becoming serious. I’d appreciate any feedback or suggestions.
A. Your question about sending him the message that perhaps he should be anxious because of these world events is a perceptive one. Yes, he has so much to contend with in his young life, but I do believe that every generation has its worries. I grew up with the threat of nuclear bombs and the Vietnam War with its protests and rioting. Previous generations feared polio and lived through WW2 and the Great Depression. When it is in our backyard, it feels so great. Be aware of the stresses these events are causing you and understand the reality may be quite different for your son. Many teens are self-absorbed and get more depressed about how many likes they are getting on Instagram than what is happening with the climate. That is not to say that many do feel an enormous burden of where their futures are headed in a most precarious world.
To fully answer this question, I have included an article written especially for my audience of parents by Ashley Halsey, a social worker who speaks on parenting and depression.
7 Ways to Help Teens with Depression
As your child grows up to their teenage years, depression can get to them. Although some children won’t get depressed in their life others may fall victim to depression. If this sounds like your teen, you may want to consider what you can do to help them recover.
Know the Signs and Symptoms
“It’s important to know when something is wrong with your child. While adults are able to seek help on their own, teens can only rely on their family and teachers.
Look for the following signs and symptoms of depression in teens:
- Exhibits feelings of deep sadness or hopelessness
- Gets angry, irritable, or hostile
- Isolates themselves from friends and family
- Avoids once-favorite activities
- Performs poorly in school/refuses to participate in remote learning
- Has poor appetite or sleep
- Feels guilty or worthless
- Shows no enthusiasm or motivation
- Has difficulty concentrating
- Has thoughts of suicide or death
Build A Supportive Relationship with Your Teen
Teens with depression may withdraw from friends and family and feel sad and lonely. Instead, show them that you’re there for them whenever they need you. You may need to push through rejection.
Establishing supportive relationships now will save your teen from feeling alone with their stress and shows them that you care about them. On a regular basis, offer a genuine “how are you doing?”
Socially Connect with Your Teen
Depressed teens tend to withdraw from friends and avoid activities they used to enjoy. Since isolation can be caused by and thus makes depression worse, it’s important to spend time with them.
Plan time or spontaneously shoot baskets, bike ride, walk with your teen. If they want to be alone, say you want a companion and promise not to talk about them. Play video games together if he is not engaged with a friend. Watch movies together and talk about them.
Work hard to insure a consistent family dinnertime. This usually needs to be established when children are young to avoid teens refusing to eat with you. Talk about anything that is not directed at your teen and make sure you do not use this time to talk about mental health.
Encourage Physical Health
Inactivity, poor nutrition, and poor sleeping habits aggravate depression. Establish a kitchen charging station for all devices to be plugged in after 10:00 pm. Keeping devices out of the bedroom goes a long way toward improved sleep. Again, this needs to be established early on.
Instead, encourage one hour of physical activity a day–bike-riding, shooting hoops, etc., so that they won’t feel bored or miserable. Interaction with friends and other people is important but work with your teen to set time limits on computers, phones, and other mobile devices unless they are interacting with friends. Limit late night screens so your child is more likely to get a better night’s sleep. Do encourage them to use their phone to organize meeting up with their friends in person. And, along with a balanced diet–fresh produce, protein, and healthy fats, instead of junk food–teens need a sufficient sleep cycle, so that they can be well-rested.
Meditation can be enormously helpful if your teen will do it. Perhaps schedule a time of day that works for both of you and try 10-15 minutes together. Write and/or talk about your experience. There are tons of useful apps to help guide the meditation.
Seek Professional Help
Although providing support and encouraging a healthy lifestyle can make a dent in your teen’s depression, they may not be enough to conquer the illness. Sometimes, depressed teens can act out in ways that are harmful to others and to themselves.
If you suspect that your child’s depression is severe, don’t be afraid to seek help right away. For suicidal ideations, your child needs hospitalization. Do not let depression go unheard.
Support Your Teen’s Recovery
Teen depression can be treated with medication and psychotherapy. Talk to a mental health professional to help you set up the right treatment plan for your teen.
Should you choose medication, know that all antidepressants carry an increased risk of suicidal thoughts. Therefore, talk to your child’s doctor regarding what medicines they should take and be sure to monitor your child as they start medication.
Psychotherapy involves two approaches: cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) or interpersonal therapy (IPT).
- CBT addresses the relationships between thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, to which teens can identify negative thought patterns and replace them with more positive ones.
- IPT focuses on social relationships and communication issues that may be causing depression.
Finally, lifestyle changes can help your child overcome depression.
Care for Yourself (And Family)
It’s up to you, as a parent or caregiver, to make sure that you and your family are doing alright. During this hard time, you and your family need to stick together as you help your teen.
Keep the following in mind:
- Although it’s normal to feel stressed out and helpless when trying to help your child, avoid bottling up your emotions. Be honest with your teen.
- Although it’s easy to blame yourself or another person for your child’s depression, that will only make matters worse. Depression is no one’s fault.
- If you have more than one child, don’t neglect the “healthy” children, as you work to better the depressed child.
It may not be easy to help your teen overcome depression. However, by reading this article, we hope that you can help your child feel better about themselves, and about life in general.
Ashley Halsey writes at Luckyassignments.com and Gumessays.com. As a professional writer and social worker, she has conducted many projects nationwide. In her spare time, she attends business training courses, travels, reads novellas, and spends time with her two children. She also often gives lectures on her experience with parenting and depression.