Family Health and Fitness

How Can I Help My Child Who Struggles With Depression?

Today’s teens face many challenges that they are not always emotionally equipped to handle. As they try to find themselves in a world of peer pressure, family problems and more, teens will often struggle with how to cope with the many new feelings they will encounter. It is not uncommon for many adolescents to go through periods of depression as they try to understand and deal with new feelings and emotions as they grow. If you see signs of depression in your child, there are ways you can help.

Be Accepting of Your Child’s Depression

Many parents have a difficult time accepting that something could be seriously wrong with their child and will wait for their child to “snap out of it” or “stop making excuses.” Admitting something worse could feel like you have done something wrong as a parent. The truth is, you are not alone. About 12.5 percent of teens have experienced depression or struggle with mental illness, so this is not uncommon. The first best thing you can do to help your teen during this time is to accept that your child could be depressed. Acceptance will not only open the lines of communication for your teen, but it will also help them feel as if they are not alone.

Listen and Avoid Judgment

If you notice that your adolescent has a significant change in social, school and home functioning is significantly different than you are used to, then you may want to begin a conversation with them about depression. Let them know you have noticed a difference in behavior and ask them about their feelings. It is important to listen and to avoid judgment. If you begin to judge or offer unwanted advice, your teen could shut down or downplay their feelings. Let your child talk, give affirming nods and comments and offer to be a sounding board when needed. Also, help them to understand you may need to seek professional assistance if their feelings get worse or do not change.

Research and Educate Yourself

Depression symptoms may not look the same for every person, so it is often difficult to know if treatment is needed or if it is normal teenage hormones that will resolve themselves. For this reason, you, as the parent, need to research and educate yourself on what depression looks like and when you need to seek help. Talk with professionals, pick up reading material, or do a search on the internet to help learn as much about the topic as you can. Remember, knowledge is power, and that power could save your child’s life.

Encourage a Healthy Routine

Often people who are depressed have a difficult time completing daily tasks such as getting out of bed, bathing and going outside. It is important to make sure your child is adhering to a healthy routine to assist with alleviating symptoms of depression. Some things to do include setting up a time to get up, an eating schedule and an exercise routine. Just walking for 30 minutes a day will help to reduce feelings of depression. Make sure your teen has access to plenty of fruits and vegetables so they can keep up healthy eating habits.

Help Them Connect to Others

Keeping social relationships is an important part of managing depression symptoms. Getting your child to agree to go on outings may be difficult, but it is necessary. Make a schedule of events that you and your teen can agree on attending and set them up. Place these events on a calendar for all to see and send reminders about the events. Events could be lunch with family or friends, a class that you teen is interested in, or volunteering at a local shelter. Whatever social interaction you choose, it will go a long way in helping to lessen depression symptoms.

Seek Professional Help

There may be a time when you find your teen’s symptoms are getting worse or have gone on for an extended amount of time. If this happens, you should reach out to your family doctor to discuss treatment options for your teen. There are a variety of treatment options available, which can include drug and non-drug therapy. Treatment will look different for everyone. Some kids will need someone who they can talk with to learn what their triggers are and new coping skills they can use. Others may need to take prescribed medications to help with their symptoms. Your teen’s doctor can help decide what options will be best for your child.

If you are having a difficult time determining if your child is extra moody or if they are struggling with depression symptoms, you need to begin a conversation with your teen. Getting teens the help they need and being supportive will help them to heal faster and could save their life. Do not be afraid to reach out to a professional if your teen is struggling.

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