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How to Support your Teenager with Depression

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As a parent, you are used to taking care of your children, especially when they are ill. But when kids are transitioning to their teenage years the parenting role changes to a more supporting role. This can be difficult and is even more so for teens who are struggling with depression. Depression is a serious mental health condition that has an impact on someone’s social life, work and physical and mental health. The number of children that are diagnosed with depression has been increasing every year. Statistics show that in Australia, one in 35 young Australians aged 4-17 y old have experienced a depressive disorder. Teenagers who experience depression need support, though they have to want that support.

So how do you know if your teenager has depression? The following are signs that your teenager might be depressed:

  • Your child has lost interest in the things he usually enjoys doing.
  • They have been sad or irritable most of the day, and most of the days for at least two weeks.
  • Eating or sleeping habits have changed.
  • His/her energy levels have dropped, and they experience a lack of motivation.
  • Your child is feeling worthless, hopeless about their future and experiences feelings of guilt.
  • Your child struggles at school caused by difficulties in concentrating.
  • He/she might have experienced suicidal thoughts. If this is the case, it’s key to have your child evaluated by a mental health professional.

Professional attention is advised when your teen has more than a few of the signs above. As a parent, there are a couple of things that you can do to support your teen. The most important thing is to simply be there for them and be accepting. So, how can you achieve this?

Strengthening your relationship
Strengthening your relationship with your teen is one of the main things that you as a parent can do for your child. This can be achieved by validating their emotions, instead of their unhealthy behaviours. In order to be able to validate their emotions, it’s important to be empathic, listen to your teenager and try to understand them by putting yourself in his shoes. For instance, you can say to your child: “I sense that you have been really down the last couple of weeks, is that right?” Key is to make it clear to your child that you are willing to understand what’s going on for them without trying to solve their problems.

Positive reinforcement
It’s important to focus on the positive things that your teenager does. These can be small things such as going to school, doing their home-work or cooking a meal. It’s key to notice these positive behaviours and to praise your child for doing them as this will ensure that your child feels valued and experiences a feeling of achievement. Similarly, avoid reinforcing your child in a negative way by highlighting their downfalls or the things that they are not able to do anymore because of their depressive mood as this can cause your child to feel more frustrated and down.

Find professional help
When you suspect that your child has depression, it’s advised to seek professional help. However, some teenagers will be resistant at first to the idea of therapy. If this is the case, try to be patient and acknowledge them by addressing that they must be going through a difficult time and that you have some ideas that could help them. Also, let them know that they can talk to you about these options whenever they feel the need to. Eventually, ifyour child agrees to see a therapist, it’s key to find a therapist that your child is feeling comfortable with as this usually leads to better therapy outcomes.

A variety of evidence-based treatments are available that can reduce the symptoms of depression. For instance, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Family-based Interpersonal Therapy have all been shown to be effective for teenagers who suffer from depression. While therapy alone might be effective for teenagers who have mild to moderate symptoms of depression, evidence has shown that a combination of medication and therapy usually obtains better results. In order to receive medication, a specialised child psychiatrist needs to be consulted first.

Self-care
Finally, it’s necessary that you also take care of yourself by making sure that you receive support from your friends or other family members and also keep on doing things that you enjoy, as it can be emotionally challenging to be a parent of a teenager that deals with depression.Know that you are not alone and that you can find the support you need. 

If you or your teenager would like to receive help book an appointment with Wendy or another psychologist at Drop of Life! 

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