And now it’s out. Your teen is suffering from depression. With that, as a parent (or a family member), what can you do? Here are some valuable tips to ease your teen’s “excess baggage:”
Encourage Social Connection
Depressed teens often distance themselves from others, and they will show disinterest in previous hobbies. Help them reconnect with their friends because isolation worsens the depression. “Cultivating relational health in your parent/adolescent relationship, even when your teen is actively blocking you, takes reinvention, persistence and a willingness to look inward.” Kimberly Hackett, LMHC explains.
Make one-on-one time a priority. Make sure that you can talk to your teen even if you’re apart. Also simply using face time can already help a lot in showing you’re here for support.
Combat social isolation. Try to reconnect your teen with others like his friends and mates to avoid isolation. Encourage them to hang out with other people again.
Get your teen involved. Introducing them to new things like arts, music, or sports can make that enthusiasm for life in them come back.
Promote volunteerism. A great antidepressant is the feeling of knowing that you have helped others. Try to get you and your teen involved with volunteer work.
Physical Health Is A Top Priority
You can’t separate physical health from mental health. Depression can worsen if a person doesn’t do anything to treat it or if he will succumb to the symptoms like not sleeping or eating unhealthily. These are often things teens are known for, unfortunately. Try to combat these things with the following suggestions:
Get them moving! Exercise doesn’t have to be “the gym” every single day. Just making your teen walk the dog or jog every weekend is a start. “Exercise is key; speak to your primary care physician to see what kind of physical activity is right for you.” Amanda Zayde, PsyD said.
Set limits on screen time. A lot of teens use the internet to escape their problems, but it also decreases real-life interaction. Get them to tone it down. “limit screen time for younger teens; show interest in them, their ideas, opinions, dreams; engage teens in conversations about choices, relationships, and future plans; and provide opportunities for them to explore their own point of view through conversation without judgment.” A reminder from Sandi Lindgren PCC, LICSW.
Provide nutritious and well-balanced meals. Avoid buying junk snacks. You can also hide the unhealthy foods in cupboards or other places like the garbage bin. Instead, serve healthy meals for your teen that are high in protein, whole wheat for carbs, and healthy fats instead of starchy and sugary foods.
Encourage him to plenty of sleep. Teens need 9-10 hours of sleep. Encourage early sleeping instead of staying up all night.
Know When To Seek Professional Help
While having a healthy lifestyle is great, sometimes it’s not enough to fully combat depression. When it becomes too much, and the depression is too severe, you should get professional mental help to treat your teen.
Involve Your Teen In Treatment Choices
Don’t decide on the treatment on behalf of your child unless it’s necessary. Ask your teen what he or she prefers for their depression management. It is also best to inquire to their therapist so that the program would go smoothly.
Explore Other Options
The specialist will talk to you about the different options for treatment depending on how mild or severe is the depression of your teen. Talk therapy is the proper treatment if the depression is mild to moderate. If depression isn’t coped with over time, medication may be recommended.
Don’t immediately choose prescription drugs or medicine just because it’s cheaper or less time-intensive than talk treatments. Unless they’re at risk of suicidal thoughts, you need to be careful in choosing the type of therapy program with medication for your teen. The best way would be to use antidepressants and to undergo treatment.
Medication Comes With Risks
Since antidepressants were made initially and tested for adults, no one fully knows their effect on developing brains. Some specialists are worried about the exposure of a developing brain to drugs like Prozac as it may inhibit its development and processing of emotions.
Teens on antidepressants: Red flags to watch out for. Call a doctor if you notice:
- More suicidal thoughts or talks
- Suicidal attempts
- Worsening depression
- Worsening anxiety
- Panic attacks
- More irritable
- Acting on dangerous impulses
- Other unusual behavior
Support Your Teen All The Way
When your teen is undergoing treatment, make sure to provide your support all the way and lend an ear at any time your teen requires it. They need you the most during this period.
Be understanding. It may get exhausting to live with someone with depression, but you should remember that your teen is not difficult; it’s the disorder. Be patient as much as possible.
Stay involved during treatment. Make sure that your teen is going along with the program. He or she must not skip on medication or therapy session. Call the doctor if you have concerns.
Be patient. Recovering from depression isn’t easy, and there will be a lot of challenges. Celebrate the small victories and don’t compare the situation with others. Your teen will get there when it’s time.
Take Care Of Yourself As Well As The Whole Family
There may come a time wherein you’re so focused on your teen that you forget the needs of your self and your family. Just make sure that you’re also taking care of yourself, your spouse and your other kids.
Don’t try to do everything. Ask for the support of the family if you need it. You must also have your support system so that you can stay healthy while helping your depressed teen.
Express your emotions. Don’t try to keep it all in. It’s okay to feel what you’re feeling, positive or almost negative. Talk to someone to let out your thoughts and feelings.
Look after your health. Your health can also be affected throughout this ordeal so make sure you’re in tiptop shape. You can’t take care of your depressed teen if you, yourself, is sick.
Discuss it with the family. Be open to everyone so that you’ll be on the same page.
Remember the siblings. Having a depressed child can also cause other members to feel stressed. Ensure that everyone is getting the right care and attention.
Don’t blame anyone. It might be easy to blame yourself or someone but never does it. Depression is complicated, and it is nobody’s fault.