It can be heartbreaking for parents to watch their teen go through depression and start losing weight. While depression in adolescents is fairly common, that knowledge does not make it any easier to handle. A teen suffering from depression will often…
- show little interest in previously enjoyed activities
- have poor sleep patterns, either sleeping too little or too much
- have poor eating habits, either losing weight or overeating
- show signs of anorexia and / or bulimia or other health issues
Managing teen depression is a challenging task. If you suspect your teen is going through a bout of depression, here are 5 things you can do to be more engaging with them!
1. Focus on doing things with your teen.
Isolation only heightens feelings of depression in teens. Even if you experience resistance at first, plan activities that the whole family can join in on. Go for a picnic at the park. Watch a movie altogether. Institute a family game night. Or some other weekly family tradition that will have everyone in close proximity with each other. Engaging your teen in activities will give him or her something else to focus on, even if for only a brief period of time.
Bottom line here, many teens are yearning for more family interaction with family activities they used to do when they were younger.
2. Don't neglect the physical elements of a healthy lifestyle.
It can be difficult to dictate how much sleep your teen gets. Teens are at the age where it can be hard to enforce guidelines regarding nutritious diet and getting sufficient exercise. But each of these elements play a part in contributing toward emotional stability. Put extra effort into making nutritious snacks always available. You also might need to brainstorm a way to make sure the meals that he or she does eat are packed with needed nutrition for a growing teen.
Mental ailments often go hand in hand with other type of psychological and health disorders. It’s important to make sure there are no signs of eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia when your teen is going through depression. Since eating disorders can cause long term health problems, it’s important to immediately seek eating disorder treatments for teens.
3. Listen and be there.
If you are a parent of a depressed teen, you need to be aware that often depression can lead to thoughts of suicide. The only way you will know if your teen is entertaining such thoughts is by talking with your teen on a regular basis. If you pick your teen up from school each day, make the ride home a time where you just listen and don't pass judgement. Make it a judgement-free zone where your teen can feel free to express him or herself to you.
4. Look into therapy and counseling options.
It's okay to admit that you don't know what to say or do to help your teen. In fact, your teen may feel more comfortable talking to a counselor or a therapist than a parent. Don't take it personally. Often, parents are too emotionally involved to be a non-judgmental sounding board. Research therapists in your area, or ask your family doctor or high school for a list of recommendations.
If your teen is showing signs of a eating disorder, you can also consult with a nutritionist or a doctor that specialized in eating disorders. If things are to the point where your child may be in danger due to malnutrition, it may be time for hospitalization.
5. Try a change of scenery.
Depression is often characterized by a feeling of hopelessness regarding oneself or one’s situation. To address these feelings, try introducing your teen to a change of scenery. Go on a trip together. Learn a new skill together. Take in a theater play. Don't be surprised if your ideas are met with resistance. It is also likely you won't be heaped with praise, even if your teen secretly enjoys whatever you have planned. The more you can get your teen engaging with the world and his or her surroundings, the better.
If a trip isn’t a plausible solution, going on a hike in nature, or going to the beach or lake tends do be therapeutic as well. Being in nature and around water tends to stabilize people and calm the nerves. In addition, studies have shown that exercising and staying in shape can not only prevent depression but also help cure it.
Helping your teen climb out of depression can feel like a long fight. In the midst of trying to help your teen, don't neglect taking care of yourself. As the primary caregiver for your teen, you need to be thinking clearly in order to help your family through this difficult time. It's okay for secondary things to slide, but that should not include time spent on keeping yourself healthy and mentally fit. Ask for help if you feel you aren't doing well on your own. A supportive family can do wonders to help everyone pull through. Most of all, know that you aren't alone in your struggle. Most teens, with care and help, make it through the turmoil of adolescence and safely into adulthood.