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The Dos And Don’ts Of Helping A Depressed Teenager



Dealing with a depressed teenager is a tricky task that not all parents do well. That is why many seek professional help from therapists and counselors which is a smart approach. However, a teenager spends more time with parents and family than the therapist which makes the home environment and the communication among family members an essential aspect of treating depression.

But first, one needs to make sure the child has depression or any sort of anxiety or mental/emotional issue. Identifying the signs of depression is the first step towards a healthy treatment. Parents must never ignore the early warning behavioral sign and physical symptoms that indicate teenage depression.

According to the UN Health Agency, around 332 million people in the world are going through severe depression episodes while many are unreported. This is alarming as the biggest portion of these statistics comprises teenagers and young adults, from 13 to 30 years of age.

Identifying depression symptoms  

The first step towards treating a depressed teenager is to identify the signs and symptoms. There are many ways that the experts suggest which indicate depression and mental stress in children and teenagers.

Here are a few behavioral signs and physical symptoms:

  • Persistent negative mood and mood swings
  • Lack of enthusiasm for life in general / loss of interest in hobbies
  • Low self-esteem
  • Not openly communicating with family
  • School fights / rebellious or detached attitude
  • Poor academic performance
  • Sneaky behavior / running away / escaping accountability
  • Drug/alcohol abuse
  • Reckless behavior / violence / disrespect for others
  • Sudden sleep and diet changes
  • Lethargic and weak body
  • Unexplained aches and pains

Taking care of your depressed teenager

Once the signs are identified or may be clinically confirmed, here are a few things the parents should or should not do:

The Dos:

  • Ask and inquire frequently

Engage in your child’s everyday life and keep asking them about their daily activities at school or with friends. This will make your child feel safe and comfortable thinking that they can openly talk to you whenever they want.

Besides, their replies will also provide behavioral and emotional insights to the parents about what’s going on in the child’s mind.

  • Don’t just ask, listen as well

Listening to your child will make them open up. They might share details of their mental and emotional confusion and the causes of stress. Listening to your teenager is a precious thing that can further strengthen your bond with them. They should know at someone is there to listen to them no matter what happens.

  • Encourage them for professional help

One of the most tricky things is to convince your child to seek therapy or professional help. Although many might feel comfortable opening up to a doctor rather than a family member. In any case, professional guidance and help will do the basic groundwork for treating the depression episodes.

The Don’ts:

  • Criticism and punishments

When a teenager is going through mental and emotional stress, their bodies are equally burdened. When more criticism or the burden of punishments or increased schoolwork or domestic chores is put on them, they might backfire.

Cut them some slack and ensure they remain calm and relaxed throughout the treatment process.

  • Judging  

In the depressive state, teenagers tend to do self-harm or irresponsible things that are merely episodic. Parents must understand that all this is temporary thus, being too judgmental and strict can lead to wrong outcomes.

Similarly, your teen might also opt for bad diet and clothing choices, ensure that no one (including siblings) should make fun of them or criticize them.

  • Taking things personally

Sometimes, depressed and irritable teenagers might say harsh things to parents as they have lost control over their emotions. Parents must remain patient and calm if this happens and try to console them politely.

Remind yourself that your child loves you they just don’t know how to express the love and their feeling for you.

Summing up, a depressed teenager is quite volatile emotionally. The parent’s task is to keep him calm while ensuring to provide a safe outlet to them for channeling out their anxieties. This must be done quickly as the more your child’s feelings pent up inside, the more harmful effects of depression will surface.

Thus, stay too close to your child and make them feel safe and secure in your presence. This behavior and closeness will go a long way in treating depression.

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