Adolescence is a time of enormous growth. Not only are their bodies continuing to grow, but so are their independence, social lives, and possible career interests for the future. It is an exciting time, but it can also be a time of mood struggles, like anxiety and depression.
There are many reasons teens may experience anxiety and depression. Insecurity about their bodies and uncertainty about their future are some possible reasons. Increased social expectations and peer pressure can also come into play. Genetics can also play a role. And sometimes the world just becomes a very overwhelming place that seems too hard to navigate.
If you think your teen is struggling with depression or anxiety, it’s important to take proactive steps to help them. Here are some ways to get started.
How to Know If Your Child Needs Help
Some changes in your children may be obvious, such as refusing to go to school, significant changes in their typical habits or routines, or extreme mood changes. However, other changes may be more subtle leaving you questioning if it is just a normal part of their development.
Some of these changes could include:
- Loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy
- Spending more time alone
- Change in peer group
- Change in eating and sleeping patterns
- Change in school or athletic performance including underperforming or perfectionism
You know your child best. And if something does not feel right, trust your instinct and reach out for help.
It is easy as a parent to get frustrated when we see our child struggling. We want so much to see them succeed and not have to deal with major difficulties as they grow up. So, when we see them becoming withdrawn or holding themselves back, it can be tempting to put pressure on them to change.
Unfortunately, this response is more likely to hurt than help. Getting angry at them will only make them feel worse and less likely to open up to you.
Instead, provide a listening ear and reassurance. Let them know you are there for them no matter what. Do not shame them or belittle them for feeling anxious or depressed. They’re in an emotionally hard place and need your support.
Set a Self-Care Example
Modern life can be crazy and stressful. With jobs, household responsibilities, kids’ activities, a pandemic, and more, it is easy for family life to fall to the bottom of the priority list.
Set a good example for your teens of self-care and enjoyment within your home. If you have been letting stress dominate everyone’s weeks, turn things down a notch. Talk to your teen about taking care of themselves and let them see you doing this.
Incorporate relaxation and fun into your family’s schedule. Make sleep hygiene, exercise, and healthy nutrition a priority. Set limits on screen time, including distressing news coverage, video games, and social media. Build mindfulness and relaxation into everyone’s life.
Talk with Them
Teens are notorious for not wanting to talk with their parents. But if they are open to it, helps them process their anxiety and depression. Help them set small goals to deal with social anxiety, for example.
Ask what you can do to help them. Share examples of times you went through hard times in life and what helped you move through it.
Be Their Advocate
Anxiety and depression can overwhelm even the most competent of adults. So, you can imagine how much more overwhelming it can be for a teenager. When someone is going through these mental health challenges, they need others to come alongside and help them. As their parent, you can be their greatest advocate.
A key way to do this is to reach out for professional help if anxiety and depression continue to shroud your teen’s life. If these issues are not addressed, they can grow larger and become more intractable.
They can put up roadblocks to school and career success as they grow up.
As experienced therapists, we have worked with many teens and families to get to the root of anxiety and depression. There are many therapeutic approaches that can help your teen find healing and empowerment. Please reach out to our office to learn more.