Health

  • Written by Annie Wylie


 

Depression...not a dirty word

 

It is common for teenagers to experience depression, with 1 in 16 young people aged 16-24 having experienced it. Your teen could be going through a normal adolescent stage of wanting to be alone and figuring themselves out but talking about their emotions can equip them for the future, not only for themselves but for looking out for mates too.

 

If you notice that your child isn’t acting like their usual self, it is important to have a conversation with them about what’s up. Showing that you’re concerned for their wellbeing can create an open space for them to talk about the tough time they’re going through and can remove the stigma that mental ill-health isn’t something that you talk about.

Create a safe space

A great way to make your teen feel comfortable to talk about what is going on with them is to create a safe space. For some this will mean sitting down in a quiet, comfortable spot in the house. For others you may need to try different things, like going for a drive or doing the dishes, as these casual settings may make them more willingly to open up. The most important thing is to try to be non-judgemental and to not jump immediately into fix-it mode, as much as your natural parenting instincts might want you to.

Here are some tips to make that happen:

  • Listen openly. Ask questions and t to avoid telling them what should happen next. The important thing is to get your child talking about what they’re going through and letting them know you are there to listen. Talking about depression can be hard for anyone, so if your child shuts you out at first, respect their level of readiness to talk.

  • Validate their feelings. Even if the thoughts and feelings seem silly or irrational to you, it’s important not to downplay them. Acknowledge the feelings and emotions your teenager is describing, and they’ll feel comfortable opening up to you.

  • Offer your support. Let your child know that you’re there to support them no matter what. Listen to and work with your child to figure out the support that is best for them.

However, sometimes the best laid plans still don’t work out. For whatever reason, your child just may not quite feel comfortable talking with you. If this is the case, encourage them to speak to someone who they are comfortable such as a close friend or another family member. This can build trust within your own relationship, letting them also take control in what is going on.

Engage in the conversation

 

It’s tempting to ask a million questions because you want to get to the bottom of this and help them. However, it can overwhelm them and stop them from really explaining and understanding how they’re feeling. Instead, remember that the aim is for them to be in control and talk about what they are going through.

 

Showing that you’re engaged in the conversation with your child will make them feel like they’re being heard and understood.

 

  • Maintain eye contact (when you can) and keep open body language by facing them and not crossing your arms.

 

  • Use active listening skills like responding with 'Ok', 'Ah ha', 'Yeah' and repeating what they’ve said back to them. This will encourage them to keep talking.

 

  • Don’t get your phone out and if another family member interrupt politely ask them to wait until later.


"Am I a bad parent?"

 

A lot of parents feel a sense of shame and like it’s their fault when they find out their child is struggling. But the realised is that your teen needs your support more than ever.

 

Lisa, a mum of 4 explains how she felt while her daughter was going through a pretty tough time and she took her to a psychologist. “I had to remind myself that if I wasn’t a good parent we wouldn’t be there. My job was to recognise that she needed some sort of help and to reach out to someone, so I was being a good parent, that was what a good parent does.” As Lisa kept supporting her daughter by finding the right people, her daughter and was on track to feeling better.

How to support your teenager

 

First up it’s important to check in with yourself. It can be stressful finding out your teenager is struggling and to support them to the best of your ability you’ll need to be in a good mindset. Don’t be afraid to do some teen self-care or talk to somebody you trust or a professional about what’s going on.

 

After discussing with your teen on what they are comfortable with doing in order to get help there are different options:

 

  • Lifestyle changes and self-management; providing your teen with nutritious food and having them participate in physical activity such as an athletic sport they might like to get them moving. Encouraging them to learn mindfulness and relaxation skills.

  • Medication; not all people with depression require or choose to go on antidepressants, but they can be prescribed by a GP or other medical professional if it’s appropriate. Talking this over with your teen and doctor is crucial as there are side effects.

  • Encouraging connection with supportive peers and social activity

  • Self-help activities like mindfulness and physical activity

  • You can read about all of these options in more detail on ReachOut Parents

Your teen can find information and support at:

 

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