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A Parent’s Guide to Teen Depression

We’ve all been through the tough teen years and have experienced mood swings and bouts of bad behaviour – it’s natural. For teens, those critical years between primary and secondary school are often the most challenging phase of life to date and as a parent, it’s always difficult to navigate the stormy waters. But if you think your child may be suffering with something deeper than teenage angst, it’s important to pay attention and know when to intervene.

According to Young Minds, you shouldn’t ignore the worrying symptoms of depression, hoping they’ll go away. Instead, talk to your child about the signs of depression that you’ve noticed and voice your concerns in a caring and non-judgmental way. Letting a teen know you are available to listen to what they are going through can make a huge difference in their mental health.

Warning signs of teen depression

If you suspect your child may be depressed, watch for some of the common signs and symptoms:

  • Frequent feelings of sadness or anger
  • Unusual irritability and hostility
  • Withdrawal from regular activities
  • Decline in academic performance
  • Changes in eating/sleeping habits
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • Lack of motivation and concentration
  • Physical aches and pains, fatigue
  • Suicidal thoughts

As a parent, should you be concerned about teen depression?

If your teen is dealing with depression, they may take on destructive and unhealthy behaviours as a method of coping with emotional distress. Without an effective outlet for their emotions, it’s common to find teenagers facing problems at school or resorting to habits like drug and alcohol abuse, technology addiction, running away and other reckless behaviours.

How can you help your teen who struggles with depression?

As a parent, there is almost nothing worse than watching your child suffer and it’s in our nature to jump into action. But while it’s important to support your teen, try to respect their space and approach the situation with patience and love. Here are a few ways you can encourage them to open up to you and improve their wellbeing:

  • Exercise – Physical activity helps build confidence and releases endorphins, the hormones responsible for euphoria or happiness.
  • Sleep – Encourage your teen to get about 8-9 hours of sleep to regulate emotions.
  • Diet – Proper nutrition is an important factor in the balancing of moods.
  • Space – If they don’t want to talk about it, try again another day. Emotional expression is hard enough for teens, so adding new pressure can cause them to withdraw further.
  • Treatment – Talk to your teen about treatment options like counselling or potentially medication. Consult a doctor to learn what’s best for their health.
  • Empathy – Listen to your teen. Be available for them when they’re ready to talk and accentuate the positive aspects in their lives.

Whether your teen is dealing with clinical depression or is simply wading through the challenges of becoming a young adult, it’s important that they are guided with positive coping mechanisms. It’s normal for teens to shy away from opening up to their parents about their emotions, so recommending that your teen visit a counsellor is often a positive solution.

At Your Counselling Ltd, we provide both family and individual therapy for teens struggling with depression in Calgary. Give us a call to discuss your concerns and we’ll provide a free consultation so you can speak with your child about their options.