Teen depression is real
Full disclosure: I am not a professional in any way. I’m just a mom to a new teen, trying to figure out this new season of parenting.
Buckle down fellow parents, you’re not going to want to read this, but you need to. Teen depression is real. But it’s not your fault. It is so easy for parents to get lost in this season as our sweet little kids grow into these (sometimes) vicious, angry beings who are trying to figure out who they are and who they want to be while battling the emotions that come with the onset of teenage hormones. One day they are their happy-go-lucky selves who love you, hug you, and aren’t embarrassed to call you Mommy or Daddy. The next they hate you, hate life, hate all the things, and want to die. What on earth are we supposed to do with that?
Trying to understand how to show up as a parent during these times is challenging to say the least. Recognizing what is normal and what are signs of teen depression is even harder. Parents often brush off some behaviors that are cries for help as normal teenager stuff and avoid getting help for their kids until it’s too late.
My daughter is in seventh grade this year, turned thirteen in January, and has struggled with anxiety. Some of it is related to friend “drama” and some of it is related school work. I will admit, I didn’t have a clue. I carried on as though she was the happy kid she’d always been until her brother told me she was crying in her room one night. That is when my eyes were opened to the struggles she’d been facing, her anxiety, and the fact that it had been going on for months. I missed it! That night I learned that she had been faced with peers having sex, navigating sexual identities, cutting, and threatening suicide. Being faced with all these situations that are new to her and that she can’t relate to necessarily has been hard for both of us to navigate. We have since learned to communicate with each other better and she helped me come up with a list of suggestions for parents who have teenagers that might be struggling with teen depression.
- LISTEN without judgment. Put your phone down and be present when your teen is willing to talk. This is the big mistake I made. My daughter wasn’t talking to me because she didn’t want to bother me. She thought I was too busy for her.
- Start conversations instead of asking questions. “Tell me about how your lunch hour went.” “What conversations did you have with friends?” “What is something that was challenging about your day? What was something that went well?” This will help deter the standard after-school conversation of “How was your day” “Fine, mom”.
- Recognize when your teen is struggling. It could be failing grades, sleeping more than usual, not eating, overeating, unusually quiet, irritable, crying etc. If you can’t find the missing piece of the teen anguish puzzle, employ a professional to help.
- Finally, my daughter wanted to make sure your teenagers have access to the suicide hotline. She has the number memorized but suggested that you put in on your fridge or program it into their phones. This way, they always have someone to call when they feel like they can’t go on anymore.
Teen depression is real. It is not our fault. We don’t have to have it all figured out, but we can learn to help our kids so they may grow into happy and healthy adults after they weather this season of their lives.