As a parent or guardian, you may be aware teenage depression is a serious health concern. Sometimes prevention is not possible; however there are things you can do to make a difference for your teen. Often seemingly simple steps can make a big difference in giving your teen the coping skills and support that can reduce their risk of serious depression.
Show your Support
It is important that your child know that you are there for them if needed. Good ways to show your support include:
- Making time every day to talk with your teen.
- Taking an interest in things that interest them.
- Trying to encourage your child to express feelings without offering judgments or getting upset. Talk with them calmly about how they are feeling.
- Offering positive feedback on accomplishments, good deeds or other strengths whatever form they take.
- Preparing and eating family meals together.
Promote Friendships and Social Interactions
Strong social relationships are also important for your teen's mental health. Encourage your teen to spend time with his or her friends. Team sports or other group activities like academic clubs are also a great way for your child to increase self-esteem and widen his or her social support network.
Look at Media Time
Most teens spend a lot of time with various media. Examine some of your child's most watched shows and movies. If they involve unrealistic situations or people, you may want to have a conversation about how media differs from reality. Repeated exposure to violent or overly negative content may aggravate feelings of depression. Talk with your kids about what they are watching, how they feel about it, what they have learned from it, or even why they enjoy the show.
Encourage Exercise and Rest
Whether it's through aerobic exercise like running or strength-training exercises like lifting weights, daily physical activity may help reduce depression and anxiety in teens. The Department of Health and Human Services recommends at least one hour of physical activity per day for teens.
Getting sufficient sleep is also essential for helping teens feel their best both physically and emotionally. Lack of sleep may increase the risk of depression. Many teens may reject the idea of having a set bedtime, but encouraging a relaxing activity like reading at night can help your teen fall asleep faster.
Seek Help When Necessary
Most teens have up and down moods. It's often difficult to distinguish depression from ordinary moodiness and teenage angst. According to the Mayo Clinic, signs of depression in teens include:
- Withdrawal from friends, family, hobbies, sports and other activities
- Depressed mood
- Worsening school performance
- Decreased energy and/or motivation
- Anger, irritability or rage
- Being very sensitive (possibly overreacting) to criticism
- Poor self-esteem or guilt
- Decreased concentration, difficulty making decisions
- Changes in sleep or eating habits
- Suicidal thoughts
If you are concerned that your child may be depressed, especially if they are having suicidal thoughts, don't hesitate to seek medical assistance. Medical professionals may suggest a variety of treatment options including talk therapy or possibly antidepressant medications.
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