Teens can get depressed without being depressed. But even getting depressed is a challenge in their lives where you can offer guidance and support. Do any or all of the following conditions describe your teen?
- Negative feelings or behaviors lasting more than two weeks
- Loss of enjoyment in established activities
- Restlessness, fatigue, or a lack or motivation in school
- Marked increase in irritability or impatience
- Feelings of being weighed down
- Loss of physical and emotional energy
- Marked changes in appetite or weight, lapse in personal hygiene
- Social isolation from family or friends
- Taking up with a new set of friends
- impulsive thinking or rash judgments
- Inability to make decisions, concentrate, or focus
- Marked increase in frustration or anger
- Feelings of sadness and worthlessness
- Expressing feelings of stress and inability to cope
- Ongoing complaints of headaches, stomachaches, bodyaches
- Marked change in sleep patterns
- Avoidance of added privileges
Think also about the pattern to each behavior.
Have you noticed an increase or a decrease in the severity or frequency? Also, do several of these conditions tend to run together? Do you notice an increase in feelings of sadness or worthlessness when there is more social isolation? Are there fewer complaints of bodyaches when there is a more normal sleep pattern? Be aware of these conditions individually, but also consider how some of them may be linked together with your teen.
Now, I’d like you to think about the top concerns you have. What worries you the most? Why is that? Is it something you can relate to from your own adolescence? Can you determine what seems to distress your teen the most out of any on the list? What you determine to address first may not be what your teen would identify. As much as possible, follow your teen’s lead on what is the most problematic.
You should not make it a goal to “fix” your child or take over whatever difficulty he or she is going through. One of the main benefits of adolescence is learning how to being to handle adult-sized life challenges while still supported by caring adults. If you remove all of their obstacles, they will fail to develop their adult-needed muscles and will constantly be looking backward, as a child, to you to save them. Instead of looking backward, their eyes should be firmly forward, toward their future as adults.
The above is excerpted from Chapter 7 of my new book, The Stranger in Your House.