By Hannah Hopper

The National Alliance on Mental Health highlights that many children struggle with depression in their teenage years, but it’s often undetected by parents. Teenage depression can look different than adults struggling with depression, and this blog gives several ways that you can help your child cope. 

1) Pay attention to the warning signs

Teens go through a lot of different stages, and this can make it harder to pinpoint if your child is feeling depressed or just experiencing a lot of the normal hormone changes that come with growing up. One of the first things you can do to help your child is to begin learning the warning signs of depression in teenagers. Some warnings signs to look out for include: 

  • Withdrawing from family and friends
  • Declining academic success
  • Feeling fatigued and having low energy
  • Low motivation to do previous hobbies/sports
  • Thoughts of suicide and death
  • Noticeable changes in eating habits (too much or too little)
  • Feeling guilty and ashamed 
  • Low self-esteem
  • Hopelessness with the future

2) Get help from a professional 

If your child is experiencing any of these symptoms or a combination of these, it’s a good idea to seek professional help. Having a conversation with your child about what you’re noticing will show that they’re feelings don’t go unnoticed, and you care about how they’re doing. You could take them to see a mental health professional who works specifically with teenagers, or look online for resources like the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Talking to the child’s pediatrician may help you understand more of what your child is experiencing, and many pediatricians have mental health professionals they can recommend. An important factor is that you don’t ignore the warning signs, and give your child the resources they need to begin feeling better. 

3) Show up for your child by offering emotional support

Emotional bonding and connection with the family is one of the most important ways that children learn to build relationships with other people in the future. But many children struggling with depression feel misunderstood and that they won’t be accepted when it comes to their true feelings. You can offer your child support (without being too pushy) by talking with them about their problems and worries. You can show your child that you care about them by spending quality time together, encouraging honest conversations, listening when your child has a fear or a worry, and acknowledging the hardships and inner struggles they’re facing. 

4) Encourage healthy habits

Mental and physical health go hand in hand, and making small lifestyle adjustments can go a long way when it comes to feeling better. Getting exercise, eating healthy meals, and being on a regular sleep schedule can increase overall feelings of happiness.  

5) Help foster relationships and connection

Depression can often lead to isolation from others and feelings of loneliness. Encouraging your child to get involved in a sport of extracurricular activity could be a way for them to form new relationships outside of your family. While it isn’t helpful to force your child to to be with other people, encouraging sleepovers and time with friends can be a way to help them create more connections. Whatever helps your child stay in contact with more people will help decrease some of the depressed feelings.  

Being a parent is a really challenging role, and supporting a child struggling with mental health issues is even more of a challenge. If you’d like support with the parenting challenges you’re facing and learning how to better support your child, you may find it helpful to talk with one of our licensed therapists at Symmetry Counseling. You can contact Symmetry today by calling 312-578-9990 to schedule an appointment for family therapy in Chicago