Every mother worries about teen depression. As single moms we may even worry more. What if we miss something? What if our teens feel distraught because no father lives in our home? What if we can’t give them enough attention?
Our kids are developing eating disorders, drug addictions, injuring themselves, and committing suicide with seemingly no warning. It’s a mother’s worst nightmare, and it just seems to sneak up on families.
As always, knowledge is power. Understanding the signs, symptoms, and how you can help will give you the clarity and direction you need to feel more confident, and to effectively support your child.
Liahona Academy created this wonderfully informative infographic on teen depression and offered to share it with our Single Moms Ask Sara Community. Visit their website for additional tips on dealing with teen challenges. To their wise words I offer the following additional suggestions that I, and my clients, find to be very helpful.
Think back to your teen years and tap into both the joys and frustrations of that period of your life. As you reconnect with your feelings, your challenges, and frustrations during those years, you will better be able to relate to your child, and you feel and express more empathy for their struggles.
Remember the pressures you felt? Social acceptance, cool outfits, too much homework, where to sit at lunch, deciding “what you wanted to be”, and where/if you were going to go to college?
Now add cell phones, SnapChat, Facebook, Internet information overload, and throw in easy access to inappropriate and controversial material. It is so easy for kids to feel overwhelmed and confused…which can spiral into teen depression really quickly.
We think older kids are more independent, and don’t need the same level of support and supervision that they did when they were younger. But the reality is, their minds are nowhere near fully developed. While it is different supervision, your kids still need you front and center in their lives.
School is a huge part of their day, and schoolwork is an enormous pressure. You need to know what is going on in their classrooms so you can provide support, help them stay on track, and spot trouble quickly.
Check on them. Are they getting their homework done? Do they understand? Are they struggling? Are they scheduling their time appropriately? Are they giving themselves enough time to study for exams? How are their grades? If you don’t check, you don’t know.
They may be adults soon, but they still need limits, and they need your guidance to learn how to self-regulate and set those limits. Hanging out in the house, in front of a screen all day, day in and day out can lead your teen to depression. Fresh air, exercise, and human interaction are important to your teen’s mental and physical health.
Your teen should have privacy when showering, changing, etc., but privacy is not a given 24/7. Your kids need to understand that you can review anything you deem necessary in order to keep them safe. You must be alert to the signs of trouble, and you must be quick to intervene. Teen depression can hit suddenly, and escalate quickly.
Under the cloak of privacy, kids can get into all kinds of trouble, and can experience a great deal of emotional pain…constantly reviewing negative social media posts, struggling in a relationship, experiencing bullying, etc. Checking social media, text and call history, and verifying whereabouts with the parents of friends are steps you need to take to keep your kids safe.
Your kids may want to stay locked up in their rooms and only interact with you in grunts and sighs, but you must keep that communication open. Open communication serves two purposes:
First, open communication keeps you in the loop. You know each day how your child is feeling, and at least some of what she is thinking. This makes it easy to quickly catch changes, and intervene.
The second benefit of open communication is that when your child does have a problem, he is far more likely to come speak to you about it. Open communication is emotional collateral. Need help to get the communication ball rolling? Download your free copy of my 50 Conversation Starters for Teens and never be at a loss for an opening line again.
Trust is pivotal to the parent/teen relationship. Go to your child’s events and activities. Keep your promises, including promises of consequences, both negative, and positive (rewards). Let your kids know you love and value them, and that you will always keep your word. Knowing you have their back makes your teen feel supported and more confident.
Teen depression doesn’t have to the big hairy monster in the room. Be proactive, be alert, and be brave enough to step in when necessary.