Anxiety and depression: When a parent must start the conversation

Image source: Google
Image source: Google

Frequent ups and downs are an ordinary part of a teenager’s life, and it makes it difficult to differentiate between usual teenage glumness and depression.

The teenagers may not always be able to express what they’re going through, and they might not want to talk about it. Therefore, it is essential as a parent to learn how to talk about mental health with them.

Make them feel comfortable, so they open up and speak about their concerns and end the stigma before it begins.

Watch out for these warning signs:

  • Often, they may often come across as irritable and cranky, more than sad
  • They may feel misjudged or highly sensitive to criticism
  • Difficulty in concentrating and low energy may lead to attendance problems, poor grades, and frustration with school work in previously good students
  • Frequent drug and alcohol abuse
  • Low self-esteem that may play out as expressions of hostility, embarrassment, unworthiness, and failure
  • They may spend excessive time on gadgets
  • Changes in appetite and odd eating habits
  • Feelings of worthlessness and guilt
  • Staying away from social and family relationships
  • Difficulty in concentrating

These warning signs can look like a routine part of a teenager’s daily life, and in many cases, it’s precisely the case. The symptoms exist on a range, and the key objective is to stay alert with regards to the duration and severity of the symptoms.

The conversation that will help protect your teen

The best thing you can do for your child is to let them know that you’re available for them. Here are some ideas on how to make that happen:

Make them realise that you are there for them:

Let them know that you’re there for them whenever they want. Be careful and do not ask too many questions. Maintain their space; don’t make them feel crowded or patronised.

Put the invite out there

At times starting the conversation is the stiffest part. Here are a few ideas to get things started:

  • ‘Are you okay? I’m here if you ever want to talk.’
  • ‘You seem a little down/ worried/ exhausted/ sad lately. Is that how you’re feeling at the moment?’ Then, subject to the answer, ‘Would you like to talk about it?’

Give them an easy out:

Take a car trip as the time limit, so they know there is a safe end to any difficult conversation, and that they have control. Let them understand that you will only talk until you pull into the driveway, and then they can decide whether or not to keep the conversation going.

It is up to them – no questions or quarrel from you. You can ask them, ‘Do you think we can talk about how you’re travelling? Let us do it like this, let us chat until we pull into the driveway, and then I promise we’ll talk about something else if you want to’.

Be gentle but persistent and available but not invasive:

Your teen might not open up straight away – and that’s okay. Keep trying, but be alert of pushing too hard. It is vital to keep making yourself available for when they’re ready.

Don’t try to talk them out of their depressionEven if their thinking seems unreasonable, it isn’t that way to them. Endorse them, ‘It’s bothering you isn’t it,’ or ‘I can see how upset you are,’ so they know they can come to you again.