Adolescence is a turbulent time for almost everyone! Teens experience a lot of stress at school, in their social circles, and at home. They are struggling to explore and assert their identities, make and navigate important friendships, and they are starting to date. Puberty, increased academic stress and extra-curricular activities are a lot to manage. Teenagers are known to be moody, but how do you know when teenage angst is something to worry about? The following five tips will let you know if it's time to talk to your teen about how they are feeling, and seek outside help if necessary.
1. Tearfulness or Depressed Mood
If your child is tearful, seems sad, or "down in the dumps" for most of the day, every day, it may mean that they are experiencing depression. It is normal for teens and adults alike to experience sadness, but if that sadness is persistent, it could be cause for addressing the issue.
2. Sleeping Too Much or Not Enough
Teens are notorious for staying up late and sleeping in, they are also growing and changing, and may require more sleep than usual. However, if your teen is sleeping a lot more than usual or is having trouble sleeping, this is a strong indicator of depression. Depressed individuals find it difficult to get out of bed, or they may feel like, "what is the point?" Sometimes people are so worried or dysphoric that sleep is difficult for them. If you notice this behavior in your teen, talk to them about it.
3. Loss of Interest or Pleasure in Activities Previously Enjoyed
Do you notice that your teen used to love spending time with family, playing games, or singing and dancing, but now they have lost interest? A symptom of depression is losing interest in activities that used to be pleasurable. It's normal for interests to shift and change as your child does, but the key thing to look for is a zest for life, or passion. If your child is excited about doing things they enjoy, that is a good sign. However, if your child has become ambivalent or just not interested in anything, chances are they may be depressed.
4. Excessive Weight Loss or Weight Gain
If your child is not dieting and they gain or lose a significant amount of weight, this could be a symptom of depression. Also be aware of a change in eating patterns.
5. Excessive Guilt of Feelings of Worthlessness
Keep tabs on your child's self-esteem. Depressed people can be irrationally hard on themselves. They experience the world through a negative lens, and view themselves with extreme negativity. Ask your child about what they are good at, or proud of and gage their response. Notice any statements that seem strange, or irrationally negative.
6. Inability to Focus
If your child is having a difficult time focusing in class, completing assignments, or seems distracted often, this could be a sign of depression. Notice if your child just seems "off" when it comes to focus and task completion.
7. Fatigue or Loss of Energy
Is your child exhausted or worn out often? Depressed teens not only lose interest in activities that they may have previously enjoyed, but they often do not have the energy to complete tasks. If this seems to be affecting daily life, it may be cause for concern.
8. Psychomotor Agitation or Retardation
Does your teen seem slowed down or "keyed up?" A change in the way they move can be a symptom of depression. This is not just a subjective feeling of slowing down, but a physically observable phenomenon.
9. Thoughts of Suicide
If your child is thinking about death often (not just a fear of death), then this is a clear sign that they need help. If your child starts giving away possessions, discusses their death or funeral, or makes statements like "I'd be better off dead," then PLEASE get your child help immediately.
What to Do If you Notice These Symptoms
Your adolescent may only have some of these symptoms, or all of them. The important thing is to pay attention, talk to your child and ask questions. Do NOT assume that they are lying, or trying to get attention with any of these behaviors. Do NOT yell at your child, get angry with your child, or do nothing. These reactions WILL make your child's depression worse.
Taking your child seriously, listening, acknowledging feelings, and getting the necessary and appropriate help for your child can help. If you notice more than a few of these symptoms, please take your teen to their primary care physician, and get them an appointment with a licensed mental health professional. Counseling can help your child express feelings in a safe environment, work on root causes of depression, and learn healthy coping skills to help manage depression. Medication may also be recommended by your child's doctor to treat depression.
Learn More About Counseling at www.counselingandnaturetherapy.com
Back To School Tips
The school year has started full force here in Austin, Texas. The pencils are sharpened, the supplies bought, and the first day has come and gone. It's likely your child has started to adjust to the regular schedule the school year brings.
Most of the time this is a period full of excitement and new beginnings. Your children and teens are likely excited to be reconnecting with friends, while anticipating what the upcoming year will bring to their academic, interpersonal, and social worlds.
Sometimes however, starting school can be a source of stress and anxiety for kids and their families. Children experiencing separation anxiety, social phobia and other academic or school related concerns may dread the start of another school year. If you have noticed that some of these issues are emerging in your family, then here are some tips that might help:
Sleep: Make sure kids and teens are back on a regular sleeping schedule. It is difficult for them to learn if they can hardly keep their eyes open. Some tips to help may be to add soothing music to their evening routine, story time, or even a small glass of milk if bed wetting is not an issue.
School Visits: Take advantage of open houses and meetings with the teacher. If possible, take a tour of your child's school especially if they are attending a new school. This will help your child feel less anxious and more comfortable with a new environment. It also allows you to communicate freely with your child's teacher to address any adjustment issues your child may be experiencing.
Talk to Your Children: Review any worries or fears that your child may have since school has started. Review the previous year and discuss the things that went well, and some of the things that your child struggled with. Listen with an open mind. This is a time to really hear your child. Encourage them to come up with their own solutions, and step in when they need guidance.
Plan for Specifics: Does your child have a learning disability, mental health concern, or psychosocial issue that needs to be addressed? Contact the school counselor, special education coordinator, or the child's teacher to come up with a plan. It is helpful to let the teacher know about IEP's, 504's or specific needs of your child, before there are issues that need to be addressed. It is best to start off with stakeholders in the know, so that your child gets their needs met immediately.
Counseling Plan: Does your child need counseling? The school counselor can help your child transition effectively into the school year, especially if they have had trouble in the past with getting bullied, making friends, getting into fights, or getting along with teachers. The school counselor can be a source of comfort and support. They can also come up with a plan to help your child thrive in school.
Role Play: Once a plan is in place to address immediate educational concerns, it may be beneficial to help strengthen your child's social and coping skills through role play. Is your child worried about getting lost? Practice looking at a map of the school, or asking for help from peers and adults. Is your child unsure of how to make friends? Review conversation starters, or discuss ways to connect with others. You can also teach them coping skills such as deep belly breathing, or counting to ten before reacting to upsetting situations. Those are just a few examples of how you might be able to help your child practice social and coping skills, but don't hesitate to practice a variety of skills with your child. If you aren't sure what to work on with your child, your counselor can help.
Bonnie King, Ph.D., LPC is a Licensed Professional Counselor at Counseling and Nature TherapyCenter, PLLC. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can learn more about counseling at www.counselingandnaturetherapy.com