If your son or daughter shows some of the signs of depression or anxiety, you could start by trying to get them to talk about their feelings.
Your son or daughter may find it awkward discussing their thoughts and emotions openly with you. They may even get angry when you ask if they’re okay. Try to stay calm, be firm, fair and consistent and don’t lose control. If you are wrong about something, admit it.
Active listening will help you to understand how your teenager feels. Some tips for this are:
- maintain eye contact
- sit in a relaxed position
- ask open-ended questions that can’t be answered with just ‘yes’ or ‘no’’ (e.g. ‘So tell me about..?’).
- Save your suggestions or advice for later and instead, offer neutral comments that acknowledge their feelings.
You can talk to a counsellor (in person, on the phone or online) to learn more about active listening.
As well as offering your support and showing that you understand and care, it’s a good idea to encourage your son or daughter to eat healthily, be active, and get enough sleep.
He or she may also need to see a doctor or counsellor. Teenagers who resist seeing someone may prefer to ring Lifeline or Kids Help Line (see phone help lines and websites), as this is anonymous and can be less confronting.
It’s a good idea to learn as much as you can about your son or daughter’s condition. This may help you to understand why they behave in the way that they do — so you can separate the illness from the person and realise that your teenager’s moods or behaviour may not be directed at you personally.
- When young people have depression or anxiety, it doesn’t help to pressure them to ‘snap out of it’ or ‘cheer up’. And you can’t assume that the problem will go away without help.
- If your teenager doesn’t want to talk to you about his or her problems, try not to take it personally. Sometimes, it’s easier to talk to someone you don’t know about what’s troubling you.
- Recovery is possible, but it can be a slow process. The whole family will need to be patient and understanding.
- Praise your son or daughter for small achievements and avoid making criticisms.
- Try to reduce conflict within the family and create a calm and relaxed atmosphere at home.
- Set time aside for your own relaxation, and try to continue enjoyable family activities rather than let the problem take over everyone’s lives.
- Seek support from trusted friends or relatives, or talk to a counsellor about ways to cope.