How to Talk to Your Teenager About Anxiety and Depression
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Whirlwind emotions, raging hormones, body changes and a period of self-discovery; these are all elements involved in becoming a teenager that make this transitional period both incredibly exciting but also very scary and frustrating at the same time.
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Teens are faced with feelings of low self-esteem
At this age, many teens are also faced with feelings of low self-esteem from pressure related to bullying or a struggle to fit in with existing peer groups. This can often spiral into the formation of negative habits and patterns with larger problems developing related to anxiety and depression. As a parent, this can be difficult to watch and deal with as you likely want to provide support but may feel a struggle yourself in finding a way to break through the proverbial “brick wall” to have a real heart to heart with your teen.
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Two techniques you can try to help start a real conversation with your teen are:
Find common ground: Begin your conversation by asking them about their day or a common interest you both share such as a favourite book, movie or TV show. Selecting a subject your child is genuinely interested in will help them open up and put their guard down. As you continue the conversation, you can move to speaking about more serious issues such as problems their dealing with for which at that point, they should be more open and receptive to sharing their feelings.
Be a role model: Children often model most of their behaviour after their parents’, so it’s important for you to be cautious of your own language and actions when faced with stressful or problematic situations to set a good example for your child. Demonstrate the importance of keeping a level head, thinking through situations logically and incorporating effective stress reduction and relaxation techniques to start!
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Speak with your teenager
After speaking with your teenager to gain a better understanding of the key reasons underlying their negative emotional state, it is important to incorporate specific action steps to ensure both you as a parent and your teenager develop the appropriate behaviour modification techniques necessary to improve their situation so your whole family can lead a more positive, well-balanced life.
One of the best things you as a parent can do to support your teenager through this time is to build their confidence. To start, gain a better understanding of how they feel and act in everyday situations, like going to school or speaking with classmates. If you notice your child is particularly closed-off or confrontational when around others, provide them with additional support by finding ways to demonstrate safety and security in their environment.
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Effective action steps you can take
Break down their experience into smaller scenarios and role-play different situations with them at home so they feel more comfortable when faced with the actual experience.
Complement your child when they make progress and move forward. If you notice they are more open and sociable around others, reward this by recognizing their effort in taking positive action. Kind words go a long way!
Stay calm in instances when your teenager begins to act up or act out. Although it is important to ensure you are not condoning bad behaviour, it is also important for you not to punish their feelings of insecurity if they are experiencing a weaker emotional state.
Remember, all of these practices take time to begin to learn and incorporate. It may be beneficial to select one or two to start with and slowly integrate more as time passes. Take it slow and appreciate yourself for taking concrete action towards creating a positive environment for you and your family!