Frequent ups and downs are an ordinary part of a teenager’s life, which makes it difficult to differentiate between usual teenage glumness and depression. Teens may not always be able to express what they’re going through, and they might not want to talk about. It is essential as a parent to learn how to talk about mental health with them to help them feel comfortable to open up and speak about their own concerns and end the stigma before it begins.
These warning signs can look like a usual part of a teenager’s daily life and in many cases that’s exactly what it will be. The symptoms exist on a range and the key objective is to be alert with regards to the duration and severity of the symptoms and the departure from whatever is ‘normal’ for a teen.
One of the best things you can do for your teen is to let them know that you’re available to talk to. Here are some ideas for how to make that happen:
Let them know you’re there for them entirely and whenever they want. Be careful as to not to ask too many questions. Maintain their space; you don’t want them to feel crowded or patronized.
At times starting the conversation is the stiffest part. Here are a few ideas to get things started:
Take a car trip as the time limit so they know there is an easy 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 completely 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’.
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.
Even 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.
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