With most high school students already settling into their new back-to-school routines, it’s not unusual for your child to still feel anxious about the year ahead: different classes, new teachers, and more complex subject matter to master.
Unfortunately, most teens are dealing with an added layer of stress this semester: hybrid and/or at-home learning. And though your kids may have had a small taste of this experience last spring, it’s fair to say that in the back of their minds, they thought: this can’t last forever…can it?
Perhaps, as parents, we felt the same way. Surely, by September, things will return back to “normal”, and our kids will be headed off to pursue new life experiences, make friends, and enjoy being a kid again.
Fast-forward to now, and we’re all trying to make the best out of a complicated situation, and for parents, this doesn’t only affect our mental health, but it also affects our children’s, too.
Understanding Teen Depression
Children and teens, like adults, experience symptoms of depression. This shouldn’t surprise any of us. Teens have to navigate through the same social stigmas, peer pressures, and feelings of isolation or loneliness as adults, and like us, they may feel embarrassed or ashamed to ask for help.
Let’s compare the example of starting a new job vs. starting a new school year.
As Adults: You worry about impressing your colleagues and employer, making a good first impression, keeping up with the new workload, and feeling connected to your new work culture.
As Teens: Kids worry about fitting in; being accepted by their peers; liking their teachers, understanding the curriculum, so they don’t fall behind; getting into a good college; having friends to sit with at lunch; etc.
Next, consider the pandemic, which is now keeping them out of school. The stress and anxiety of making new friends, getting good grades, and keeping up with the rest of their classmates just doubled. And as these feelings begin to take over, self-doubt sets in—creating feelings of isolation from their friends, their teachers, their goals, and their future.
How to Recognize Teen Depression
Depression takes many forms and affects individuals differently. However, there are common emotional and behavioral signs of depression to be aware of, including:
- Loss of interest in activities
- Low energy
- Difficulty focusing
- Irritability or anger
- Sensitivity to criticism
- Loss of appetite
- Poor school performance
- Feelings of hopelessness or low self-worth
- Recurring thoughts of death
We all have emotional ups and downs that may cause us to exhibit the above-mentioned symptoms. For instance, if your child plays a school sport, which is now canceled for the year or delayed until further notice, you would expect a reaction of sadness or anger. So, it’s important to allow your child to express these feelings and talk to him or her about it, so your child feels heard, understood, and supported.
This helps create open communication around these issues and can also help your children feel more comfortable about bringing up other issues that may be affecting their mental health.
However, when your teen is exhibiting these behaviors for longer periods of time and is becoming more isolated from you, friends, school work, and other loved ones, it might be time to talk to a child psychologist for help.
How to Help You & Your Child Cope with Depression
Being a parent is an amazing responsibility. It takes courage, hard work, selflessness, and determination. Being a parent during a pandemic takes a new level of resilience that you may not even know you had. But, guess what, you do have it.
The fact that you’re reading this blog proves that you want to equip yourself with all the knowledge and tools to support your child, as well as your own mental health journey.
To put you and your child on a path to better mental wellness, here are some tips we’ve compiled to cope with depression during the school year:
Take Walking Breaks
The fall is a gorgeous time of year. And what better way to take advantage of the changing leaves than by scheduling some walks around the neighborhood with your children each day.
Mental Health Benefits:
- This allows you a chance to hear about your children’s day, what they learned, what they’re working on, or whether they’re feeling frustrated about something in school.
- This gives you each a break from the computer screen, some fresh air, healthy exercise, and open space to communicate freely.
Schedule Family Fun Nights
There’s always a feeling of excitement when you have an activity to look forward to each week.
Mental Health Benefits:
- Whether this is a game night, family football league, kids cooking/baking class, or DIY party, your kids (and you) will have the chance to flex your creative muscles, learn a new skill, and create memories together.
- Have your kids help you plan these events. Ask for their input and create a weekly calendar of events to look forward to.
Encourage Friendly Meetups
If your child is spending more time in his or her room alone, try to encourage Zoom meetups with friends, phone calls, or plan some outdoor recreational activities, where your children and their friends can gather and play outside in the fresh air.
Mental Health Benefits:
- You may already know from personable experience, but sometimes, social distancing transforms into social isolation, and it’s easy to fall into a routine of doing things on your own away from others.
- Break this cycle with some social-distancing events that you and your kids can look forward to each week.
Introduce Your Child to a New Club or Hobby
Consider what your child’s interests are and research groups and organizations that offer related courses, events, activities, etc. Does your child like to fish? Check out local teen fishing leagues. Is your child interested in learning guitar or another instrument? Find virtual instructors in your area.
Talk It Out
Sometimes talking really is the best medicine. If your child is experiencing symptoms of depression, loneliness, or sadness, having your son or daughter talk to a mental health professional can help you both find support and coping techniques to improve your quality of life and work through these issues as a family.
For more tips on how to help your child cope with depression, visit the following resources:
Family and Individual Therapy in Maple Grove, MN
Whether you’re a child or adult, it’s hard to ask for help. But we’re here to remind you that you’re not alone in this journey. At The Calli Institute, our services are designed to support children, teens, and adults through family and individual therapy, medication management, and counseling.
If you’re looking for mental health services in Maple Grove, MN, we offer convenient Telehealth services, led by a team of specialists who are committed to promoting health and balanced living through helpful education, mental health resources, and experience.
To learn more about our approach to holistic health and wellness, contact our office today and find the support and guidance you and your child need for this school year and the next.