I want to start this by saying I am not by far a professional, I do not have a degree in psychology nor am I studying it. However the words I am about to express to you is something I know all too much about.
There is a condition in this world that is often times ignored by parents and blown off as a normal part of being a teenager. Most teenagers won’t talk to any adult about it especially their parents. Let me ask you if your teen, or preteen, came to you and said I am depressed what would your reaction be? The first one that comes to mind in most parents head is probably what they have always heard growing up, “what do you have to be depressed about?”; how many people would actually know that a child at any age can be depressed?
I hope that you (the person reading this) will come to understand just what depression is and what to look for.
Depression often starts with low self-esteem; not always, but often. In the 90’s I could say that it starts at about 6th grade, yes I said 6th grade which in all of our minds our children aren’t even preteens at that point, at least I never thought that I was a preteen at that age. Preteen was thought to be the age of 12 the year before you turn 13. Now that I am older I realize that once you are 11 years old your thought pattern becomes that of a preteen. You no longer want to be an individual you want to be part of a group especially if you were a loner to begin with. You wanted to be able to call your friends on the phone and go over their houses without having to check in every hour or so, you wanted to branch out and try to be your own person aside from what your parents wanted you to be. You wanted to have more of a say in the things that you wore and the music (if any) you bought and listened to. You wanted to be cool. If you weren’t in with the cool kids and happened to be one of the kids that were made fun of you might have tried to brush it off and keep going, pretending that their hurtful words didn’t hurt you. We have a stop bullying movement going on but how about the recognize depression movement? As much as we might rally for bullying to be taken seriously and stopped in its tracks 9 times out of 10 the damage to our children is already done and affecting not only them but us as the parents. I don’t have a teen yet. My oldest daughter is 9 years old and fast approaching 10 I ask her often if there are any kids that pick on her I ask her if there is anything bothering her if she is happy I encourage her to tell me when something is wrong; trying to build that bond and trust before she reaches the age of shut down.
Here are some things you need to know about depression.
According to webmd.com (http://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/teen-depression): Depression can start between the ages of 15 and 30, however I say from personal experience that it can start around the age of 11, and I give it that number only because I’m giving a personal account of when depression started for me. Teens that have a family history of depression are more likely to be affected by it.
Symptoms of depression can include, a change in appetite; eating more or less than normal, anger, withdrawal from friends and family, excessive sleeping, loss in interest of previously enjoyed activities, alcohol and/or drug use, promiscuous sexual activity, sudden drop in grades or loss of interest in improving average or below average grades (if your child doesn’t always have the best grades they may feel that they have failed you talk to them early this could be a sign of other problems such as, vision, ADD, ADHD, Dyslexia, ect.), inability to sleep at night and sleeping during the day, rebellious behavior, laziness that goes beyond mom/dad I’ll clean my room later, self-mutilation. For more signs you can go to http://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/teen-depression.
One thing you will notice I did not mention in the symptoms is thoughts of suicide. The reason I did not mention it, is because although a teen may have thoughts of suicide it is very rare that they will come out and say that they have these thoughts, something like that is either written in a journal or never spoken of because it is not normal and they know that it isn’t, sometimes they just don’t understand why they have the thoughts. If you suspect that you child has depression the best thing to do is to get help for the child AND YOURSELF. Your child going through this is not only affecting them but you as well.
Before I come to a close I want to address a few more things. No one means to make their child depressed, however you could very well be the reason that your child either slips into a deeper depression or is depressed in the first place, BUT, please be open minded with that knowledge and don’t blame yourself, seek help. Sometimes we can push our children in the wrong direction bywords meant to keep them going in the right direction. Let your child know that it is okay to be depressed and seek help. Understand that in seeking help they may reject it as well. Also no one knows your child like you do, if you have sought help for your child and it doesn’t seem to be working don’t pretend that it is, ask your child if they feel that it is helping, if it is not then don’t be afraid to ask for another doctor. Last but not least your child will think that the world can see that they have depression, that the world can see that they are on medication (if it comes to that), do your child a favor and keep your child’s confidence by not telling any and every one about your child’s issues especially those prone to gossip. I was lucky that at the age of 12½, 13, I was able to diagnose and understand that my thoughts and feelings were depression myself with an article I happened to have read in a teen magazine. Let’s continue to raise awareness and stop bullying but let us also raise awareness and treat depression in teens.
[Sources: http://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/teen-depression and personal experience]