Depression is on the rise amongst teens, with an upswing of 2.5% (8.7% to 11.3%) in depressive episodes from 2005-2014.
Results from recent studies have shown that teens are prone to perfectionism, living to unrealistic standards, and experiencing anxiety as a result. Teens are struggling with their sense of self-worth. While there’s no easy fix or a ‘right’ way of doing things, here are 5 tips that can help.
Outcome Is Not Important, Effort Is
Parents have a tendency to praise accomplishments or natural abilities, thereby creating undue pressure that can affect self-esteem. Don’t focus on your teenager’s results, but highlight their efforts instead.
Teens should have a healthy relationship with how they approach achievement; if they establish a relationship between tangible accomplishments and love from their parents, it can create an unhealthy level of expectation. It also means that failure in a given task or endeavour can cause even greater negative effects.
Try and focus on the small things that have gone right, the elements that can be improved, and that bouncing back from failure through concerted effort is a more accurate signifier of self-worth.
Open Lines of Communication
Whether it’s scientific studies or professional courses, they all show that the key to building a relationship with a teen is to establish an open, safe line of communication. Your child should know that your love is unconditional, no matter what. They must feel that talking to you is helpful, happens in a safe environment, and is nurturing. This is how you can make it happen:
Lecturing is not (always) the answer. Yes, you’re the parents. That means you’re going to have to lecture your teen every once in a while. However, this can often lead to a hostile atmosphere where you’re no longer trusted. Try and listen without judgment every once in a while; you’ll be surprised at the results.
It’s not a tragedy. Our children are the most important thing in our lives, so when they have a problem it can seem like there’s nothing worse. But that can make things harder on your child. Try and be a little objective and don’t overreact.
Be Aware of Social Media
There is substantial evidence that social media can lead to loneliness, depression, and sleeplessness. A 2017 study shows, for example, that teenagers who spend more time on an electronic device are more likely to have a suicide risk factor.
It’s easy to figure out why social media is potentially dangerous: through factors such as likes, share, and comments, social media gives explicit data on how much you are ‘liked’. The pressure to churn out evidence of a fun and exhilarating life is constant, with anxiety, insecurity, and poor self-esteem forming the consequences. Before pulling the plug on social media altogether, considering doing the following instead:
Talk to your teen. Support your teen as they tackle the waves of social media. Be aware of their feelings and consider constructive advice, rather than taking their iPhones away. That doesn’t deal with the root cause, it just masks the symptoms.
Limit Use. Both adults and children alike would benefit from a little time away from screens. Set ‘screen-free’ times or zones in your household. For example, no smartphones at the dinner table, or no screens after 8 pm.
You should also be aware that kids can get a lot out of social media, too. Research has also shown that teens get quite a lot out of connecting with others online. For example, many depressed teens use social media as an outlet, be it to vent or connect with others that feel the same.
Recognize Individual Talents and Passion
Most parents want their kids to do well in school, the arts, or sport. This can be a little limiting, especially for teens that don’t quite fit the picture of the traditional. We’re so focused on creating a child that’s ready-made for college and beyond, that self-exploration, time with friends, or just time to relax is put on the backburner. This can often go at the expense of your child finding and getting the most out of their talents.
Try to get to know what makes your teen an individual. Instead of trying to fit a stereotype of pushing them to something you’re passionate about, help them explore their own interests. Take them to different classes, going beyond the obvious: think cooking, knitting, writing, and other such pursuits.
Get Out and Exercise!
Research has shown that exercise alone is enough to alleviate depression and build a teen’s self-worth. Studies have highlighted several variables that tend to help even further:
Get outside. Fresh air beats a sweaty gym every day of the week. Get out there and enjoy the outdoors with your children!
Teamwork is good for you. Try and encourage your children to get involved in team sports or other physical activities that have a social element. It’s been shown that this can lead to significant personal growth, self-esteem, and the building of social skills.
Get involved. You can’t get on the playing field with your child, but take an active interest in what they’re doing. If there’s an important game, try and skip that work meeting to show your child that you care. Be the one that takes them to morning practice, or establish a nice tradition that your teen will remember in adult life.
What are your top tips to give your teens a boost? Tell us in the comments below.