Everybody wants their teenager to be happy and healthy. When your child is unwell, it’s not only your child who is affected, but the rest of the household feels it as well. Depending on the illness and its severity, when a child is unwell, routines and schedules get disrupted, parents feel stressed and worried, and siblings may feel pushed aside and resentful as more attention is focused on the sick child.
Whether of short or long duration, both physical illness and mental health challenges can put a lot of stress on your child and your family as well. This doesn’t change as your child becomes a teenager. For some, the pressure intensifies.
Teen depression and anxiety has been on the rise since 2012. If your teenager isn’t depressed, one of his or her friends likely is. When depression hits your family, sometimes the best way to care for your teen is to care for your entire family.
What is depression?
Depression is a common mental disorder; 20 percent of teenagers in the United States experience depression before reaching adulthood, and some sources say the number of depressed teens is larger than that. Depression may stem from a combination of biological and psychological factors, as well as environmental factors such as problems in school, past trauma, or negative self-image, but sometimes, it’s difficult to pinpoint a cause.
Depression in teenagers can be expressed differently than depression in adults. Symptoms in a teenager could look like lethargy, lack of interest in things that were previously enjoyed, irritability, hopelessness, and acting out. A teenager struggling with depression may perceive that circumstances or relationships are worse than they objectively are, or feel like there isn’t any reason to move forward with their goals.
Taking care of shalom bayis
When you and your spouse are concerned about a child suffering from depression, you may have different ways of viewing the situation. You might have different ideas as to why your child is feeling like this, think that you or your spouse are to blame, or have different opinions as to what should or should not be done to support your child. You may find yourself arguing “too much” with your spouse about how to take care of your teenager.
All this arguing, or a genuine attempt to prevent arguments by avoiding the topic of your child’s mental health, can cause a breakdown in communication between you and your spouse, leading to hurt feelings on both sides. Avoiding important conversations, or attempting and failing to hear each other out not only damages your relationship, but it also affects the atmosphere for the rest of the family.
Taking care of yourself and shalom bayis in the midst of an ongoing crisis
When you’re emotionally exhausted, it’s difficult to take care of anything outside of yourself. When you’re worried about your teenager, you may not want to focus on anything else. However, as long as there isn’t an immediate crisis, you need to make sure to invest time in taking care of yourself. This means doing things that you enjoy, staying on top of other responsibilities, and, not to be forgotten, spending quality time with your spouse and other children without spending all of that time focused on your depressed teenager.
Therapy for depression is crucially important for depressed teens
In therapy for depression, your teenager can learn how negative thoughts and images affect their mood and behavior. This self-awareness helps them implement practical strategies to reverse the patterns that negatively affect their mental health and bring them back up to a place of wholeness and wellbeing.
Therapy for depression goes beyond feeling better about oneself and about life, although these are important. When your child stops feeling depressed, they develop their ability to build stronger relationships, reach their goals, succeed in school and work, and fulfill their potential.
Couples counseling can help you become stronger parents
If you and your spouse are having trouble communicating or understanding each other’s worries and concerns, couples therapy can help. You can learn to listen to and understand each other’s feelings and develop skills to help you work together as a team. Being able to support and feel supported by one another is crucial during times of stress and worry, and can help you achieve greater intimacy while also becoming stronger parents.
Get help for your teenager and your marriage
Getting therapy for your teenager and supporting your relationship with your spouse can help you, and ultimately the rest of your household.
If you don’t know where to begin, an appointment with your teenager’s school’s guidance counselor may help give you some direction in finding the best help locally available to you.
This is the second in a five-part series about shalom bayis.