There are a number of factors that affect whether a young person develops depression or anxiety. Some of the causes of depression and anxiety are beyond parental control. However, as a parent, you have the opportunity to influence other factors. 

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Therefore, all teenage parents can help prevent young people from developing anxiety or depression. In this article, you will read the advice that all teen parents should know.

This article is based on one American guide designed for parents of teenagers and to help parents prevent anxiety and depression in adolescents, which again is based on a systematic review of research from an expert panel.

 

Create and maintain an equally good relationship with the youth

 

  1. Show affection

    Parental care and support reduces the risk of adolescents developing depression and anxiety. It is important to show the teen that they are loved and respected. Express your love for the youth verbally, so as to tell them regularly that you love them. Adapt the way you show affection to the youth in relation to their age and maturity.

  2. Take time to talk to the youth

    Set aside time to talk to your child about the day and what they have done. Try to start conversations with them at times when they turn out to be open to conversation. Let them talk about what interests them. Encourage the person to notice and appreciate the easy and fun aspects of life. Show respect for the opinions of young people, even if you disagree with them. Let the youth know that you are there for them when they need it, and that they can also talk to you about very difficult issues. However, if you have sensitive discussions with him / her, you should try to do so in a private setting.

  3. Be aware of how to talk about strong emotions and sensitive topics

    It is common for teens to experience strong emotions. In order to be able to master the emotions in a good way, young people first need to learn to recognize and understand the emotions. If you see that your child is very emotionally charged, ask what feelings he / she has, eg "You look worried. Is there anything special you are thinking about?" or, "It sounds like you're really angry. Do you want to talk about it?" Do not reject or downplay the emotional reactions, but show empathy by expressing interest and by really trying to understand how the young person experiences what is bothering him / her.

    Give the youth sympathy when necessary, for example when a pet dies or when the youth fails an exam. Avoid reacting in a way that may lead them to believe that their feelings are wrong and that there is a weakness or error in the youth because he / she has these feelings. Therefore, avoid any utterance such as, "Why are you crying like a baby?" or "Do not be a little boy!"

 

Be involved and support yourself during the dawning feeling of independence

 

  1. Be involved in the life of the youth

    Being involved and showing interest in adolescents' lives can reduce the risk of depression and anxiety. By being actively involved, you will find it much easier to catch when the young people are actually having problems. Show interest and show that you care.

    Here are some ways you can do this:

    • Have regular fun activities that allow you and your youth to spend time together one-on-one.
    • Try to have dinner together regularly as a family.
    • Try to find out who the youth friends are.
    • Keep track of your teen's school performance.
    • Show active interest in what young people do at school and in their extracurricular activities.
    • Encourage young people to get involved in their studies and other school activities.
  2. Avoid over-involvement and encourage your teen to become independent

    It is important to balance between giving young people attention and giving them space and privacy. Excessive control over a young person's activities, thoughts and emotions can increase the risk of depression and clinical anxiety. Try to keep track of where they are, what they do, and who they are with by showing interest in their activities.

    Try to avoid encouraging your child to become too dependent on you. Ask yourself the question: "Do I really need to get involved in this?" and "What would have been the worst thing that might happen if I did not interfere?" Giving young people autonomy and independence tailored to their age and maturity reduces the risk of developing depression or anxiety.

    Encourage young people to try a variety of activities and interests to help them find out what they are interested in and what they are good at. This will help build their self-confidence. Encourage him / her to help in the house by giving them age-appropriate work tasks and responsibilities.

 

Establish clear family rules and consequences

 

  1. Establish clear rules

    Establish rules about what behavior is desired by your child. If there are clearly established rules from an early age, your child will be more likely to accept the rules even as they get older. Adjust rules for adolescents' behavior over time to support and encourage their nascent sense of independence.

    Involve your child in the work of making rules that they will follow. Try to keep the rules simple and few, and make sure they understand what the rules are. Explain the reasons behind the rules. Although it may not always work that way, your child will appreciate having clear rules to follow. Follow the rules and laws yourself to be a good role model for the teenager.

  2. Establish consequences

    Be consistent in maintaining rules and applying consequences, even if this can make you unpopular at times. When young people have broken a rule, focus on explaining why their behavior was not ok. Do not use negative consequences that make young people feel humiliated.

    Give your child plenty of positive consequences when they behave well, including praise, positive attention and privileges. Notice when they do what is expected of them and remember to praise and thank them for it.

 

Keep the level of confiscation in the home to a minimum

As far as possible, try to make the home a supportive and safe environment for the teenager. Being part of a family where there is frequent or unresolved conflict and a lot of anger and aggression increases a young person's risk of developing depression and anxiety.

 

  1. Keep the level of conflict with the youth to a minimum

    Although it may not be possible to avoid conflict with young people, still try to keep the level of conflict to a minimum and use positive approaches where possible. Opt out to address minor annoyances that can be easily ignored, and choose to address only conflicts that are necessary for the youth's safety and well-being. Whenever possible, try to get the youth involved in a constructive problem solving where you find solutions together.

    If you are experiencing a prolonged period of high confinement with your teen, continue to show him / her love and try to maintain everyday conversations with them. Teenagers constantly seek their parents' love and approval, even when it does not seem that way.

  2. Avoid criticizing the youth

    Being constantly exposed to criticism increases young people's risk of developing depression and anxiety. Instead of criticizing the youth in a personal way (for example "You are so lazy and spoiled"), comment specifically on the youth's actions (for example "You make a big effort on the football field, but what about the studies? You have to balance time your better. ") You should encourage the youth to consider your suggestions, instead of getting the youth to consider whether he / she is a good or a bad person.

    If you find that you are criticizing the teenager in a personal and humiliating way, or that you are losing your temper with him / her, then you are wise to acknowledge it and apologize.

  3. Keep the level of conflict with your partner to a minimum

    Frequent and intense conflict between parents increases a teenager's risk of developing depression and anxiety. On the other hand, it is also not useful to completely avoid conflict. If you have conflict with your partner, do not ask the youth to choose a site. You should also not criticize your partner in a personal way (for example, say things like "Your father is incompetent" or "Your mother is so selfish"), but only mention things that they do (for example, "Your father is so grumpy" when he works too hard "or" I get mad at your mother when she spends so much time "). 

 

Encourage young people to adopt good health habits

Encourage your child to have good health habits around diet, exercise, sleep and drug use, as this reduces the risk of developing depression and anxiety.

 

  1. Diet. Provide a healthy balanced diet and a limited amount of unhealthy foods and beverages at home.
  2. Exercise. Encourage your child to get daily physical exercise. If they are not interested in sports, encourage them to find other opportunities for physical activity such as dancing, going to school, or walking the dog.
  3. Sleep. Young people can reduce their risk of developing depression and clinical anxiety by getting adequate sleep each night. Encourage young people to practice good sleep hygiene, especially if they have trouble sleeping.
  4. Drugs. Teenagers who are anxious or depressed are more likely to use alcohol and other drugs. If you find that young people are using alcohol or other drugs, you should discuss with them why they are using these drugs, and seek help if necessary.

In addition to encouraging good health habits, be aware of your own attitudes and behaviors in these areas, as these habits will have a major impact on your youth.

 

Help the youth with concrete problem solving

The following tips may be helpful in helping young people solve everyday problems:

 

  1. Help young people set realistic goals

  2. Help young people concretely to solve problems

    When your child is facing problems:

    • Ask them what they need from you (for example, if they just want you to listen or give advice).
    • Give the youth time to talk through the problem before offering to discuss solutions. Do not try to solve all problems for them.
    • Help them break down challenges into smaller steps that are manageable.
    • Encourage your child to evaluate the effects of their actions on other people.
    • Encourage your child by reminding them of times in the past when they succeed in solving or mastering problems. Praise the youth when they mastered problems in a good way. Recognize and encourage their problem-solving efforts, rather than focusing on the results.
    • Sometimes the youth will fail in trying to solve a problem even with your help. In such circumstances, encourage them not to give up and to try another approach. Encourage young people to take responsibility for things that go wrong if it is their fault and help them learn from their mistakes.
  3. Support young people in dealing with stress

  4. Help young people cope with pressure and expectations

  5. Help the youth in relation to problems at school

    If your child feels safe at school and has good relationships with other students and teachers, they have a lower risk of developing depression and anxiety. However, school can sometimes be a source of problems for young people. When this is the case, young people need help dealing with these issues. 

    It could, for example, be about bullying. Being a victim of bullying increases the risk of developing depression and anxiety. Get to know the school's bullying routines and request a bullying investigation if you suspect bullying. If your child is being bullied, avoid downplaying the situation. One should never blame the victim for being bullied. Discuss with the young person how he / she wants to deal with the bullying problem.

    It can also be talked about school refusal. Teenagers can avoid going to school due to depression and anxiety. If your child does not show up for school, discuss with them why and try to work out a solution together. Seek professional advice and support if he or she avoids school for a long time, for example if it extends over several days and it does not seem to be temporary.

 

Help young people deal with anxiety

 

  1. Help young people learn about anxiety

    Make sure that young people are aware that all young people necessarily experience a certain degree of anxiety, and that this is not a sign of weakness or that you are abnormal. Normal anxiety is useful because it helps us prepare for real danger or do our best. However, anxiety can become a problem if it is severe, prolonged, and affects daily functioning.

  2. Help young people deal with anxiety so that it does not become an anxiety problem

    It is important for young people to deal with everyday anxiety in a good way so that it does not develop into clinical anxiety. Help them understand the importance of dealing with situations that create anxiety. Continuing to be exposed (exposed) to situations that arouse anxiety is one of the most effective ways to avoid having an anxiety problem. If, on the other hand, a teenager constantly avoids things that will lead to anxiety, this is something that over time can lead to anxiety becoming a problem and increasing.

    However, it is important to make sure that the youth is able to handle such an anxious situation before challenging them to cope. For example, you should not challenge your teen to participate in a singing competition if they are not yet comfortable singing in front of the family. It is important to be realistic.

    Reward or praise your child when he / she does something that is difficult and that gives an increased degree of anxiety. Tell them that you are proud of his / her ability to defy the feeling of anxiety. If you become impatient with the anxiety of adolescence, remind yourself how frightening it can be to face your own fears, that is, to do things that you do not really dare.

  3. Be a good role model in dealing with anxiety

    The way you react to anxiety in adolescents can inadvertently maintain anxiety. Teenagers can learn to be anxious by observing their parents become anxious. If you are very anxious yourself, you should set a good example for your child by showing them how to actively use strategies to master your own anxiety.

    When your teen needs help with anxiety, try to separate your own worries from theirs. Try to maintain a calm and relaxed manner when talking to your child about his or her anxiety.

 

Encourage young people to seek professional help when needed

If you notice an abrupt, persistent change in your youth's mood or behavior, encourage them to talk about what they are thinking and really listen to what they are saying. Try to find out if their low mood is due to a specific, temporary situation, or if it is a more extensive and persistent problem. When problems persist, it is important to seek professional help. Although teens are often reluctant to admit to having mental health problems, you should still seek help if you are concerned about your child. 

 

  1. Seek help yourself when needed

    If you think that you as a parent may be depressed or anxious, then you should set a good example for your child by seeking help from health professionals. Such treatment will not only help you, but also the youth, because children of parents who experience depression and anxiety themselves have an increased risk of this type of problem.

 

Do not blame yourself

It is important not to be too hard on yourself if you feel you have made a mistake in your parenting, but rather try to use these mistakes as learning experiences. If your teen develops depression or anxiety, you should not see it as a defeat on your part or blame yourself. Every teenager can develop these problems even in happy, well-adjusted families - and the most important thing is that you make good moves to deal with the problems.

 

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Written by

ove heradstveit

Ove Heradstveit

Psychologist, specialist in clinical community psychology. PhD.
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