02-01-2020 10:40 PM
Our teenager (17) is showing signs of depression. We have tried to talk to him about it but he says everything is fine and will not agree to getting any assessment or help. Our relationship with him has deteriorated over the last year, he doesn't like his parents and communication from him has been reducing and is now pretty minimal. He has started to socialise a lot more; spending most days entirely out with friends (largely a new group which makes us wonder if something happened with the previous friends) and it's doing healthy activities which is hopefully a good sign. We are confident there is no drink or drugs. When he comes home in the evening he tends to go straight to his bedroom and when he gets up in the morning he goes out. He talks to us when he needs something. He is rarely in for evening dinner but when he is he either skips it or if he sits at table with us to eat he has headphones in, pulls out an ear bud if we try and speak to him and promptly puts in straight back in afterwards and leaves table as soon as he has eaten. At other times when he wants to end a conversation he walks away or asks me to go. His responses are increasingly irritable with us. He doesn't open up to us, conversations are very functional, needing transport etc. He has also over the past few months dieted very heavily, he was slightly over weight before but not by much at all. He is now very slim and at the bottom of his healthy weight range but appears to still be dieting and losing weight. He goes out without eating, its hard to know if he is eating while out. How common is all of this, has anyone else experienced similar? I really want to open up good communication channels, build up the relationship again and for him to want to talk to us and to support him. I don't think we really acknowledged he is a young adult and kept restrictions on longer than we should have done as he got older and tried to enforce certain behaviours such as eating dinner with us without headphones on, staying at table until everyone had finished etc which all caused arguments. We have relaxed nearly all the restrictions and are trying to treat him much more as an adult but it doesn't appear to be helping other than there are now no disagreements. It's not yet helping with building up the relationship or building comms. If anyone has experienced similar we would love to know what helped. Thank you in advance for any responses.
02-02-2020 01:30 PM - edited 02-02-2020 01:32 PM
Hi @Dreptpkr, welcome to ReachOut and thanks for sharing that with us. Your experience is a common concern for a lot of parents. Teenagers can be hesitant to open up, reach out for help and can be quick to shut down. It is really tough for parents to navigate this space and it can be difficult for them to know what to do. Unfortunately, there isn't a standard approach that works for everyone. Some parents suggest opening up the conversation by sharing their own experience of mental health with their child. This can remind them that you were once a teenager as well and can empathise with what they are going through. This may or may not be appropriate, depending on your child and their personality and relationship with you. It is also important when talking to your child, to make sure you are listening in a way that is non-judgmental. Depending on the context, this might include accepting their experience and feelings, although you may not necessarily agree with it.
It sounds as though you are quite concerned about your son's well-being. You mention a few behaviours that are worrying you - but also that your son does not want to receive help. Have you thought about speaking to a psychologist or GP about your son? They may have appropriate suggestions or be able to provide more information on the likelihood of depression. You could also use this as an opportunity to receive your own support as I imagine this situation must be quite stressful and concerning for you. Another service we also recommend is Parent Line. They provide amazing telephone support and have a heaps of information and referrals. The benefit of professional help is that it can be tailored to suit your individual circumstances. We also have our own 1-on-1 support service here - please feel welcome to check it out.
It is amazing that your son still has a close network of friends and appears to be seeing them regularly. Are you ever in contact with their parents (e.g if you drop your son off)? They may have some helpful advice or insight to offer. Does your son mention any reasons as to why he is reluctant to chat with you? If you spend a lot of your time focusing on the issues, it can also be helpful to just have a general chat with your son to find out more about his interests, personality, hobbies etc. It can help to relieve some of the pressure and heaviness that serious conversations can bring. You can also make sure that your son has access to support lines like Kids Helpline, Lifeline, eHeadspace etc. This way, if your son is reluctant to talk to you, he at least knows that there are other options available
Please let us know how you go and keep us updated.