There are many things we want to protect our daughters from starting with the smallest boo boo to the biggest bully in the school yard. But one of the scariest, most paralyzing fear is a situation that creeps in, like a thief in the night to steal the joyous, blossoming, beautiful, smiling daughter you have come to love without boundaries. What happens when that elusive ‘thing’ comes along and makes you feel as though you have been flung out to sea without a raft; you are…for maybe the first time in raising your daughter, lost.
It’s not a boo boo you can put a band-aid on and kiss away. Seemingly it lingers, hovering and over shadowing the beautiful smile you have come to love.
I can tell you that I went through a range of emotions from confusion to sadness to utter fear. I was confused; I mean why wouldn’t I be. I have given my daughter everything and been this great mom (at least in my mind). Utter fear because I, for the first time, didn’t know how to deal with my daughter. My vibrant, laughing daughter had become withdrawn, sullen and hard to communicate with.
I didn’t stay down. I am a female after all, a mom and a teacher. I researched and reached out to family and friends. One friend in particular helped me immensely. I listened, learned and put into practice.
So, here are 5 ways you can help your teenage daughter who may show signs of depression.
Before I begin here’s some interesting facts:
- While boys do experience depression by “mid-adolescence girls are twice as more likely to be diagnosed with a mood disorder such as depression or anxiety” (childmind.org)
- Girls mature faster, we’ve all heard that before, but it turns out that because of this known fact girls develop a greater sensitivity to emotional stimuli.
Pay attention to the subtle signs. Is she becoming withdrawn, sleeping more, not sleeping? Is she more irritable than usual (teenage years), has lost interest in the activities she used to enjoy or has her grades dropped? While these individually could mean other things it still bears mentioning. For my daughter she wasn’t sleeping which lead to irritability.
Be there. It’s very important to strengthen your relationship with your daughter during these years. The teenage years are tumultuous- with home expectations, the school jungle mentality (survival of the fittest) and the hormonal changes. This time can be rough and there is a lot on her plate. Try to build empathy for her position and circumstance. Put yourself in her shoes. Be that person she goes to when she is feeling low and wants someone to communicate with.
Many times due to either the busyness of our lifestyles or we have forgotten our teenage years we may not give credit to the schizophrenic nature of our feelings when we are teenagers. One minute life is super awesome, the next life is an abysmal affair, and then there is the range. We need to validate their feelings. My daughter goes from “Mom I had such a good day at school one day!” to “I hate my school!” I sometimes can’t keep up. She is in middle school and honestly I am appalled by the trials they go through. It’s like court. She must prove her worth! I know… if she only knew. For now I listen, validate, and try to help her navigate through the jungle.
In the car, at the grocery, or in the kitchen, check in with your daughter. Doesn’t have to be a long conversation but asking questions and genuinely being curious about what’s going on with them can tell you a lot about their emotional well-being. Show love and concern when checking in, no judgement – just listen. Judging pushes them away. Try your best not to fix their problems (very difficult) but offer suggestions/alternatives. Let them mull those over. Give them some space.
Depression is a serious mood disorder and rates are rising in teen girls. Ensuring your girl with depression gets help when you feel as though you have tried all the above and more. Communicate with your daughter let her know you have noticed changes in them and you want to help. Inform them of the different kinds of help that’s out there such as, therapy. For your own knowledge bank there is interpersonal therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, and dialectical behavioral therapy; all shown to help teens with depression.
Make sure you are taking care of yourself. Caring for a daughter who may be experiencing depression can be emotionally and mentally exhausting.
Empowering the Female Spirit