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Co-Parenting a Teen with Depression

The signs of teen depression and how parents can help a depressive adolescent.   

Children go through ups and downs just like adults. Over the course of your child’s life, you may notice changes in their mood or behavior, which may not always be cause for alarm. However, adolescent depression does occur, and it’s important for you and your co-parent to monitor your child closely if you notice the signs.

According to Healthychildren.org, depression may be present in your teen if you notice the following:

  • A sad or irritable mood for most of the day. Your teen may say they feel sad or angry or may look more tearful or cranky.
  • Not enjoying things that used to make your child happy.
  • A marked change in weight or eating, either up or down.
  • Sleeping too little at night or too much during the day.
  • No longer wanting to be with family or friends.
  • A lack of energy or feeling unable to do simple tasks.
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt. Low self-esteem.
  • Trouble focusing or making choices.School grades may drop.
  • Not caring about what happens in the future.
  • Aches and pains when nothing is actually wrong.
  • Frequent thoughts of death or suicide.

Any of these can occur in teens who are not depressed, but if you and your co-parent start to notice these signs together, nearly every day, they can be red flags for depression. If your relationship allows, you and your co-parent should monitor and discuss the depressive behaviors so you can form a plan of action.

Here are some things you can do if you think your child is depressed

  1. Engage your teen in daily conversation. This opens the lines of communication between you and your child, allowing you to gauge their mood, daily life, changes in behavior, and other issues. It’s important for you and your co-parent to document any signs of depression you may notice and communicate them to each other.
  2. Encourage healthy sleeping, eating and exercise habits. Sometimes, changes in your child’s mood or behavior can be linked to irregular sleep schedules, eating or drinking habits, and lack of exercise. It’s beneficial for both you and your co-parent to encourage these behaviors to create consistency and stability for your child.
  3. Talk to your teen’s doctor. A pediatrician can help you determine the seriousness of your child’s symptoms and form a plan of action. Your teen’s doctor may also identify a medical reason or condition that is linked to your child’s behavior, which could require medication or treatment of some kind. It’s important for you and your co-parent to keep well-documented information for your doctor to analyze the situation thoroughly.

If you and your co-parent are aware of outside factors that could be contributing to depressive behaviors in your child (such as bullying, substance abuse, a traumatic event or loss, etc.) it’s crucial to inform your teen’s doctor. Additionally, if you or your co-parent notice that your child is thinking about or practicing self-harm, you should seek immediate medical attention.

It’s crucial to communicate when co-parenting a teen with depression

If your relationship allows, you and your co-parent should check-in with each other regularly regarding your child’s behavior. Using a co-parenting communication service, like TalkingParents, can help. With tools such as Secure Messaging and Accountable Calling, you can talk to your co-parent about your teen at any time, while keeping all communications documented and on the Record.

Features like the Info Library allow you and your co-parent to document and share all important information regarding your child’s health in one, secure place. You can also plan and coordinate your teen’s doctor’s appointments together using our Shared Calendar.

If you and your co-parent are having trouble helping your teen through this difficult time, don’t be afraid to seek outside help. As a parent, you may not always have all the tools to provide the support that your child needs, and that’s okay. Check out our Guide to Child Therapy for more information.

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