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Is this depression? Is this anxiety?

Parents, teachers, therapists, and many others get caught up and uncertain about a teens' diagnosis. We often have teens unable to participate in school because of anxiety, teachers unsure about IEPs and 504 plans, and parents who are frustrated and afraid about what to do next. There is also the age old debate about whether or not it is a chemical issue needing drugs, a choice, or an environmental issue.

Figuring out the best route to take, the best therapist to go to, and whether or not meds are a part of the equation is a process and a journey. In the meantime don't forget that a balance of having expectations while being empathetic is very important as a parent. Your boundaries can stay the same as long as they are healthy and consistent, but your interactions with your child can validate and acknowledge what they are going through. There is a big difference between participating in your child not going to school because of anxiety and being loving and empathetic as they navigate the struggles and consequences that come along with not having made it to school or not having been able to give that speech in front of the class. The resources and support you offer when your child struggles with depression or anxiety or another mental health issue will change, but healthy and loving boundaries do not.

Following this means that less emphasis has to be put on what the diagnosis actually is and more emphasis can be put on finding helpful (not co-dependent) resources. For example; parents who offer their child, who refused to go to school on a test day because of anxiety, therapy, an assessment with a psychiatrist, or help in being prepared for the speech is doing a great job in addressing the issue. However many parents may feel guilty about not intervening in a way that eliminates the consequences of not having gone to school. Supporting a lack of functioning is not helpful, but neither is insisting, yelling, and becoming irate when your child chooses a path with consequences.

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