Parenting is hard, parenting a depressed teen is even harder. As parents we want to protect our children from anything that can harm them. But how do we protect our children from themselves? Depression is a serious medical condition that is on the rise. The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that 3 million adolescents ages 12 to 17 have at least one major depressive episode in the past year.
So how do you help your teen if you think they are depressed? First, know the signs of depression. Depression can look differently in different people. So a good rule of thumb is if you see a noticeable difference in your child’s mood or behaviors that last a longer then a few weeks. Teens may act out more, act more agitated, show less impulse control or lower motivation. They may also demonstrate more traditional symptoms including depressed mood, changes in appetite or sleeping patterns, withdrawing or showing little motivations for things they typically enjoy.
If your teen is displaying any of these signs, it is important that you be supportive. Being supportive means listening non-judgmentally and not trying to “fix” them or their problems. There is a disconnection that between parents and teens that can be heightened by difficult situations. Yes, we were all teens once, your teen knows that. They do not need to hear that though. Today’s teens are living in a totally different world then prior generations. So listen, don’t try to fix it.
Check in often. This does not mean badger them. This means be available to them whenever they need it and let them know as much. Ask them, how often you should check in with them. They will likely tell you what they want and be more open if you respect their boundaries.
Be realistically positive. Focus on the positive but don’t make stuff up in an effort to make them feel better. Your teen will call you on it and feel that you are just trying to make them feel better. Be real and help them see what is going well.
Help them to seek treatment. It is always better if your teen is willing to see a counselor. They are more willing to accept the help and put in the work required to get well. There are times however when treatment is a must, not an option. As a parent, if you child is at risk or has engaged in or had thoughts of self harm, its important to seek help immediately. There are several different types of therapy to consider. For more information about finding a good fit treatment, click here.
Lastly, take care of yourself. You are the first and best role model for your child’s behavior. So make sure to practice self care and healthy coping skills. Reach out and ask for help. This will set a positive example for your teen.
Amanda Be, LMSW, MBA is owner and counselor at Supportive Counseling Services in Grosse Pointe, MI. Amanda has been a practicing clinical social worker since 2005. She is passionate about helping others lead happier, more successful lives through her private practice, advocacy and volunteer work. Amanda’s main objective is to support others during life’s challenges and hopes these blogs will help. She writes and speaks on topics for parents, counselors and educators.