How to Handle Your Teen’s Depression

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Depression can strike at any age. When it strikes your teenager, it can be difficult to deal with constructively. Your child is not a toddler anymore and you can’t simply swoop in and make it all better. Parenting a teen with depression means learning to take a supportive role in your child’s life while helping them maintain healthy boundaries. 

Here’s how to do it:

Don’t be afraid to talk to them about it

In order to support your teen, you can’t treat their depression like the elephant in the room. Cast a line and talk to your child. When you’ve noticed a change in their behavior, ask them if they need to talk to someone. If they’d like to open up to you, perfect. If they don’t, don’t react in a negative way. 

If you act like your afraid, your child is going to reciprocate that fear. This will close the door of comfort and lead your teenager to feel like you understand their struggle. As intimidating as it may be as a parent to talk to your child about their mental health, do not shy away from it. When you ask your child questions like, “Are you feeling down lately? How can I help?” you help to actively normalize the situation. Instead of feeling like they are ashamed of their depression, your child will be more likely to keep an open dialogue with you. This is important for maintaining their safety and comfort. 

Show them your support

Though verbally showing your child support is important, actions tend to speak louder than words. When your child is down with depression, reach back to the little things that show them you’re listening. This can be as simple as cooking them their favorite meal or buying a small token to show your child you’re thinking of them. Much like romantic relationships, family relationships can benefit from a demonstration of gratitude. For example: If you know your teen is suffering from a depressive episode, pick up a pack of their favorite purple pens at the drug store. 

Encourage them to spend time with the friends that truly support them, show interest in their emotions and hobbies. The more your teen feels like you’re in their corner, the easier it will be for the two of you to work through their depressive episodes. 

Don’t allow them to sulk too long

Often times teenagers resort to isolating themselves in their room. Whether that means laying in bed or staring mindlessly at their smartphones, it’s important to not let your teen isolate themselves for too long. At the same time, you should deny your teen the right to relax during their depression. Don’t punish them for wanting to lie down while you go to the grocery store.

Instead, keep an eye on their patterns. If you’ve noticed your son or daughter has been in their room for a couple of days, ask them to go out to dinner with the family. Take them to their favorite store. Whatever you can do to get them out of their room can go a long way in helping them climb out of a funk. 

Know when to get your teen professional help

If your teenager begins to self mutilate, shows suicidal tendencies, or can’t handle day to day life consider getting professional help. Mental health is complex and regardless of how much you love and support your teenager, you cannot handle serious mental health issues alone. Ignoring your child’s declining mental health will only make it harder for them to recover. More importantly, severe mental illnesses require professional help in order to protect the welfare and safety of your child. 

Be on the lookout for warning signs 

For many, it’s difficult to decipher where teen angst ends and serious mental health issue begins. Given the moody nature of adolescence, the best way to understand and identify your teenager’s depression is to monitor their behaviors. If your child normally sits in front of the TV after school but has begun to spend more time in their room, you need to reach out. Another common sign of depression in teenagers in a seemingly unexplained drop in grades or hobbies. If your teen is turning their head away from their studies and losing interest in their favorite sport, it’s time to sit down and talk to them about their feelings. 

In summary: If you suspect that your teenager is suffering from depression, talk to them about it. Monitor their symptoms, empathize with their emotions, and call in professional help if they need it. Your first job as a parent is to make sure your teenager has the resources they need to constructively deal with their depression. Even if it seems you’re losing that battle, stay strong. Teenage depression can be improved and in some cases, cured. With a supportive parent in their corner, your teen can learn to effectively manage their depression and lead a fulfilling life.

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