The teenager years are inherently challenging. When you are a teenager, you are trying to form your identity, make friends, and figure out what it is you want in life. But when you are a teenager with depression, things can be even more difficult.
Depression is something that can affect almost every aspect of an individual’s life. If you are the parent of a teenager with depression, you have certainly seen the toll it can take on them. Even getting out of bed in the morning is something that can seem to be impossible.
As a parent, your first instinct is to try to find a way to help your teenager. But knowing what, exactly, you can do to help isn’t always so obvious. Fortunately, there are a lot of different ways you can immediately make a difference.
1 – Recognize teenage depression symptoms as early as you possibly can
Lots of teens exhibit patterns of sadness, angst, or moodiness, but depression is a condition that is distinctively different. When someone is depressed, they aren’t just sad, they are experiencing symptoms that are chronic and persistent.
- Low mood, low energy, and low self-esteem persisting over an extensive period
- Loss of interest in things they once enjoyed or would otherwise find enjoyable
- Deteriorating performance in school, work, family life, and social life
- Sudden changes in sleeping habits, weight, and other health metrics
- Self-harm—ranging from substance abuse to attempted suicide
These are just a few of the symptoms you ought to be actively keeping an eye out for. Sometimes teenage depression is obvious, but other times it is discrete. Many teenagers can mask their depression for an extensive period, but that doesn’t mean they are not suffering.
Sometimes instead of recognizing the symptoms, it is easier to recognize the behaviors that exist as a consequence of these symptoms. Though there are a lot of reasons a teenager might be struggling at school, depression is a common cause. Additionally, expressing feelings of worthlessness, anti-social sentiments, or misplaced anger are also common consequences of depression.
Other things to keep an eye out for include the development of eating disorders or addictions to technology (specifically, smart phones and the internet). Not everyone who exhibits these behaviors is necessarily depressed and not everyone who is depressed will necessarily exhibit these behaviors—but the correlations are undeniably strong.
2 – Develop effective methods of communication
If you believe your teenager is suffering from depression, you are going to want to develop an effective communication plan. Teenagers who are suffering from depression are in a very delicate state. You might be surprised just how profoundly your words and actions can directly affect their well-being.
Instead of lecturing your teenager, you are going to want to begin by listening. If they are willing to open up to you—which can be incredibly difficult for some people who are depressed—the last thing they are going to want to hear is judgement and explanations for why their feelings are invalid.
The best thing you could do as a parent is validate their feelings and demonstrate that you care. Instead of saying, “I’m sure you’ll get over it”, consider saying “I’ll always be here to help you.” Instead of trying to tell them why they shouldn’t be depressed, show them that you will be there to support them every step of the way.
If you are the parent of a depressed teenager, you might often feel as if your efforts to love them are entirely unreciprocated. Though they may say hurtful things at times, it is important to realize that unconditional love needs to truly be just that: unconditional. Even if your efforts appear to be thankless, that doesn’t mean they are not worthwhile.
3 – Help promote a healthy lifestyle
Though you do not want to control every element of your depressed teenager’s life, there are a lot of things you can do to help make things easier.
The first thing you can do is help promote positive social interactions. Whether this means planning weekly family outings, encouraging your teen to get involved in a group or activity, or simply taking time each day to talk to your teenager, a little social interaction can go a long way.
Additionally, you are going to want to make sure that your teenager is developing healthy habits. Some of the most natural ways people can combat depression include eating healthy foods, getting plenty of sleep, and actively exercising. Though old habits can be hard to change, making these necessary lifestyle improvements can produce immediate results.
Even if you are not depressed yourself, this may be an excellent opportunity for you to also develop a healthier lifestyle. Buying healthier foods at the grocery store, signing up for a gym membership, and planning active outings are all great ways you can get started. Living a healthier lifestyle is something that is much easier when it is done as a team.
4 – Know when it is time to seek out professional help
If you are the parent of a teenager who is suffering from depression, there are a lot of things you can do on your own to help them. You can help monitor your teenager’s well-being, establish yourself as a supportive resource, and you can also help encourage healthier habits. But there are also a lot of things you probably can’t do and it is important to know when—and where—you can find reliable sources of help.
One of the most important things to realize about teenage depression is that is often (at least partially) caused by chemical imbalances existing in their brain. Talking to a teen depression treatment center about options and therapies is a great step first step to recovery & healing.
Depression treatment centers are much more than just a safe haven to promote recovery. Residential psychologists are uniquely qualified to recognize and directly address depression-related symptoms in a way that the average parent is simply unprepared to do.
Additionally, teenage depression is something that is strongly correlated with a variety of other mental health issues. Substance abuse, anxiety, PTSD, eating disorders and numerous other conditions are more likely to exist when an individual is depressed. If your teenager is suffering from multiple conditions at once, professional help is something that may be urgently needed.
Teenage depression may be difficult to cope with, but that doesn’t mean it is impossible to overcome. With the right knowledge, resources, and efforts, your teenager can begin to make dramatic improvements to their life. As a parent, you can play an active role and help lead the way.