You may not recognize that your teen is depressed at first. You might think that they are just “being a teenager” or these feelings are just “part of growing up.” But, depression in teens is real and quite common.
As a parent, you want to help your teen get better. You want to make everything alright, but it isn’t always that easy. There is no magic cure, but there are some steps you can take to help your teen heal and move forward as mentally healthy as possible.
Once you determine that your child may be depressed, here are some tips to get started to helping them feel better:
1.) Listen Without Trying to ‘Fix’ Them
This might sound obvious but as any parent knows it is easier said than done. Years ago when your child was little they relied on you for everything. A kiss of a boo-boo, a cuddle, or a fun family outing was enough to “make everything better.” Unfortunately, depression isn’t as easy to “fix.” It is also important to note that because your teen is depressed there isn’t something “wrong” with them. When we use phrases like this it adds stigma to mental illness and makes it so they don’t want to share. Depression is not a choice your teen is making.
The best thing you can do for your depressed teen is to listen without judgment. Let them know they can share anything with you without you jumping into action.
2.) Be supportive
Now more than ever your teen needs support. They need to know they are not alone. You are on their team, there to cheer them on as they go. Work on building empathy for your teen. Put yourself in their shoes. It might be frustrating and hard on you, as a parent, to see your child sad or irritable all the time but these are signs they need your support right now. Try to avoid getting mad or angry with your depressed teen for shutting themselves in their room or snapping at those around them. Be compassionate without being emotional. Depression can make even the smallest of things feel impossible.
Instead, validate their emotions, not their unhealthy behavior. Say things like “It seems like you have been upset lately. Is that true?” Show them you notice and you are here to listen.
3.) Help them get help
Getting your teen help from a licensed counselor or social worker can make a huge difference in your child’s recovery. Your teen is feeling pretty awful right now. All they want to do is feel better but they don’t know how, often leading to unhealthy behaviors. In counseling, your depressed teen will learn healthy coping skills. They will learn ways to get themselves out of a slump and get back to living.
At Move Forward, our counselors work with teens from all over the state of Pennsylvania via our online and telehealth platforms. We work to build trust and rapport so that your teen is comfortable opening up.
4.) Notice the positive (and point it out)
As mentioned above, depression can make even the smallest of things feel impossible. That is why you need to be your teen’s cheerleader. Notice the small steps they make and tell them how proud you are of them. It could be getting up on time to go to school or deciding to attend a gathering with friends. Or, even telling a joke during dinner. Any little sign of progress deserves recognition.
5.) Know the signs
It is important you know the warning signs of depression. You need to be aware when your teen is falling into a depressive episode so you can get help as soon as possible. Pay particular attention to signs they might be considering suicide—talking about wanting to die, self-harming, socially withdrawing, saying goodbyes, saying they don’t have a reason to live, etc. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 800-273-8255 and operates 24/7.
6.) Help yourself
Watching your child struggle with depression is incredibly difficult. Make sure you take time for yourself. Practice self-care. Consider getting therapy for yourself so you can process your emotions. You can’t take care of your child in the best way possible without first taking care of yourself.
Ready to begin counseling in Pennsylvania?
Our professionally-trained and licensed counselors have openings for online therapy. Just call our office at 717-462-7003×1 and speak to our administrative assistant to help your teen get started to feeling better. Depression doesn’t have to take over your teen’s life. We can help.
Author: Alison Pidgeon, LPC
Alison is the Founder and CEO of Move Forward Counseling, a boutique private practice for women with three locations in Lancaster County, PA. She is passionate about reducing the stigma related to accessing mental health services. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.