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Parenting a Teenager with Depression: 5 Ways to Provide Support

The baseline difficulty of parenting - that is, parenting in and of itself - is high enough. When your child is struggling with a mental health concern, it can be even harder.

Parenting a depressed teenager is a game of balance. On the one hand, you want nothing more than to take all the pain away, and you're willing to do anything to make that happen. On the other hand, however, you know that teenagers need space and independence in order to grow.

Parents must find a balance between offering support and knowing when to back off. This article should serve as a guide for doing just that.

NOTE: If your teenager has been diagnosed with depression, or you suspect they may have depression, the best thing you can do is get in touch with a mental health professional. This article does not constitute medical advice.

Learn more about parenting a teenager with depression on this page:

Symptoms of Depression in Teenagers

#1: Open a Line of Communication

#2: Facilitate Their Social Life As Best You Can

#3: Promote Physical Health

#4: Encourage Household Harmony

#5: Talk to a Professional

Therapy for Teenagers with Depression in Brooklyn: Williamsburg Therapy Group

Symptoms of Depression in Teenagers

If you suspect your teenager has depression, step one is to get in touch with a licensed mental health professional.

The symptoms of depression in teenagers closely match those of adult depression:

  • Fatigue
  • Hopelessness
  • Feeling empty
  • Sleeping too much
  • Changes in appetite
  • Mood swings and irritability
  • Lack of interest in previously enjoyable activities

The one caveat to teenage depression is that irritability, rather than lethargy and emptiness, is the most commonly exhibited symptom. The most current theory is that the hormonal changes that teenagers go through - which can cause irritability even in teens without depression - contribute to a higher level of irritability in teenagers with depression.

Insofar as outward symptoms that you may be able to observe, look for:

  • Cessation of hobbies or sports
  • Increased intensity and frequency of arguments
  • Inordinate amounts of time spent alone; social isolation
  • Drastic drops in academic scores

After seeing a mental health care professional and exploring and enacting treatment options, you can help your teenager with depression at home with the following tips.

#1: Open a Line of Communication

A prerequisite to improving virtually any situation, communication is the number one most important thing to facilitate in the home.

Note the title of this step: Open a line of communication. Communication in this case should be voluntary, not forced. Trying to pressure a teenager into communicating is an extremely quick and efficient way to make them lock up and not communicate.

A good rule of thumb is to be ears, not a mouth. Let them know that they can always come to you with whatever is bothering them. It can help to humanize yourself: be vulnerable and mention to your teen that you have bad days too.

The goal here is to create an environment where your child feels safe and comfortable enough to speak up when they themselves are having a bad day. You want them to be able to express the full range of human emotions without feeling embarrassed or targeted.

#2: Facilitate Their Social Life As Best You Can

Being social has a number of positive effects. First, hanging out with friends can release endorphins, which relax you and can make you feel more positive. Second, a solid, trusted friend group can be a great support system.

That second part is crucial for teenagers. Teens often feel more comfortable being open with their friends about certain things than their parents. It's nothing against the parent, of course; it's just a different relationship dynamic.

Help your teen's social life by offering to drive them when needed, or by giving them $20 here and there for a movie and snack. The goal here is to remove logistical hurdles that might hinder your teenager's social life.

Just one caveat: Keep an eye on who their friends are. Teenagers are inherently impressionable, and teenagers with depression are at a higher risk for substance abuse and alcohol use. You should trust your teen and give them space and independence, but if they are spending time around someone who is clearly a bad influence, it's time to intervene. Just make sure to keep the conversation positive and highlight that everything you do and say is done out of love.

#3: Promote Physical Health

Research shows that exercising and maintaining physical health can help reduce symptoms of depression.

While it won't really cure your teenager's depression - depression is currently only treatable, not curable - it can certainly help symptoms on a day-to-day basis. Plus, physical health is very important in its own right, combating physical dangers like heart disease and obesity.

Of course, getting someone with depression to hit the gym is often like trying to get a fish to walk on land: Even if it wants to, it's just not a possibility.

There are a number of ways you can make exercise more enticing or easier for your teenager. You can set times for walks each day. Just 20 minutes of purposeful walking can boost their heart rate. Plus, the sunlight will help their body produce vitamin D, an essential vitamin for feeling good.

You can also keep an eye on their content interests to give you ideas. If you notice your teen is spending a lot of time watching soccer videos online, for example, you may suggest that they join a local team or even just buy them a ball to kick around outside.

#4: Encourage Household Harmony

Having depression is, obviously, no walk in the park. Part of your job as a parent is to do what you can to limit other difficulties that may pile on.

Now, some difficulties are unavoidable. Your child has to go to school, for example. But at least at home, you can encourage peace, harmony, and open communication between all family members.

Siblings have a tendency to tussle, which is natural. But too much fighting can worsen everyone's mental health - particularly that of someone with depression.

#5: Talk to a Professional

The best thing you can do for your teenager with depression is to see a professional therapist or psychologist.

With their training and expertise, you can rest assured that your child is getting the best possible care.

Spend some time finding a therapist who is convenient and who specializes in teen psychology. It's also of the utmost importance to find one who you think your teenager will trust. Trust and rapport are the two most important factors for success in therapy.

Therapy for Teenagers with Depression in Brooklyn: Williamsburg Therapy Group

If your teenager has depression, or you think they may have depression, therapy may be able to help.

Williamsburg Therapy Group is proud to be home to the best child and teen psychology department in the city. With exclusively doctoral-level teen therapists, our team is ready to address and begin treating your teenager's depression.

Book an appointment online or give us a call to let our patient coordinator do the work of finding the right therapist for your child.

Book a Therapy Session in Brooklyn Today

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