When a teen is diagnosed with depression, it can be a difficult pill for parents to swallow. Parents often wonder if it’s because of something they did, or failed to do, and it can be confusing and cause them to feel powerless at times. It’s important for you to know that depression can arise from any number of situations and circumstances, and as parents there are some things that you can do to help your teen overcome depression and work toward healing, learning to enjoy life again, and experiencing personal growth.
Aside from being aware of the signs and symptoms of depression, it’s important to exercise good communication skills with your teen. When doing so, be sure to listen. It is impossible to know exactly how your teen is feeling or what he/she is going through. After surrendering to the notion that you are naïve in this aspect, make an effort to understand what your teen is going through by listening and being there for emotional support. Try to understand what it is like to be a teen in this time and what your teen enjoys doing, watching, listening to, etc. By making an attempt to understand your teen’s culture, you are showing that you care.
In addition to showing that you care, communicating, and listening, it’s important to be available to connect with your teen, even if it's during an inconvenient time. Showing consistent support will help your teen feel safe and more grounded. Let them know that it’s okay to feel sad or disappointed about things and that it’s healthy to have emotions, all while avoiding criticism or harsh remarks. It’s also important to connect with an expert, such as your teen’s therapist; be sure to understand the symptoms and signs of depression and ensure your teen sticks to his or her treatment plan.
Encouraging your teen to adopt healthy habits is going to go a long way. Eating a healthy diet; engaging in exercise or physical activities; making and nurturing positive relationships; getting a consistent, healthy amount of sleep each night; getting enough sun or vitamin D; and adopting healthy coping skills are wonderful ways to support your teen through healing and recovery. It’s also helpful to engage in physical activities with your teen such as going on walks or hikes, or anything that you enjoy doing as a family.
Some additional positive things to encourage your teen to do regularly include:
- Having a structured daily routine
- Asking for help when in need
- Setting realistic goals and expectations
- Writing in a journal
- Connecting with friends, family, and peers when feeling down
- Staying active and healthy
Learning as much as you can about depression is another way you can best help your teen. You may want to encourage your teen to attend a support group for teens with depression, and you may also benefit from attending one for family members as well.
It’s best to encourage your teen to abstain from drugs or alcohol, as this could interfere with the recovery process, and to remove any objects that have been or could be used for self-harm. Should the depression symptoms worsen, which is common when first starting treatment, it’s important to be aware of the warning signs of suicide, which include:
- Social withdrawal
- Suicidal art or writings
- A personality shift
- Risky behavior
- Giving personal belongings away
- Threatening to hurt oneself
Should your teen exhibit any of the above symptoms, it’s important to seek help immediately. If your teen threatens to hurt him/herself, call 911. Speaking out about your teen when they need it the most can save his or her life.
If you suspect your teen may be struggling with depression and you’d like to learn more about the signs, symptoms, and treatment options, please contact us at Idaho Youth Ranch. We offer a variety of treatment options to help your teen overcome depression and live a healthy life.