Parenting a teenager is fraught with myriad challenges and confusion. One word commonly used for teens is moody. But how does a parent know when it’s a “normal” mood swing or something far more severe? After all, at least 20 percent of all teenagers will suffer from depression, but many more cases go unrecognized and undiagnosed.
As a parent, you can play an essential role in supporting your teen during this time period. A powerful step in that direction is to learn more about depression and its symptoms. From there, you are better situated to help your child recover and thrive again.
Common Signs of Depression in Teenagers
One of the first things to do is recognize that sudden changes could be a red flag. Sure, teens can be fickle, but we’re talking about drastic swings when it comes to:
- Sleeping or eating patterns
- Losing interest in activities that once excited them
- Academic and/or behavior issues at school
- Angry and aggressive outbursts
- Engaging in high-risk behaviors like unsafe sex, reckless driving, etc.
Other possible signs include:
- Persistent negativity: The key is “persistent.” These aren’t casual mood swings. Your teen may be prone to crying, express a sense of hopelessness about their life or the world in general, and display low self-esteem.
- Phone addiction: They disappear into the online world to escape their emotions.
- Substance abuse: It’s a form of self-medication.
- Running away: They are metaphorically hoping to leave their pain behind.
How To Help Your Teen Deal With Depression
Start conversations in non-confrontation ways. For example, you could say: “I’ve noticed that you’re sleeping less (or eating less or not spending time with your friends).” Make it clear that you care and that you will listen without judging. Give them your full attention, and stay aware of your body language as you listen.
Make This a Family Solution
If, for example, you see your teen not being as physically active, invite them to take a walk or hike as a family. Do things outdoors in the sun. Set up device-free times to be a family together. Create a family bedtime to encourage healthy sleep patterns.
Give Them Space When They Really Need It
Everyone—teenagers included—needs solo time and downtime. So, work hard to strike a healthy balance of both encouraging them and cutting them some slack. Also, depression can make it hard for them to focus and concentrate. Offer homework help and maybe give them a break for the occasional lapse.
Don’t Take It Personally
Teenagers will snap at their parents. Depressed teenagers will snap too, but they may behave in a way that can hurt their parents. They don’t mean it. They are struggling with a diagnosable mental health disorder. As hard as it sounds, do not take it personally. It’s not a personal attack, and it’s not a statement on your parenting skills.
Now, to be clear, you also don’t want to give them carte blanche to treat you or anyone in an abusive way. Even so, take a few breaths before sliding right into punishment mode. See if there’s a way to work this out together and turn it into a bonding moment.
Help Them Get the Support They Need
At the end of the day, no matter how much you want to help, you will need outside support. Depression is a disease, and it requires professional intervention. You can use this reality as an opportunity to guide them through the options. Do the research with them and, if warranted, go with them to appointments. Remember, if you think your teen might be depressed, it is imperative that you get more information from a trained therapist. Reach out to us for help with depression treatment soon.