Your teen might be slamming the door and refusing to talk, but they still need a compassionate, informed caregiver to help ease their depression.
You may have noticed that your teen isn’t acting like themselves. They might be quieter, spend lots of time alone, and seem too tired to get out of bed most days.
Teenagers are known for being temperamental, but their recent behavior could seem like something more.
Each time you try to connect with your child, you may be met with a closed door. You might feel helpless, but there are ways to help your teen as they navigate depression.
Is it hormones or a depressive episode?
Being irritable, less talkative, and more tired is typical teenage development. But these symptoms overlap with those of a depressive episode, making it difficult to figure out how to help a teen with depression.
There are some observations you could make and consider the answers to determine whether it’s either common teen moodiness or depression, such as:
Observation: They’re sleeping in more.
Questions: How late are they staying up? Once awake, do they remain listless?
Observation: Your teen answers your “How was your day?” with one mumbled word and rushes to their room, not to be seen again until dinnertime forces them out.
Question: Are they isolating only from the family, or have they also secluded themselves from friends?
Observation: Maybe they’ve played baseball since T-ball age, only to drop the sport suddenly.
Question: Have they replaced old interests with new hobbies, or do they seem unmotivated by activities they used to enjoy?
The answers to these self-queries might warrant more exploration with your kid’s pediatrician and a mental health professional.
Signs of depression in teens could also include:
- crying spells (for seemingly no reason)
- complaints of unexplained aches (perhaps frequenting school nurse)
- emotional numbness
- irritable or quick to anger
- loss of self-worth
- fixation on perceived failures with increased self-criticism
- poor school performance
- sensitivity to rejection
- concentration or memory challenges
- appetite changes not typical for them
- uncharacteristic sleep changes
- hygiene lapses
- social isolation
- suicidal ideation
If you suspect thoughts of suicide or suicide attempts, you can find help at Psych Central’s resource for suicide support.
For a mental health professional to diagnose depression, the symptoms must persist most of the day every day for 2 weeks.
If your teen is diagnosed with depression, there are treatment options. Still, you can support their well-being at home.
There are several options for therapy that a teen with depression can try.
For example, your teen may benefit from talk therapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).
There are also mental health apps that can supplement your child’s depression treatment. A
BetterHelp vs. Talkspace: Which Should I Choose for Online Therapy?
Your teen may also benefit from the shared experience of group therapy or online group therapy.
Remember the days when your child couldn’t wait to tell you every single waking (and dreaming) thought that randomly popped into their brain? Now, your teen may be much more reserved.
When connecting, less is more. Listening more than talking might help a guarded teen open up more.
You can make yourself approachable and open to conversation, but you’ll want to avoid prying questions for now. You might pay attention to the small details they choose to share and ask more about those. These little life details could be meaningful to your teen.
Active listening can strengthen trust with your teen, so the pressure is off if they need to talk with you about more sensitive topics, like symptoms of depression.
You might consider keeping apples, bananas, and avocados on the counter for a quick grab when your child needs a snack.
You could try surprising them with a meal intentionally made with ingredients rich in nutrients like B vitamins, magnesium, and iron to potentially ease depression symptoms.
Also, consider limiting refined sugars, artificial sweeteners, and energy drinks, which have been linked to worsening depression.
Your kid might also have little to no appetite due to depression symptoms. It’s helpful to have healthful items available for when your teen has more appetite.
Depressed or not, your teen is navigating new social, physical, academic, mental, and emotional territories. It’s a time of great stress.
Belittling, dismissing, or trying to convince your teen that their lived experience is “not a big deal” is a quick way to shut down future conversations.
As a parent, you may have been solving your child’s problems since birth. But as they develop into more independent teenagers, you’ll want to allow them more independence.
When your teen opens up about their problems and disappointments, consider empathizing with them. This is the time to offer advice only if it’s requested.
It can be so hard to watch depression impact your child. And as much as you want to, you can’t take depression away from someone. But your child isn’t lost to you. You can still act by being well-informed and prepared in a crisis.
Emergency room visits for suspected suicide attempts for those ages 12 to 17 increased by
Having a crisis plan means you’ll have the following items in place before an emergency:
- phone numbers programmed into your phone, including your child’s counselor or therapist
- directions to the nearest ER saved in your phone’s GPS app
- digital copies of medical history and medications accessible by phone
- 741741 saved as a crisis text line to connect with a crisis counselor 24/7
Numbers to save: The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
- English: 800-273-8255 or 800-TALK
- Spanish: 888-628-9454
- Disaster-based help: 800-985-5990
- Text: 838255
- Online chat
- TTY Users: Use preferred relay service or dial 711 then 1-800-273-8255.
Watching your teen thriving, sticking to a routine, and lighting up with enjoyment are some of the most fulfilling moments as a parent.
Even if your child’s symptoms of depression may be easing, ending therapy or medication could worsen their condition. Your mental health professional can offer guidance regarding reducing or ending therapy and medication.
Taking care of your mental health is essential so you show up as the best possible parent as your teen navigates adolescence and depression.
You may find it helpful to keep an open conversation with your teen’s pediatrician, so they’re up to date on any developments in your kid’s depression.
Even though your teen might not acknowledge your efforts, the work you’ve done matters. Providing your teen with medical professionals, proper nutrition, medication, and therapy can instill balance and security.