Parenting a typical teen has never been an easy task – and it may be the case that parenting has become even more complicated as our teens struggle to navigate a world that is very different from the one that we grew up in ourselves. The incredible reach of technology into the lives of most teenagers today is a mixed blessing. While it allows us to be in contact with our teens with the push of a button, it also makes it possible for bullies and sexual predators to follow your teen home at night. The rules have in many ways changed, and parents of teens can be left scrambling to find ways to support their teens who may be struggling with depression or anxiety as a result. However, as psychiatrist Jonathan Lauter MD will agree, there is much that we can does as parent to show our troubled teens that we are there for them, always. Here are just some of the ways that you can help your teen to understand and manage depression.
Name the problem
If you have noticed that your teen seems to be struggling with depression, don’t back away from talking openly and directly about what you have noticed. Whether your once outgoing and active teen has suddenly become socially withdrawn and uninterested in the things that she used to enjoy, or whether he seems angry, sad or hopeless, these are signs that you cannot ignore. Tell your teen that you have noticed these specific changes, and identify them for what they are – signs of depression. It may be that your teen is also aware of these changes, and she may be afraid that they mean “something is wrong with her” or that this is just “how it feels” to be a teen. Acknowledgement that these feelings may be linked to something that can be named and treated is the first step towards helping your teen deal with depression.
Encourage them to talk about how they are feeling
It may be that your teen is unwilling to talk about what is going on in their lives that could be contributing to their depression, especially if they feel that you might take what they have to say personally – for example if a divorce or remarriage is one of the things they are struggling to deal with, they might feel that they cannot discuss this with you without hurting your feelings or becoming defensive. It may also be the case that your teen doesn’t understand himself why he is feeling the way he is. Of course, you cannot force your teen to share his or her thoughts or experiences with you, but you can provide assurance that you are always ready to listen when they are ready to share. You can also encourage them to speak to someone other than you, if that makes it easier for your teen. A trusted teacher or counsellor, a mental health professional, a pastor or rabbi, or their favorite aunt or uncle may be able start the conversation.
It hurts us as parents to see our child experience pain, especially when it is something that we cannot fix as easily as a scraped knee. And indeed, we cannot fix depression in our teens – but we can provide them with unconditional love and a non-judgmental ear.