A Parent’s Guide to Understanding & Talking With A Depressed Teen

How do you talk to a depressed teen? First, understand what they're going through -- teenagers have a LOT to deal with, from changing bodies to academics...

Teenagers have a LOT to deal with, from changing bodies and peer pressure, to academics and falling in love for the first time. Add to that the rise of social media, with its unrealistic expectations and pressure to conform, and you can see exactly how you end up with a depressed teen on your hands.

Being a mental and emotional disorder, depression can drastically affect your teen’s thoughts and behavior, leading to a variety of long-term negative effects if ignored. Since a certain amount of moodiness is normal in teens, it can be hard to recognize the signs of depression.

However, educating yourself on teen depression puts you in a better position to correctly identify the symptoms and red flags in your teen’s behavior. The infographic below addresses the key information parents need to understand about depression among teens:

Talking with Your Depressed Teen

If you do see worrisome symptoms, and think your teen may have depression, talk with them about what you’ve noticed and ask them to share what they’re going through. Here are some tips that can help:

Focus On Listening

As your teen starts opening up to you, resist the urge to correct, criticize, lecture or interrupt. Instead, give them your full attention and concentrate on what they are saying. Doing so shows them that you value their feelings and opinions and this encourages them to continue confiding in you.

Acknowledge Their Feelings

When talking with a depressed teen, many parents mistakenly try to explain that things aren’t “all that bad”. Some even tell their teens to get over it and look on the bright side of life. While well-meant, such statements inadvertently invalidate your son’s or daughter’s emotions, making it seem like you don’t take them seriously. Instead, validate their feelings by acknowledging and accepting the sadness, anguish, and pain they’re experiencing.

Provide Genuine Support

Your parental support goes a long way towards building your teen’s esteem and confidence, especially when they feel depressed about their lives. Listening to their fears and concerns and taking an interest in their studies, friends, hobbies, etc. makes them feel accepted and supported. Additionally, you can show your support by getting them the help they need to beat depression and even accompanying them to therapy or counselling sessions.

Be Gentle But Persistent

Teenagers are notorious for emotionally shutting out their parents. Don’t give up when this happens, as teens may have trouble expressing their feelings. Instead of pushing them to talk, remain patient and keep emphasizing your concern and willingness to listen while respecting their comfort level and privacy.

Go With Your Gut

If your teenager constantly claims to be fine, while offering no explanation for their depressed behavior, trust your instincts and take appropriate action. Perhaps your teen will be more comfortable confiding in someone like their favorite teacher or a school counselor instead of you. The important thing is to get them to open up to someone.

Finally, encourage your teen to pick up a hobby, exercise, or get involved in peer activities because interacting with others reduces social isolation and increases the likelihood of overcoming depression.

As a wife, mom, and writer, located on the benches of the Wasatch Mountains, Cindy Price shares her thoughts on the various aspects of family life. She has experience writing educational content in the many areas of parenting, with an emphasis on teen-related issues, from which she applies and expounds on her personal experience raising three teenagers.