Parental Resources – Living With and Helping A Depressed Teenager

The subject of teenagers and depression may be borderline cliché, but this doesn’t mean it isn’t a problem that’s both real and serious. Sure, it’s temporary and yes, it’s extremely common, but for those concerned and indeed the families around them it can be a genuinely life-affecting condition.

According to the experts at, the key to assisting teenagers living with depression lies in acknowledging and accepting the situation for what it is. Simply adopting an attitude whereby it’s assumed they’ll grow out of it sooner or later really isn’t the way to go. The simple fact of the matter is that depressed teenagers have the potential to make life rather difficult for parents on a day to day basis, which in turn means it’s in the best interests of everyone to be proactive, rather than ignorant.

Of course, actually identifying depression in teenagers in the first place can be rather difficult, given the hormonal and emotional roller coaster they’re stuck on for several years.

Parental Resources - Living With and Helping A Depressed Teenager

Here is a quick rundown of just a few tips from the experts on how to help make life easier for all involved:

Look for Changes

When it comes to detecting depression, one of the most characteristic symptoms among teenagers is a sudden or somewhat drastic behavioural change. They could be finding it difficult to focus, they could be more spaced out than they were previously, they may have shut down emotionally altogether or they may appear considerably more irritable than usual. Of course, it’s worth pointing out that these are all exactly the same kinds of signs and symptoms associated with potential drug use, so it’s not necessarily a good idea to draw immediate conclusions either way.

Comprehensive Change

While temporary and occasional random changes in behaviour are to be expected, long-term changes of a severe nature are not. Likewise, it’s normal (if not particularly pleasant) for teenagers to suddenly start treating their parents and siblings differently, but if their troubling behaviour extends to their closest friends, their school, their social life and pretty much everything else, this often indicates there may be a problem. Of course it is often only possible to get the kind of information you need to reach such a conclusion by contacting others and asking them outright. Whether it’s their friends, their teachers or anyone else, it’s always worth asking for a second opinion.

Essential Communication

As all parents of teenagers will undoubtedly be aware, teens are not exactly notorious for sharing their deepest thoughts, feelings and recounts of their daily activities with their families. In fact, it is unlikely you will get a great deal of conversation out of most teenagers without being proactive about it. This is precisely why it is important for parents to ensure that they let their teenagers know that the lines of communication are always open and that conversation is an everyday norm. Take every opportunity to speak to them about anything of relevance or interest, but be sure not to cross the line into interrogation.

Reach Out

It’s not as if you yourself can diagnose a depressed teenager, but you can at least open the door for deeper exploration and conversation. Pointing out a simple observation can often get things started – you’ve noticed they’re sleeping way more than usual, perhaps they are not seeing their friends as often, their appetite is not what it used to be or really anything else you’ve picked up.  This can often be all it takes to bring the subject out into the open and begin making progress.

Empathise, Sympathise

One of the worst things you can tell a depressed teenager is that it’s all hormonal and that it is perfectly normal. Even if for the most part you’re correct, you’re basically telling them outright that how they are feeling is inconsequential, a matter of no importance and that you have no real interest in assisting them. Instead, it’s much better to offer as much empathy and sympathy as possible, along with constructive advice on how improvements/progress could be made. You don’t want to make light of the situation, but you also don’t want to terrify them by making them think there’s something desperately wrong with them.

Consider Professional Help

Last but not least, if it becomes apparent that absolutely no progress is being made or their depression appears to be getting worse, it is important to at least consider a professional consultation. More often than not, it takes nothing more than a brief and informal chat with an experienced counsellor to help steer things in the right direction. Contrary to popular belief, medication is almost never used to treat teenage depression – counselling on the other hand can work wonders.

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