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When Your Teen is Depressed: 3 Tips for Parents to Help You, Help Your Teen.

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Teen depression has been on the rise for over a decade now. A Pew Research Study found that teen depression has increased 59% from 2007 to 2017.

The Atlantic published an article based on research into the rise of smart phones and teen mental health. What was discovered is very interesting.

Starting around 2007 when the iPhone was released, they found the following trends among teens from 8th grade to 12th grade:

  • Teens increasingly are spending less time hanging out with their friends in person.

  • Teens are taking longer to get their driver's license.

  • Teens are dating less or start dating later in their teen years than before.

  • Increase in teens who are more likely to feel lonely.

  • Teens are less likely to get enough sleep.

There are many variables as to why teen depression is increasing. As parents, it can be challenging to know how to help our teen who may be experiencing depression.

We want nothing more than to take away the hurt. When our teenagers were children, we could fix almost any emotional or physical hurt. As teenagers, it becomes a little more complex. So, what can parents do?

3 Tips for Parents Who Have a Teenager With Depression

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Helping a teenager who experiences depression takes a bit of a shift in parenting paradigm. The teen years are very similar to the years they went through the "terrible twos".

The time of the "terrible twos" is a time where your little one has started to walk. Before that, they were solely dependent on you as a parent for all their needs. Now, they discover they have the ability to be separate from their parents and explore the world around them.

But the struggle comes as they want to be independent but also know they still need your help. This creates inner conflict that results in "terrible twos" like behavior.

Teens are very similar. This is an age where they are learning to be independent from their parents while at the same time, acknowledging that they still need to depend on their parents.

Teenagers may push you away in one breath and in the next, pull you close to them. So how do parents help a teen who has depression with this dynamic? Below are three tips that can help.

1. Educate Yourself & Your Teen on Depression

Your teen has likely felt depressed for longer than you would think. Teenagers often do not talk with their parents about feeling depressed for the following reasons:

  • They may feel that you would be disappointed in them.

  • They don't want to add another stressor onto you as their parents.

  • They feel shameful about feeling depressed and may be embarrassed to talk to you about it.

  • This may be the first time they are experiencing this type of intense emotion. They may not feel they have the words to describe what they are experiencing.

While we have come a long way regarding stigma around mental health, the stigma still persists. Educating yourself on what teen depression is can help arm you with accurate information. In educating your teen with this information, it can help take away some of the shame or stigma around their depression.

As they see their depression clearly for what it is and not a moral shortcoming, being a weak person, or other thoughts depression plants in people's mind, your teen is more likely to open up and talk about what they are experiencing.

Having accurate information on what depression is can also help with providing accurate information on what things can help. Things that can help with depression include:

  • Exercise

  • Healthy diet

  • Maintaining regular structure

  • Getting adequate sleep (not too much or too little)

  • Supplements like Vitamin D, Saffron, and Omega 3 fatty acids like fish oil

2. Check in a Regular but Balanced Way

When we find out our teen has depression, it can be tempting to be the helicopter parent. We do this out of very good intentions as we just want to be able to help. However, this can backfire and end up with the teen pushing you away.

Talk to your teen about the condition that all parents are afflicted with. We can't help it. It's in our DNA and they will understand when they become parents. This condition is "worry-itis".

We need to check in to see how they are doing. Your teen needs to not feel or be reminded of their depression all the time. So, talk with your teen about what they would be comfortable with in terms of frequency of check ins.

Some teens prefer to talk about how they are doing when you check in. Some teens don't want to talk about it. In these cases, a rating system can be used. You can ask your teen where they are at today on a 0-10 scale. Zero would indicate they haven't felt any depression with 10 being extreme depression.

Your teen may try to tell you that you don't need to check in and they'll be fine. This is when you remind them that as a parent, it's important to know where they are at so that you can help if possible. A rating system can help provide you the information needed while at the same time help them to avoid the discomfort about talking about their depression.

3. It's All About Safety

It is not uncommon with depression to have suicidal thoughts. Sometimes these thoughts come in the form of simply not wanting to be around. These thoughts don't drive them to action but thoughts like if something were to happen to them, they'd be "okay" with that.

Some thoughts however include intention to act. Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. People who intend to commit suicide don't want to die but simply can't find a way to live happy.

If you suspect that your teenager may be struggling with suicidal thoughts with intention to act, as parents, it's important to err on the side of safety. No parent wants to hospitalize their teenager in a short term, psychiatric hospital. But the alternative is far worse for not acting. Never think, "Not my teenager" but act out of an abundance of caution and safety.

Another resource is the national suicide prevention hotline. Their phone number is: 1-800-273-8255.

Professional Help Through a Teen Therapist Who Specializes in Working with Teens

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Depression is a physical condition just like any other physical struggle. Depression originates in the brain which is an organ in our body. Your teen's genetic makeup may have influenced the brain to develop in a manner that leaves them with depression.

And just like any other physical condition that we go to a doctor for, there are professionals available to help your teen learn how to manage or overcome their depression.

There are "generalist" therapists who work with teens, but it may not be their specialty. Then there are therapists who specialize in teen counseling. The difference is much like a family practitioner compared to a cardiologist, neurologist, or any other specialty in the medical field.

There are differences between working with adults and working with teens. The therapist also has to have the right personality to connect with teens. This cannot be taught or trained -- the therapist just has to naturally have that personality.

Teen depression is a struggle that many people, every day, have learned to manage effectively and even overcome. If you find that despite your and your teen's best efforts, they continue to struggle with depression, it may be time to see a teen counselor.

Treatment for Teen Depression: Katy Teen & Family Counseling

There is hope and there are answers. At Katy Teen & Family Counseling, we have a combined 70+ years of experience in teen therapy, young adult counseling, and family therapy.

You don't need to live with the crippling effects of teen depression any longer. Our teen therapists can help your teenager, and you as parents, gain the tools to reclaim hope and happiness.

If you are ready to start your therapy journey, all you need to do is follow these three simple steps:

  1. Contact Katy Teen & Family Counseling

  2. Talk with one of our therapists specializing in teen counseling

  3. Take that first step in restoring hope and happiness

Other Therapy and Counseling Services Offered at Katy Teen & Family Counseling

At Katy Teen & Family Counseling, we provide a variety of therapy approaches that are supported by research and shown to be effective. Some of the teen therapy and young adult counseling we offer are:

Board Certified Neurofeedback Therapy

Peak performance (optimal academic brain performance)

Peak performance (optimal athletic brain performance)

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR Therapy)

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Couples Therapy & Marriage Counseling

At times, supporting a teen or young adult who is struggling can create stress and strain on a marriage or relationship. Maybe it's not a child struggling but the hurt that comes when a spouse or partner violates your trust. Or it may be that you simply want to strengthen your communication and relationship in your marriage or relationship.

About the Author

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Jason Drake is a Licensed Clinical Worker. He specializes in teen therapy, family counseling, and counseling young adults. He has provided therapy to teens and families since 2003.

Jason helps teens and young adults in the Katy, Tx and Houston area who struggle with ADHD/ADD, depression, anxiety, social anxiety, panic attacks, trauma, PTSD, and other challenges.

He also works with talented teen athletes and gifted students who experience unique challenges.

Jason uses CBT, EMDR, Neurofeedback, FFT, and Motivational Interviewing. If you would like to learn more, please call or email us.

Jason is also a regular contributor to various magazines and publications lending his expertise to various mental health related topics. You can check these articles out on our "Featured Articles" service page on our website.


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