The archetype of the depressed teenager is basically a proverb at this point. Everyone knows that teenagers, for a huge variety of reasons, are more susceptible to depression than others.
And because everyone knows this, many people take it for granted. There is a huge barrier between knowing something and understanding something. And sadly, the knowledge that is prevalent in the world will oftentimes be discarded if it requires a person to act differently.
For that reason, the most popular response to a teenager with depression is to act as if it is not there. People believe that if they just keep pushing their children to get up and go to school, do work that doesn’t fulfill them, and participate in activities they don’t like, eventually, they will “just get over it” by finding activities to focus on. But ignoring the problem does not solve it at all.
So, we are going to go over 10 strategies for actually dealing with a depressed teenager. That way if and when your teenager shows signs of depression, you can do more than ignore it.
Know Their Friends
Much of a teenager’s mental health will be determined by the company they keep. You need to get to know who your teenager spends their time with in order to evaluate them and know how to respond to them if things are hurtful to your teenager.
This does not always mean stepping in to separate your teenager from their friends though.
Let Their Friends Know You
This has to be done tactfully and in a way that does not antagonize your teenager, but it is important that their friends have an impression of you. To be perfectly Machiavellian about it, they need to know that hurting your teenager will invoke your wrath.
But the flip side of that is making it clear that being good to your teenager has its rewards.
Ask About Your Teenager
Many parents show their interest in their teenager’s life by asking about their day. This is not bad, but it often runs into an obstacle: “How was your day?” is a broad question that the teenager might not be eloquent enough to answer succinctly.
When you ask about your teenager, get as specific as you can.
Get Educated on Mental Health
This might seem obvious, but most parents don’t do it. Just like how you are responsible for your teenager’s physical health via their nutrition, you are also responsible for their mental health. And just like their nutrition is determined by what you let them put in their body, their mental health is determined by what you let them put in their mind.
The first step to being responsible for that is knowing about how mental health works. If you want a starting point, view BasePoint Academy to get an idea of where to start.
Talk with Your Teenager About Mental Health
The second step is communicating with them about what you are learning. And it should be emphasized that you are not just trying to talk down to them about the subject. Bring up what you have learned as a question and ask if it seems relevant to them.
This dialogue makes it easier for them to talk to you, as it indicates to them that communicating with you is not about how right you are and how wrong they are, but about discovering what is right and wrong for both you and them.
Watch for Warning Signs
At the same time that you are communicating with them, remember that a teenager is never going to be able to express themselves perfectly. They might be afraid to say something, unsure of what to say, or not even realize the logical biases they are bringing into a conversation.
As such, while listening to them is important, reading between the lines is critical.
When you make rules, when you assert your authority, and even when you are just stating your preferences, it is important to be consistent. If your teenager views you as arbitrary and unprincipled, then they will lose respect for your authority even as they obey it.
Of course, no one can be consistent all the time. You will eventually say something that contradicts something that you said before. And when that happens, they may point it out.
They might also not. So, do two things: First, tell them that it is okay to call you on your inconsistencies. And second, apologize when it happens.
Remember That People Need Fun
Imagine that you craft the perfect schedule for your teenager. Every waking minute of their day is dedicated to something that will advance their skills, improve their quality of life, and secure their future. But there is just one problem: Teenagers don’t live for the future.
Teenagers, more than adults and sometimes more than kids, have little conception of the future. And that means that, as juveniles, as it may seem, they need fun to justify their ongoing existence. So, be sure to help your teenager find what gratifies them and schedule that too.
Seek Professional Help
People have an amazing capacity for pride. They might tell themselves that they can replace their car’s alternator, fix their own sink, or build a computer themselves. And you know what? All of these are possible. Even managing your teenager’s mental health is possible without help.
But there is a difference between doing something because you can and doing something to prove that you can. And when your teenager’s mental health is in the balance, you need to swallow your pride and admit when you are in over your head.
A lot of helping your teenager with depression is about listening to them and letting them know that you are safe to be around. If you can do that, then a solution will present itself on its own.