How to Connect With and Treat a Depressed Teenager

Sep 27, 2018

If you’re concerned about your teen’s emotional state, it’s important to communicate daily. Ask open-ended questions: Are you worried about anything? How are things going with your friends? Your teen may seem irritated by these questions and only mumble a one-word answer, but don’t let that discourage you. By staying engaged, your adolescent will know that you’re interested in how things are going — and that it’s easy to reach out to you if a problem arises.

Keep Communication Channels Open

In this age of smart phones and social media, it’s not uncommon for parents and young people to become isolated from one another. But healthy relationships are built upon meaningful communication and that requires focused attention:

  • Aim for some screen-free interaction every day, whether over breakfast or during the ride to school or sports.
  • Make the dinner table a “no phones” zone — and that goes for mom and dad, too.
  • Monitor the amount of time your children spend on social media, as well as the nature of their interactions on those sites.

If your teen seems unusually stressed out or sad, try to get him or her to talk about what’s causing those feelings. If you can’t get your teenager to open up to you, encourage her to confide in other adults she trusts or consider seeking counseling.

Getting Help for Your Teen with Depression

While challenging, the teenage years should not be gloomy and dark. If you have any concerns about your child’s mental health, consult your pediatrician. He or she will examine your teen and, if indicated, refer you to a therapist who specializes in the care of children and adolescents.

Depression is a treatable illness, and you don’t have to go it alone. Antidepressant medications can relieve symptoms and counseling, or talk therapy, is often very effective in helping depressed teens develop healthy coping skills and reframe their outlooks. Encouraging (and modeling) healthy habits, such as exercising daily, eating well, sleeping regular hours, engaging in rewarding activities and hobbies, and spending time with friends and family, can also be helpful.

For a list of signs and symptoms of teen depression, click here. And to learn more about depression or get ideas about ways to better communicate with your teen, visit our Staying Healthy pages.

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