As a parent, there’s nothing more heartbreaking than seeing your child suffer from depression. We want them to flourish and grow, but when your teen is struggling with depression, it’s easy to feel helpless as you watch them pull back, isolate, and shut down. With so many of the families I’ve worked with, that sense of helplessness often translates into frustration and anger, making a difficult situation even worse. Over the course of my career, I’ve also learned some effective strategies that parents can adopt to support their teen.
1. Safe & Open Communication
It’s important to establish safe & open lines of communication with your teen. Instead of jumping straight to judgments or prescribing solutions, focus on what your teen is telling you. Think about what they’re feeling and try to understand what’s making them feel that way. The teenage years are a time of tremendous change—it’s natural to feel lost and confused at times.
For some, it’s also a time of grief. Many teens struggle to adapt to the changing social dynamics in their lives and mourn the simplicity of their early childhood.
Sometimes all your teen is looking for is someone to listen and validate their feelings.
2. Embrace Their Identity
During teenage years, we watch as our children branch out and begin exploring the world on their own. For many parents, this can be painful. We may not always connect with their new interests, but it’s important for us to support them and encourage them. Your job as a parent isn’t to mold them into the person you think they’re supposed to be—it’s to help them explore and discover themselves.
You may not like the music they listen to or the games they play, but if these activities bring them joy you’re better off embracing and encouraging them instead of fighting against the tide. By the same token, try to give them flexibility and support when it comes to letting go of hobbies and activities that no longer bring them joy. It’s okay for them to move on.
3. Be Flexible and Compromise
Depression and isolation go hand-in-hand—and your teen may be naturally inclined to hide out in their bedroom with the door shut. It’s absolutely the case that they may need privacy, but when struggling with depression, it’s important to stay connected as well.
Instead of putting a blanket ban on electronics in the bedroom, limit them to public areas of the house where your teen can be around conversation and get snuggled by pets. If your teen is dreading a holiday visit to relatives, consider giving them a pass, or make a deal to leave early.
Depression feeds on a feeling of hopelessness and lack of control. Giving your teen the agency to negotiate new boundaries can help combat that.
4. Look Forward
Depression is often linked to a feeling of hopelessness. Accordingly, giving your teen something to look forward to can help them dig their way out of that hole. If your teen is into music, consider getting tickets for a concert that’s a few months out. Vacations, conventions, and other events are all things you can leverage to give your teen a reason to look to the future, away from whatever’s dragging them down.
5. Unconditional Love
A struggle with depression often goes hand-in-hand with a belief that they’re somehow broken or damaged. It’s important to make sure your teen knows you love them regardless of anything they may be ashamed of. Express your love with words and actions, even when you as a parent are feeling frustrated.
At New Perspective, we believe in a practical, real-world approach to treatment. We can provide an action-oriented, goal-driven form of therapy that will help you and your teen get through this together. Reach out today for depression treatment if you’re a parent of a teen who’s struggling with depression.