Kerryn Boogaard Kerryn Boogaard
Beverly Goldsmith Beverly Goldsmith
Zoe Bingley-Pullin Zoe Bingley-Pullin

Talking to teens about depression:

Even the best child parent relationships run amuck when the conversation turns to depression.
By Motherpedia
Date: January 03 2012
Editor Rating:

Even the best child parent relationships run amuck when the conversation turns to depression. If your teen or preteen has lost interest in activities she or he used to love or has become irritable for no apparent reason, it is possible that she or he is depressed.

While there is lots of help for depressed teens, the hardest step is the first one: bringing it up and facing it so you can begin to work on it as a family. Knowing how to approach your kid to ask about their mental health is tough. How many years has it been since you were a teenager? 20? 30? More? That chronological separation as well as the symptomatic feelings of isolation and shame depression brings make it hard for parents to start this important conversation.

Checking in with yourself first

Before you start talking to your teen about depression, make sure you’re in the right place emotionally and mentally to have the conversation. Are you calm and ready to listen? Before you begin, make sure you have the energy to hear your child speak to you honestly.

Think about what you want your daughter to feel as you talk to her about your worries. Consider the best ways to reach out to your son without patronising him. Think back to when you were a teen. What did your parents do that made you feel alone? What things did they do just right? What things do you wish they had done for you? Considering all these things beforehand will allow you to enter the conversation with the big picture in mind.

Trusting your teen

Teenagers are portrayed as rowdy and reckless, but most parents are wise enough to see the vulnerable, confused person struggling between childhood and maturity when they look at their teens. Remember that anger often covers up a deeper fear and, if your teen offends you in some way, focus on his or her suffering that is causing the lashing out instead of on the lashing out itself. When depression is present, negative emotions seem overwhelming and inescapable. This can be a terrifying feeling and it can also make a person believe they are trapped.

You don’t need to go through your child’s dresser and computer to know what’s up. Instead, put some trust in your child. Sometimes, when there are fewer rules to rebel against, there is less rebelling in general. If a parent wants their teen to trust them enough to open up to them about depression, the parent will have to trust and respect their child. What goes around comes around.

Have resources ready

Feeling suicidal is what happens when the pain of depression outweighs the resources available. This doesn’t mean you should buy your teen ten books on mental health and sign him or her up for therapy and medication all at once. Instead, ask around for mental health resources for teens. Jot down the name and phone numbers of a few therapists you think might click with your child. You can even write down the phone number and email address of an adult family friend who would be willing to be a non-parent adult figure in your child’s life.

Don’t push the information you’ve gathered onto your teen. Sit down, bring up your concerns, listen with an open heart to what he or she has to say and then share that you’ve found some things you think might help. It’s possible your teen will reach out to you to help them through depression. It’s also possible your teen will deal with it on their own and your resources will remain piled in a corner. But it’s also possible that on a particularly bad day, the phone numbers and information you gathered will be the little nudge or the life saving push your teen needs. 

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