How to Talk to a Depressed Teen

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The world is a challenging place for teenagers these days and taking that developmental journey from childhood to young adulthood is more stressful than ever. With the proliferation of social media, expectations for our teens to be popular have gone up. The risks of hurt from insults and exclusion, and the fatigue from never being away from one’s online peer group can lead to all kinds of psychological and emotional problems—all of these factors, not surprisingly, are resulting in a rise of depression with our teenaged girls and boys.

Teens who are stressed academically or socially and feel like they can’t succeed are the most likely to become depressed. Teens of all temperaments can experience depression, but kids who are shy, sensitive, and not highly social skilled are the most vulnerable. Signs of depression can include withdrawal from the family, substance abuse, self-cutting, chronic fatigue, social withdrawal, a drop in school performance, ending participation in previously enjoyed activities, eating disorders (including extreme dieting and compulsive eating) – these are all signs to look for.

Essentially, depression can be characterized as feeling “out of it, as though the desire and energy to participate in life’s positive activities are gone. Nothing seems attractive or exciting and withdrawal from activities or engaging in self-destructive activities replaces healthy engagement. Low self-esteem can result from depression or be a contributing factor.

When parents suspect that their teen is depressed, or is showing any of the above signs, they need to take action and seek professional help. But it can’t stop there. We have to remember that our kids are in that developmental stage of life where they are learning skills for their eventual independence from us, their parents. So parents need to help them learn the life skills for managing their feelings and making healthy, self-valuing choices.

Getting the right kind of counseling is essential. Too often, counselors will work only with the teenager and include only minimal or separate counseling for the parents. The result of this approach is that parents feel disempowered and wait for the therapy to “work” rather than provide the more hands on, active support their teenager needs.

A depressed teen will need their parents to provide emotional support and structure for engaging healthy activities including exercise, good nutrition, appropriate socialization, limited use of social media and managing their school and home responsibilities. Also, family counseling can help parents and teens end control battles that undermine teen accountability, create alienation and often create stress throughout the family. Parent-teen control battles can be a significant causal factor in teen depression as well.

Individual therapy is an important part of the treatment too. It will help a depressed teenager learn to understand and express their most personal feelings and learn to manage them with healthy thinking and healthy behavior.

Teen depression, if thoughtfully addressed, is very treatable. With professional guidance and active parental involvement, we can help our teens regain belief in their wonderful selves and rediscover their passion for life.

By Neil Brown, author of Ending the Parent-Teen Control Battle and host of the Healthy Family Connections podcast.

 

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  1. Gentle Flow Yoga

    June 24 @ 10:00 am - July 22 @ 11:00 am
    June 24, 2017  |  10:00 am - 11:00 am
    Alice Austen House Museum
    Join us on the lawn of Clear Comfort for yoga every other Saturday this summer. Led by Be Yoga & Dance in partnership with Shape Up NYC.
  2. Sampler Camp

    June 26
    June 26, 2017  |  12:00 am - 11:59 pm
    SI Children's Museum
    Camp leader from each camp on individual day. Experience variety, sample from each of our weekly summer camps. Call the Museum for pricing and enrollment.
  3. Sampler Camp

    June 27
    June 27, 2017  |  12:00 am - 11:59 pm
    SI Children's Museum
    Camp leader from each camp on individual day. Experience variety, sample from each of our weekly summer camps. Call the Museum for pricing and enrollment.
  4. Tot Time Tuesday

    June 27 @ 10:00 am - 11:30 am
    June 27, 2017  |  10:00 am - 11:30 am
    The Interpretive Center
    Learn about a new plant or animal every week by creating crafts, story time, and playing with other tots!
  5. Toddler Time

    June 27 @ 10:30 am
    June 27, 2017  |  10:30 am - 10:30 am
    South Beach Library
    Enjoy interactive stories, action songs, and finger plays, and spend time with other toddlers in the neighborhood.
  6. Preschool Story Time

    June 27 @ 11:00 am - 11:30 am
    June 27, 2017  |  11:00 am - 11:30 am
    Port Richmond Library
    Stories, crafts, and play time. Join us for our weekly Preschool Story Time for fun, fun, fun!
  7. Tuesday Storytime

    June 27 @ 11:00 am
    June 27, 2017  |  11:00 am - 11:00 am
    Barnes & Noble
    Come on up to the Kids’ Department on the second floor and join us for a fun-filled Storytime!
  8. Tot’s Time Plus

    June 27 @ 11:00 am - 1:00 pm
    June 27, 2017  |  11:00 am - 1:00 pm
    SI Children's Museum
    Your pre-schooler will create artwork, sing along and listen to stories.
  9. Science Time

    June 27 @ 2:00 pm - 3:00 pm
    June 27, 2017  |  2:00 pm - 3:00 pm
    SI Children's Museum
    Join us for this daily program on problem solving, inquiry and creative thinking. Activities include meetings animals from our Bugs exhibit, playing with solar cars, solving puzzle and games or building structures. Time is subject to change each day
  10. Craft

    June 27 @ 3:00 pm
    June 27, 2017  |  3:00 pm - 3:00 pm
    Huguenot Library