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. Cool School Holiday

    February 19 @ 10:00 am - 5:00 pm
    February 19, 2018  |  10:00 am - 5:00 pm
    SI Children's Museum
    Free admission!
  2. Winter Olympic Medal Workshop

    February 19 @ 11:00 am - 4:00 pm
    February 19, 2018  |  11:00 am - 4:00 pm
    SI Children's Museum
    Make a Winter Olympic medal. Pick up a timed ticket at the front desk; limited to 25 people per session.
  3. Krazy Kidz

    February 19 @ 11:30 am
    February 19, 2018  |  11:30 am - 11:30 am
    West New Brighton Library
    Join us for singing, dancing, coloring and stories. Meet other kids and their caregivers!
  4. Living with Deer

    February 19 @ 1:00 pm - 2:30 pm
    February 19, 2018  |  1:00 pm - 2:30 pm
    Bloomingdale Park
    With the Urban Park Rangers we will look for, learn about, and discover the signs of white-tailed deer.  
  5. Crafternoon

    February 19 @ 3:30 pm
    February 19, 2018  |  3:30 pm - 3:30 pm
    West New Brighton Library
    Come in every week for a fun and seasonal craft!
  6. Tot Time Tuesday

    February 20 @ 10:00 am - 11:30 am
    February 20, 2018  |  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!
  7. Toddler Time

    February 20 @ 10:30 am
    February 20, 2018  |  10:30 am - 10:30 am
    South Beach Library
  8. Sensory Storytime

    February 20 @ 10:30 am
    February 20, 2018  |  10:30 am - 10:30 am
    West New Brighton Library
    An inclusive, 4-session program that combines the best practices from special education and traditional storytime to create an interactive, engaging program for children of all abilities.
  9. Baby Space!

    February 20 @ 10:30 am - 11:30 am
    February 20, 2018  |  10:30 am - 11:30 am
    St. George Library
    Songs, rhymes, movements, and stories for babies! This program is geared toward confident walkers up to age 23 months. Please register for the first class you will attend.
  10. History…for the Horses

    February 20 @ 10:30 am - 11:30 am
    February 20, 2018  |  10:30 am - 11:30 am
    Greenbelt Nature Center
    Trot on over to learn about horses in American history, including those on Staten Island. Weather permitting, meet a live NYC Parks horse! This event is for anyone ages 6 and older. Contact Number 718-351-3450 Contact Email naturecenter@sigreenbelt.org