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. STEAM Camp

    August 22
    August 22, 2017  |  12:00 am - 11:59 pm
    SI Children's Museum
    Have fun doing independent hands-on projects as well as collaborate on group experiments that explore science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM)! *Additional materials fee: $15 1/2 day campers/$25 full day campers for the week. **Campers must have reached 4th
  2. Tot Time Tuesday

    August 22 @ 10:00 am - 11:30 am
    August 22, 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!
  3. Little Lion Cubs: Pre-K & Kindergarten Mini-Camp

    August 22 @ 10:00 am - 11:15 am
    August 22, 2017  |  10:00 am - 11:15 am
    St. George Library
    Did your child graduate from kindergarten or a pre-k program this school year? Or, is your child entering kindergarten or a pre-kindergarten program in September 2017? Our Little Lion Cubs Summer Mini-Camp is the perfect way to beat the summer
  4. Toddler Time

    August 22 @ 10:30 am
    August 22, 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.
  5. Preschool Story Time

    August 22 @ 11:00 am - 11:30 am
    August 22, 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!
  6. Homework Help

    August 22 @ 11:00 am - 4:00 pm
    August 22, 2017  |  11:00 am - 4:00 pm
    New Dorp Library
    High School volunteers are offering their services to help with reading and math! Reading: PreK -3rd grade, Math: PreK to 8th grade. First come first served. Sign up lists will start the day of each session when library first opens.

  7. Tuesday Storytime

    August 22 @ 11:00 am
    August 22, 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

    August 22 @ 11:00 am - 1:00 pm
    August 22, 2017  |  11:00 am - 1:00 pm
    SI Children's Museum
    Your pre-schooler will create artwork, sing along and listen to stories.
  9. Storytime w/ Literacy Inc

    August 22 @ 11:45 am
    August 22, 2017  |  11:45 am - 11:45 am
    Mariners Harbor Library
    Join Literacy Inc. as they host story time! Families are welcome.
  10. Literacy Inc. Read Aloud

    August 22 @ 2:00 pm - 2:45 pm
    August 22, 2017  |  2:00 pm - 2:45 pm
    St. George Library
    Come and listen to stories & enjoy related activities and a take-home snack with the staff of Literacy Inc.