How to be a supportive parent to a teen with depression

Finding out that your teen is depressed can cause a very difficult time for you. You probably wonder what you have done wrong and why you didn’t realise that he/she was depressed sooner. However, if you want to be a supportive parent to a teen with depression, you need to try and put all that aside. It is easy to presume that a teen will shake off his depression quickly enough, but that is not necessarily the case. You need to put some strategies into place to help your teen as much as possible.

Learn more about depression

You may have never been depressed yourself and may not be able to understand what your teen is going through. Then again, you may have suffered from depression in the past, but aren’t up-to-date on the latest thoughts surrounding depression. It is worth your while catching up on what the experts say about depression. The Mayo Clinic is a particularly good source of information. However, don’t start making any decisions about the type of medication, if any, you think is best for your teen. That is for a doctor to decide, if you and your teen think that a doctor’s decision is necessary in your teen’s case. 

Remember your teen is an individual

You know your teen better than anybody, so you ought to know that your teen is an individual. When it comes to depression, that should be the case too. You should not try and fit your teen into a box, but should remember that a lot of different parts of his life can affect depression. This is particularly important if you, yourself, suffer from depression. What made you depressed is not necessarily going to be what makes your teen depressed, so don’t presume it will. When talking to your teen, don’t suppose you know exactly how he is feeling. Just explain that you, too, have had periods of feeling very low and leave it at that.

Communication is key

Your teen may not even be aware that he is depressed, and even if he knows, it is unlikely that he will want to talk about it at first. Depression has a tendency to suck in the person affected so that he thinks no-one else can understand or has experienced similar feelings. To get him to open up, you may need to initiate the conversation. Tell him that you realise something is wrong and ask him if he has considered that it may be depression. Then sit back and listen. Once the ice has been broken, it is likely that your teen will have a great deal to say. More importantly, getting it all out is part of the healing process. Offer advice as and when necessary.

Promote better health

Depression tends to affect people’s eating and drinking habits. You may be concerned that your teen is drinking too much alcohol, or is simply not eating a good diet. Try to oversee, without interfering too much, what he eats and drinks. Ensure that he has a balanced diet and encourage him to stay away from too much junk food. At the same time, encourage him to get plenty of exercise. It is believed that good nutrition and exercise have a positive effect on one’s mood and so may be beneficial to your teen. However, don’t go overboard and become a nag, because that could have the opposite effect.

Help your teen make the right decisions

You can’t live your teen’s life for him. You can merely support him in making the right decisions. Find out what he thinks he needs to do to make himself feel better. That could start with seeing a doctor for medication, or a therapist for counselling of some kind. Then again, it could be an upcoming event, such as exams, that is causing him stress, after which he should be able to get himself straight. Once he has taken control of his life, and knows that he has your support too, hopefully, he will be able to make the right decisions. This should stand him in good stead for his future, when you, as a parent, may not be around as much.

Teenage depression can be serious and should not be ignored. Hopefully, your teen, with your support, will be able to get himself back on the right track.