Every teenager is different, and parenting different teens requires different approaches. A teen with depression presents their own specific set of challenges. Often parents of teens who are dealing with depression feel constant concern for their well-being. However, it is important to use that concern to help them, rather than allow worries to immobilize or interfere with the extra parenting responsibilities that come with teen depression. Taking an active part in supporting their activities simultaneously helps them and helps to transform parental worries into productive solutions for the entire family.
Beyond the Basics of Parenting Teens with Depression
Following a diagnosis of teen depression, the next step is for parents and caregivers to provide reliable access to professional care. This may include residential treatment, partial hospitalization, or ongoing sessions with a therapist who can strengthen their resilience and help them heal from emotional pain. In addition, treatment is essential in order to address any suicidal thoughts or suicide risk a teen may have.
Along with professional support, teens with depression also need the support of parents and caregivers at home. Keeping teens engaged and active is always a challenge, especially now, when there are fewer opportunities to leave the house than usual. However, it is not impossible to help teens keep their minds and bodies occupied in healthy ways, even when options are more limited.
The Dangers of Isolation
While it is essential to protect the public health, isolation—coupled with anxiety and stress as a result of the pandemic—has a negative impact on mental health for all ages. Depression is proving to be a global problem in the midst of the pandemic. Moreover, a teen who is prone to depression may actually embrace the opportunity to isolate, particularly if they enjoyed spending time alone before being diagnosed. That’s not usually the healthiest option, however.
Isolation and withdrawal make a teen with depression more likely to succumb to negative thoughts. In addition to taking medication and seeing a therapist, teens especially need things such as sunlight, physical activity, and interaction with other human beings to help prevent depression. That means that parents and caregivers should focus on supporting access to activities that will engage teens and help prevent depression.
Nurturing Outside Interests
The line between the nurturing parent and the nagging parent can be a very fine one. Teens often consider any interest in their lives from a parental figure to be on the nagging side. However, many teens with depression are introverted and can benefit from the love and support of family.
The method of approach when offering support is most important. Suggestions of activities that are outside their circle of interest are likely to be met with a negative, if not hostile, response. Ideally, it is best to present suggestions that are in line with their interests, and which they can own and develop. Some ideas and interests to enhance social opportunities might include:
- Video games: Technology can be positive for teens; they can host a virtual tournament with friends, give weekly gaming demonstrations to family, create a podcast, or host an Instagram chat about gaming with friends
- Reading: Start a live or virtual book club with friends or family, give weekly book review presentations for friends or family, or volunteer at the local library
- Movies: Make movies with friends or family, hold family movie nights, or go to a drive-in movie (they’re experiencing a comeback during the pandemic)
- YouTube: Create daily or weekly YouTube playlists to share with friends or family, or create YouTube videos to share talents or teach skills.
Developing a Plan
For a teen with depression, getting out of bed can be difficult enough at times, but getting a teen to be invested in something can feel impossible. Parents and caregivers know their teen best and can determine the most effective way of getting their teen involved.
One powerful way is to lead by example. Set the expectation that all family members are going to create daily or weekly schedules that include healthy diet and exercise, time spent alone, time spent together, time spent with others, contributing to family workload, etc. Starting with just a couple of expectations and then gradually expanding them is helpful. Encourage them to develop and share their talents, hobbies, and interests, and allow them to make their own schedule and choices.
One of the most powerful activities for teens could be inspiring them to share their story or mentor others with depression. Planting the seeds for this kind of activity can be very empowering. Teens can share their stories through getting involved with support groups, writing, sharing on YouTube or other social media, individually mentoring others through school or other sources, or using other talents such as music, art, or moviemaking. Mentoring gives purpose and the act of mentoring in and of itself can be healing.
Supporting Their Interests
Once teens are engaged in new activities that pull them out of isolation and help them stay productive, parents and caregivers should continue to be supportive of their interests and activities. Even when life is busy, parental support is crucial.
If you are concerned with how to best support your teen with depression and need help, please reach out to Teen Rehab. We are here to assist in any way that best suits your family’s needs and would be happy to do so.