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How To Talk To Your Teen About Depression

Here are common questions that parents of teens ask me?

 

How do I help my teen feel understood?

Start by lowering your emotional and physical distance. Meaning that you can start to help your teen feel understood by listening without judging what he/she is saying. Listening to what they are telling you. Removing disapproval or the cold shoulder.

As a teen, I remember feeling so scared and nervous to tell my parents how I felt. I felt nervous because I did not want to be judged or seen differently. I did not want my parents to change their image of me or treat me in a different manner. So, I did what most teens do, I kept quiet and didn’t talk about it.

As a parent, I want to encourage you to be direct when communicating with your teen. Don’t be afraid to ask black and white questions.

  • “Have you ever had suicidal thoughts?”
  • “Do you have any friends that are suicidal?”
  • “Do you feel hopeless?”

 

How do I talk to my teen about their depression?

You can do this be adding just the right amount of compassion and supportive dialogue.

Direct and soft.

  • “I want to talk to you about your depression?”
  • “Let’s talk about how you feel when you are depressed/sad/down/in the dumps/feeling low?”

As a teen counselor, I always encourage parents to talk to me. To come to sessions and learn how to support their teen. Below are recommendations focused on talking to your teen about their depression:

  • Try to check-in with your teen daily. “How are you feeling today?” “What did you do today?”
  • Accept that they may want alone time.
  • Listen to words like “hopeless, unworthy, sad, depressed, or unhealthy comparisons”. Create dialogue around these words.

How do I know if my Teen needs counseling?

Be direct.

“Do you think that you need to speak with a counselor?”

If direct does not work, search high and low. As a parent search for the changes. See if your child is different compared to the past. For instance:

  • Does your child spend more time alone?
  • Does your child avoid confrontation?
  • Is there more crying?
  • Are there less conversations taking place?
  • Are grades going down?
  • Are less friends calling or coming around?

Overall, when searching for changes focus on the ones that negatively impact your child versus a change that is based on simple personality traits. For instance, a potential red flag, can be seen if your child last school year had friends over the house more days than not. Versus this school year, no friends what so ever and a refusal to engage in the conversation regarding the topic.

A healthy or positive change, can be seen if your child is choosing to spend more time alone because he/she is transitioning to more of an introvert. Sometimes spending time alone is okay!

How do I help my Teen with Self-Care Skills

  • Do something different that you normally do not do. Pulling your mind away from the normal routine can be extremely therapeutic to the body and mind. Examples include: walking around the mall, cleaning the windows at home or rearranging the bedroom.
  • Lending a helpful hand to others can help you feel positive and centered. Examples include: writing a thank you note to a friend, making coffee for the family or cleaning up after dinner when it’s not your turn.
  • Practicing the art of daydreaming can allow you to get lost in your thoughts. Examples include: thinking about your favorite vacation, imaging yourself flying or counting the number of blue cars that pass by as you sit in the back seat.
  • Counting your blessings provides a feeling of gratitude. Examples include: comparing your struggles or situation to those less fortunate.

How do I help my Teen Improve their self-esteem

  1. Awareness is the key to recognition, without it we can truly become “stuck” in a negative cycle of thoughts and behaviors. Teens can improve their self-esteem by learning the impact of hurtful self-directed statements like “I’m a failure” or “I just can’t do it”. Help your teen by “showing” them when they engage in a destructive behavior versus “judging” the action.
  2. Mindfulness plays a vital role in helping teens understand how and when judgment is taking place. A fun activity to do with your teen is the “coin jar”. Your teen is to place a coin into the jar each time he or she recognizes judgment taking place. This activity supports in “recognizing” when judgment takes place and “promoting” a healthy shift in awareness and compassion.
  3. One of my favorite activities to do with teens is creating clarity. Teens often make statements based on judgment versus compassion. This activity helps teens learn how to shift hurtful judgmental statements to supportive compassionate statements. For instance, “the music you listen to sucks!” versus a healthier alternative “we have different interest in music”.
  4. The last strategy to help your teen improve self-esteem is focused on practice, encouragement, and support. Practice each strategy learned with your teen as often as needed. Encourage your teen to shift their view point to one filled with love, kindness and compassion. Lastly, support your teen along their journey. It’ll be worth it!

Juan Santos is a professional counselor, book author and owner of Santos Counseling PLLC a mental health practice serving struggling parents and distant couples. If you would to speak with him feel welcome to call 366-707-1723 or fill out the form below.

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