Supporting a Depressed Teen
If you’re seeing signs of withdrawal, depression and general backsliding in your teen, it’s very important to offer support in a way that creates an opportunity for your loved one to open up. Letting them know that you’re there for them with unconditional caring can be a good way to start. Expressing a willingness to provide whatever support is necessary while giving them space to make their own choices can help them to reach out for help.
Avoid asking a lot of probing questions, as this can feel intrusive and lead to a desire to shut you out. Be respectful, open, and nonjudgmental to allow for a comfortable atmosphere. Persistence is also important as it may take time for your teen to open up.
Lectures and judgment will serve to push the youth away. An open, empathic listening approach will help your teen to feel safe enough to talk. Empowering them to make choices and avoiding unsolicited advice is an important aspect of what teens need at this time in their lives.
Validating their feelings, even if your tendency is to want to try to coach them to feel differently is so very important. Feelings cannot rationally be argued with and are best supported through understanding and acknowledgment of the sadness and pain that’s present. When this important aspect of support is missing, people often feel dismissed or not taken seriously, which is the opposite of what is needed.
If you suspect that your teen may be depressed, make an appointment with your primary doctor as well as a counsellor or psychotherapist who specializes in depression. The doctor will likely have some recommendations for professionals they know in your community. Recommendations from friends can also be very helpful.
I’ve been treating youth, teens and adults with depression for over 20 years. Feel free to contact me for a free consultation should you have any questions.