As a mom, there is something heart wrenching when you realize your kid is struggling and you can’t fix it. The challenges and pain your teen is feeling is very different from anything you have faced before because their inner conflict and depression is not going to resolve itself in a week. How do you walk with your child through the long haul as they struggle with teen depression? How do you help and comfort when your kid is hurting?
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Here are 9 practical ways you can care and support your teen and yourself. You will also learn tips on understanding teen depression, what teen depression signs to be wary of and how to help without hurting.
First and foremost, I am writing as one mom to another. YOU are not alone and you didn’t necessarily do anything wrong to find yourself in this place.
While I have worked with hundreds and hundreds of families, please don’t mistake this advice for the same as seeking out a professional counselor who can address your specific situation.
Listen and Connect to Your Child Struggling with Teen Depression
This may sound obvious but many parents, myself included, find it extremely painful to listen to their teen’s struggle. Sure the first time you all talk may feel OK, but when you realize that this problem is not going to easily go away it feels overwhelming. You may even wish to hide from your teen’s pain or ignore it.
Listening to your teen is so important. As moms, we have to let go of our need to “fix” the problem and just be with our teen IN the problem.
At times, only being able to listen to their pain, but not solve the problem may leave you feeling defeated. Remind yourself that you are helping your kid make it through TODAY…and that is what matters!
Also remember you are still making a huge positive impact just by listening. You are allowing your teen to feel heard and remain connected to others. You are also telling your teen that it is OK to NOT be OK and that you still accept them.
Give Your Teenager Perspective During Challenging Times
As an adult, you know that everything changes. Though your teen may continue to face their troubles, they are going to have good days too!
We need to be that voice that encourages them to hang on during difficult times. Life will get better. Problems may not resolve themselves overnight, but there is HOPE. And we should share with our teen and remind them of the bigger picture of life.
Find Your Depressed Teen Wise People to Talk to
Help your teenager identify people in their life who with they can safely share.
Unfortunately, people don’t always understand what your teen is facing. So while we don’t want to send the message to our teen that they need to hide their struggles, we do want to use wisdom.
So work with your teenager and discuss other important people in their life that you feel would understand and be supportive of them. This may be a family friend, an aunt or uncle or grandparent, a coach, a youth pastor, a good friend or a counselor at school.
Now, your teen will have a few others who know what is really going on that can listen to your teen and encourage them!
Help Your Depressed Teen Remain Active, Doing Things They Love
Your teen may want to pull back from doing some of their normal activities. But encourage them to continue to do some of the things they love.
While it may be good to step back from some more stressful activities, we don’t want to allow our teen to have too much time alone with just their thoughts!
This can be a balancing act. You may find yourself having to insist that they go places or do things they say they don’t want to go. Try to pay more attention to how they behave after the event rather than listening to their protests before completing the activity. Experiment and see what seems to fill them up versus leaving them drained.
Choose Healthy Coping Methods with Your Teen
Find and help your teen choose healthy coping methods. Identify activities that bring your teen joy, encourages and inspires them.
Some activities to consider:
- Playing a sport
- Walking or Hiking
- Painting or Drawing
- Fixing Vehicles
- Writing or Starting a blog
- Creating videos
- Spending time with Friends
- Acting in a Play
- DIY projects
- Working with Animals
- Listening to or Playing Music
- Starting a small Business
- Sensory Play Activities
- Resting under a Weighted Blanket
Limit Soul Depleting Activities to Alleviate Teen Depression
Scrolling through social media and watching Netflix aren’t necessarily bad things. But they can be draining, and make us more susceptible to feeling critical of ourselves as we imagine everyone else but us is having fun.
Set clear limits, and help your teen become more self-aware of activities that drain them.
Do they need to spend less time with certain “friends” or groups that make them feel worse about themselves? Are they listening to music that is exacerbating their situation?
Also be aware that teens that are involved in abusive relationships will begin to isolate themselves and struggle with depression and anxiety. Their boyfriend or girlfriend will become harder and harder to please and will often threaten to hurt themselves if they are left. This can leave teens feeling trapped and helpless.
And as the abused teen believes that they are to blame, they are often reluctant to share with their parents what is really going on in the relationship. So as parents, we need to be on the lookout for any unhealthy relationships in our teen’s life.
Encourage Your Hurting Teen to Take Care of Themselves Physically
While teens may not realize how much their physical health is affecting them, do talk with them about their sleep and diet. Identify areas that they may be struggling.
Visit your local doctor, explaining any ongoing symptoms. You may request blood work, looking for any vitamin deficiencies or any other changes. If your child had blood work done previously in the last few years, use it to compare. What may be “normal” for another child may be a huge change for your teen.
Also help your depressed teen realize that what may be OK for their friend may not be working for them. For example, did you know that while some people may not be allergic to gluten they may be “intolerant” of gluten and prone to depression from too much gluten as a result?
Know When to Seek Professional Help for Teen Depression
Even if you are close to your teen, you may want to seek a professional counselor for your teen. If the situation seems to continue to get worse, your teen talks of suicide, or withdrawals from everything they used to enjoy it is a good idea to seek outside help. Talking to a counselor can be very helpful.
Read these 13 Warning Signs of Suicide.
Be aware that finding the right counselor may take a couple tries. You want to find a counselor that you feel is gifted and knowledgeable and that your teen clicks with. So don’t be afraid to walk away if you sense as a parent that it is NOT a good match.
Looking for a Christian counselor? Check out New Life counselors here.
Would you like the flexibility of receiving counseling online or over the phone. Look at BetterHelp here.
Confide in a Friend
Lastly, moms we have to remember to care for ourselves. It is emotionally draining when a family member in our household is struggling. We have to be mindful to care for ourselves. Practice and model self-care for yourself by having a few friends in which you can confide.
Not everyone needs to know what is going on. And we want to safeguard our teen’s privacy. But we do need outlets and healthy support for ourselves. So choose just a friend or two in which to share, gaining much-needed support, balance and advice for yourself.
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