Hand Reaching To help depressed teen
Hand Reaching To help depressed teen

Depressed teens are everywhere. If you’re the mom of a depressed teen, you’re not alone. Depression is so very prevalent and affects all age groups – from childhood to elder-hood. So what happens when you realize you have a depressed teenager? Of course, you want to do the best for your child no matter what the situation. But coping with depressed teens is not only difficult for the teens, but also for the parent(s).

Depressed Teens Suffer In Many Ways

Besides being depressed and feeling overwhelmed with life, your depressed teen may be anxious, may be acting out by doing self-harm behaviors such as cutting and/or burning, and may be having suicidal thoughts and even a suicide attempt. Anger, irritability, and other feelings may also be difficult to be around as the child may blame you, scream at you, or even threaten or hit you. They may be very impulsive and struggle to look at healthy ways to deal with their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Or he/she/they may just give up. They may refuse to do any activities, for sometimes, there is no pleasure in doing things that used to be pleasurable. They may sleep all day or have problems with insomnia, feel guilty and/or worthless, and struggle with concentration and memory, making school-work difficult.

Wow. Read this list again, so you can recognize and digest how difficult this illness for your child and for you. But you can help in a number of ways.

17 Tips For Moms Of Depressed Teens

  1. Do not take on their depression. While we wish we could take away our children’s pain, we cannot do so for this is their life and they need to learn how to cope in healthy ways. Becoming depressed regarding their illness only makes the situation worse.
  2. Support them in healthy ways. Let them talk, cry, and vent their feelings, but don’t take on these feelings. In order to work through the depression, they need to be able to get to this feeling level while examining coping skills.
  3. Use other family/friends for your support because you will need it. Depression can be exhausting not only to the teen, but to you the parent.
  4. Work with the school system. There are various support groups, guidance counselors, and school social workers who can be a support for your child and for you. Do not hesitate to use them.
  5. Get outside counseling for the child, for you, and/or the entire family. Depression is a family illness and having the whole family involved in treatment is extremely valuable.
  6. Support the child being placed on medications if that is recommended. Remember that depression is an illness and that may teens respond positively to treatment, especially to the combination of therapy and medications. Do not make a big deal about the medication; relate that it is no different than if they were on insulin for diabetes.
  7. Do not get involved in their drama. Teens can tend to be rather dramatic at the best of times and being depressed can add to the drama. Treat their illness in a matter-of-fact manner.
  8. Set healthy boundaries. Do not become enmeshed in their problems. You can help but you cannot do this for them. Help them to take responsibility for their own health.
  9. Encourage the child to do things – do not nag – encourage. Sometimes if you can get them involved in an activity, they may find that they are able to have fun (but sometimes, there is still no pleasure).
  10. Let them know that you are a support and will do what you can for them such as helping with homework, going for a walk with them, and watching a funny movie.
  11. Continue to educate yourself about teen depression.
  12. Keep all kinds of weapons away from the teen. If you have guns, get them out of the house.
  13. Have an open discussion that shows your child you want to help; ask your teen what he needs from you and from the family.
  14. And as always, find fun things to do for yourself with family and friends. Sometimes you’ll just need to spend some time away from the situation – go out to dinner with friends, go do some fun shopping, or treat yourself to a hot fudge sundae.
  15. Continually tell your teens you love them no matter what.
  16. Do not neglect the other children; they need you as well.
  17. Focus on your own gratitude for the positives in life. You’ll need to be reminded that there are good things happening.

And always, always remember that depression is usually treatable in at least 80% of the population – typically with a combination of therapy and medications. Embrace such healing for your child and for yourself. Depression is an illness; it is not a life sentence.

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Carol Anderson
Carol Anderson, D.Min., ACSW, LMSW, is a licensed clinical social worker with over 25 years of experience in the fields of mental health, addictions, and co-occurring disorders. Her other specialties include grief and trauma, women’s issues, chronic pain management, holistic healing, GLBTQ concerns, and spirituality and transpersonal psychology. Dr. Anderson has been educated and trained in the fields of education, social work, and spirituality, and she holds a Doctor of Ministry degree (non-denominational/interfaith) specializing in spirituality.

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