As a parent to a teenager, you already know that your child has their good days and bad days. Teenagers deal with many different emotions, especially the ugly ones, but what do you do if it seems like your teenager has nothing but bad days?
Sometimes abnormal teenage behavior can be a cause for concern. Mental illness in teenagers is not to be ignored as just a mood swing or a bad day. In fact, 11% of all adolescents have a depressive disorder by the age of 18.
Before you introduce your child to therapy, it is important to have a conversation with them first about their emotions and what they are feeling. Here are some tips on how to talk to a teenager about depression.
1. Let them know that you are there for them unconditionally. Be careful not to ask too many questions, as you do not want your child to shut down or get defensive.
2. Use validation. Mention how you understand that high school can be a stressful time, but remind them that if these emotions take over their daily lives it is something to be open about.
3. Give them an easy out. So if you are about to bring up a touchy subject, bring it up while in the car and only talk until you reach your final destination. Let your child lead the conversation and allow them to stop talking at any time so they don’t feel overwhelmed.
4. Do not try to talk them out of their depression. Their emotions are real, and invalidating them as a parent may make your child lose respect for you and close down completely. You can’t talk or reason someone out of depression, just like you can’t talk someone out of having a migraine.
5. Be persistent, but gentle. Again, your child may not open up fully the first time you ask, but may once they notice your concern.
Additionally, some signs of depression in teens may include:
- Constant moodiness
- Frequent crying
- Loss of interest in social activities that previously were enjoyable
- Not being able to get out of bed
- Withdrawal from family and friends
- Lack of motivation
While some of these symptoms might sound like typical teenage behavior, sudden changes in behavior or extreme emotions that don’t fade with time should give you pause.
Overall, it is important to remember that every teenager is different, so these warning signs may differ from teen to teen. If you follow these tips and are still unable to talk to your child, therapy services like psychotherapy can help. Individual counseling is a great way for your child to express their emotions in a safe, judgement-free environment. Plus, certified counselors may be able to provide a diagnosis and treatment for any mental illness your child may be suffering from, which can help your child get some good days back into their life.