Teen depression is on the rise. Here’s how families can help.
Teen depression is on the rise as teens struggle to manage the changes they have endured in their lives. They are reporting feeling less hopeful about the certainty of what their future looks like, sad about the loss of in-person school and school activities, missing their friends and struggling with feeling connected, feeling more stress at home, less motivation to do things, over or under eating, difficulty concentrating, increased irritability, increased anger and frustration, increased sadness and wanting to escape. Though having any of these experiences does not equate to depression; these are all symptoms of depression.
If you are noticing any of these behaviors or reports from your teens, it is time to check in with them as they might be struggling with depression. Here are some things you can do if you are concerned about your teen.
Check In With Your Teen:
If you are concerned about your teen, check in with them.
“I’ve noticed you haven’t been talking with your friends as much and that your spending more time sleeping, how are you? I’m concerned.”
“This has been a really tough year with a lot of changes. I just want to check in with you and see how you’re doing.”
Validate Their Feelings:
When we see our teen struggling, we want to fix it. Jumping to fix-it mode, can actually lead your teen to shut down. Instead, listen and be curious. Validate their feelings. Teens are
experiencing so much loss right now: traditional learning, social engagement, school activities, preparing for college. They need space to express their sadness, fear, frustration and any other feelings they have – without pressure to fix their feelings.
If you are not comfortable talking with your teen about their emotions, asking for help from a therapist or coach can be very helpful for yourself and your teen. Family therapy can help you and your teen communicate in a loving, understanding way. Parent support sessions can help you learn how to manage your worries about your teen and learn ways to help them. Teen counseling, provides your teen a place to talk about their experience and learn ways to manage.
Prioritize Time Outside Of Their Room:
There are a lot of activities you can do at home or outside of your home in Denver: hiking, going for a bike ride with the family, taking tour of the city’s many murals by local artists, parks playing catch or frisbee in one of the many parks, schedule a time at one of the area’s indoor trampoline parks. At home, you can cook meals together; ask for your teen’s help in cooking. Play games, put puzzles together, watch a movie, show, sports broadcast of your teen’s choice. Engaging in activities with your teen may increase their energy and sense of connection.
If the space is available, consider having separate sleep/work spaces for your teen. If that’s not available, perhaps, encouraging your teen to make time to study with a peer, getting up and moving around in between classes, minimizing food in the room so they have to get up to eat. Many teens are finding co-studying helpful in reducing feelings of isolation and increasing motivation to stay on top of assignments.
Teens need their space and privacy, however, being in their room all day can lead to worsening feelings of depression, isolation, loneliness and it is not good for their overall health.
Whether that be studying with a peer over zoom or in-person (comfort level appropriate), spending time together in a park, backyard or other comfortable location, teens need connection with each other. Studies show that teens do better when they are socializing – even with just one other peer. It is important to their social, physical and emotional development and health.
When teen depression goes unacknowledged, it can lead to your teen feeling more isolated, less motivated, having negative feelings about themselves, feeling more inclined to want to escape through vaping, alcohol, marijuana, video games, food, sleep and even suicide. For some, depression will pass over time and they will adjust. For others, depression will worsen.
Check in on them, sit with them, validate their feelings, recognize the symptoms of depression, and if needed, reach out for help.