The adolescent years are famous for ups and downs in moods, but for some teens, the normal teenaged mood swings take a turn toward depression. Depression affects about 25 percent of teens at one point or another. Parents can help by watching for signs of depression and, when needed, seek professional guidance.
Teens suffering from depression will have a period of time in which the things that they used to like doing are not longer enjoyable. Their "down" mood will last longer than a few days, and they may have changes in their grades, appearance, appetite and sleep habits. Teens from families that have members having been diagnosed with depression are more at risk for developing depression.
1. Don't triage every paper cut
Jumping in and solving all of your teen's problems sends the message that there is something inherently wrong with them and that they are not able to solve their problems on their own. When you spend all of your time putting out the little fires for your teen, they will lack the skills needed to handle the big or little "fires". Allow them to talk thorough their feelings. Sometimes, the problem becomes more manageable simply by having sought help and having their feelings validated.
2. Don't throw up your hands or throw in the towel
It might be easy for you to become frustrated with your teen's moods (and the mood swings that are part of adolescence), but when they express feeling depressed, along with observable changes in their behavior that suggest that they are in a mood that is prolonged, they need help.
3. Empathize, don't worry about completely understanding
Your teen's feelings may be similar to those that you remember, but you don't need to have experienced them in order to offer empathy, validation, love and support. Your teen may interpret you sharing you own life's experiences as minimizing her feelings. Simply offer an ear to listen and a shoulder to cry upon for your teen.
4. Don't discuss hot issues when your teen is upset
Allow your teen some decompression time when they are upset. Giving some space to your teen before approaching topics that are hot buttons allows your teen to be ready to openly communicate with you. If your teen is seeing a counselor, the time just following their appointment is probably not a good time to start discussing the state of disaster in your teen's room.
5. Don't have blinders on
While it can be tempting to dismiss a teen's prolonged sadness or other behavior changes to simply, being a teenager, this can be harmful for your teen. Imagine depression as a valley with steep walls on either side. Your teen is trapped inside that valley and needs assistance to get out. You would not leave them in this situation willingly if they were trapped in a valley, hoping that they would "snap out of it," such is leaving them alone in the valley of depression.
6. Don't ignore talk of harming oneself or suicide
Teens becoming obsessed with death or talking about wanting to die need immediate help. This behavior is rarely faked, and is often a crying out for help.