In the book “Is Your Teen Stressed or Depressed”, authors Dr. Arch Hart and Dr. Catherine Hart Weber discuss how teenagers live in two world, life on the surface and life under the surface. When it comes to the issue of teenage depression, the mask they wear on the outside may appear to be like that of any other teenager including appearing carefree and socially connected, yet underneath the surface lies internal pain, fear and anxiety.
There is no doubt that today’s generation has more challenges and ...
pressures to deal with including school, family and their futures, coupled with additional influences including the internet, television, sex, drugs, alcohol, peer pressure, etc. These outside forces can often be internalized and lead to stress, anxiety, low self-esteem, fear, anger and despair.
With teens who don’t have an opportunity to address and release the pressures in a positive fashion, can often lead to depression which surfaces through unhealthy and self-destructive behaviors including problems and school, substance abuse, violence, eating disorders, violence, promiscuity, internet addiction, and suicide.
It is vitally important for parents and caring adults to open the lines of communication when they suspect their teens are depressed. However, it can often be challenging to get the conversation started. Below are several tips to open the lines of communication and begin dialogue with teens.
1. Get Informed - The first thing you should do before beginning the conversation is to get informed and grasp a better understanding about Teen Depression including recognizing the signs. There are many great sources of information online, the local bookstore and through health professionals including your family doctor or local hospitals or medical centers.
2. Be compassionate and non-judgmental - Approach your teen and address your concern and discuss the signs you have noticed. Offer your support and let them know you are there for them and love them unconditionally.
3. Don’t press for answers – It is very easy to want to take your child through a series of questions as you seek answers for the cause of their depression, but depending on the teen, that may be too much. Take your time and don’t press for answers right away, the first step is opening the lines of communication and letting them know that you are there and supportive.
4. Listen – It is very easy to want to offer advice, but before you do, make sure it is solicited and welcomed by your teen. Avoid criticism and judgment as your teen opens up and validate their feelings. Although the reason for their sadness or depression may seem trivial to you, remember to acknowledge their feelings and offer your support.
5. Be persistent – Don’t feel bad if your teen shuts you out and is slow to open up. It may be uncomfortable for them to let you in initially, but soft persistence is the key. Seek opportunities to spend time together and keep your lines of communication open.
6. Don’t take it personal - As a parent of a depressed teen, you may have feelings of guilt and shame that may arise coupled with questions of how and why. Get in tune with your feeling up front, calm down and focus your attention on your Teen. Otherwise you are more likely to lash out, judge and operate in self defense instead of support. If you need to, seek support for yourself through your medical professional, support groups or your faith. It is important to rid yourself of any regret, guilt or shame to move to a place of healing for yourself so you can better love and support your teen at their point of need.
Nicole Steele is President of GEM Makers, LLC and Executive Director of Diamond In The Rough, a faith-based leadership program that provides group mentoring, life skills training and career coaching to girls ages 4-18. For more information on Diamond In The Rough visit www.ditr.org or call (678) 376-9676.
Copyright 2014, Nicole Steele and GEM Makers, LLC. Used with permission.