If you recognize warning signs of depression in your teen it is best not to delay a conversation with them. As any parent of a teen knows, finding just the right moment or opportunity to open a dialogue with the teen is a daunting challenge. Teens may rebuff any attempt to gain insights about their emotional state. They may act out in anger if they see it as prying. So how do you discuss depression with a teenager? Here are some helpful tips for getting the conversation rolling.
1. Avoid confrontation. Instead, quietly mention that you have noticed they seem sad, and then ask if they want to talk about it. Extend an invitation. Expect the teen to turn down this offer, but they will walk away knowing you noticed the changes in them, are concerned about them, and are open to chatting about their issues.
2. Select a comfortable setting. Sometimes, just being in the kitchen at the same time, putting a meal together, is a good time to talk. Teens seem to be more responsive to chatting about personal matters when they are in motion versus being face-to-face, which may feel confrontational. Walking, driving, playing sports, or cooking are activities that lend themselves to conversing.
3. Be there for them. Parents are over-scheduled and may be home fewer hours than they once were. Teens may be left to navigate difficult emotional trials without any parent input or guidance. If you suspect your child is struggling with social or academic issues, make a point to be home more and be available to them, which in turn provides opportunities for discussions.
4. Acknowledge their feelings. If your teen is open to talking about their feelings, do not try to talk them out of what they are sharing with you. Resist the impulse to “make it all better” for them with pat responses. Listen intently and ask insightful, thoughtful questions to delve deeper. Validate their feelings, even though you may think they are being silly or overdramatic. Let them know you have been there and understand.