Teenagers can be mighty adaptable — within reason. The events of the past year or so have stretched everyone to their limits. For teens, this has meant the loss of a crucial year of growing, learning, and bonding. Their rhythm has been disrupted. They’ve undergone unexpected adjustments. Life, in many ways, feels like it’s been turned upside down. The fallout from a lost year can be immense.
Your teenaged child could be hurting badly. They may even be struggling with depression. You want to help, of course. This begins with identifying symptoms and providing the support your teen desperately needs.
Signs That Your Teen is Struggling With Pandemic Depression
Teen depression is more than just moodiness and emotional swings. Almost all teens display those signs! Here is a list of some red flags to keep an eye out for:
A Drastic Increase in Screen Time
Their devices seem to offer a distraction and an escape. This strategy often backfires by causing even more depression. Lockdowns have resulted in a relaxation of screen time restrictions but watch this trend closely.
School — whether at-home or in-person — requires concentration and focus. Depression reduces these useful characteristics. The result could be seen in a lack of interest, lower grades, and playing hooky.
Possibilities vary widely but often include:
- Alcohol and binge drinking
- Drug abuse
- Reckless driving
- Practicing unsafe sex
- Criminal activity
Unexplained Physical Symptoms
Headaches, muscle tension and pain, fatigue, low energy, and more are common. Don’t downplay physical signs if they have no clear cause.
Loss of Self-Worth
At an age of intense peer pressure, depression can trigger the following:
- Fear of failure
- Low self-esteem
Isolation and Withdrawal
Is your teen disengaged from family conversations and/or meals? Do they talk about running away from home? Have you been told, over and over, that you “just don’t understand”?
Especially for depressed boys, violence and aggression can become the norm in terms of reactions. This is a clear warning sign.
4 Ways to Help Your Hurting Teen
1. Listen and Validate
This is not the time for lectures. Give your teen space to vent. Let them know you recognize how unfair the past year has been for them. Make it clear that you’re on their side.
2. Stay Connected… Gently
You may initially get shut out. They may shut down. Keep at it in a respectful but persistent way. Again, your actions must demonstrate your commitment and availability.
3. Keep Them Active, Nourished, and Rested
It could be walking the dog. It could be a one-on-one game of hoops. Whatever approach you take, get them moving. Do your homework to prepare the healthiest possible meals. Encourage steady sleep habits. Lead by example.
4. Talk to Them About Getting Help
Depression is not a condition that requires self-help alone. If your gut is telling you things are getting worse, you need outside support. Involve your teen in this process.
Consider Professional Guidance
The support you offer is priceless. The lifestyle changes you put in place make a world of difference. Yet, depressive disorders require the intervention of a mental health professional. Unchecked depression can result in a dangerous escalation that leads to thoughts of death and suicide. Translation: When it comes to depression, it is always better safe than sorry.
I’ve worked with plenty of teens who have struggled with depression. I’ve also worked with plenty of their parents. Let’s connect. Set up a consultation soon so we can discuss this important situation. Treatment can help your teen cope and bring you more peace of mind. Proven therapy options exist and they may be just what your hurting teen needs. Let’s support your teen together. Please read more about depression treatment and parent counseling.