While clinical teen depression is relatively uncommon, most teens are subject to bouts of depression. Tedious as they may be for parents, blue periods in teens are normal and even healthy. Teen depression is particularly challenging to deal for parents who are struggling with their own emotional issues. Here are some coping strategies to help parents help teens.
* Stay emotionally hydrated. Teens zap parent resources. No matter how strong I am, a perpetually glum attitude from my teen drains me dry. I have to take care of myself and keep my fuel tank topped off.
* Don't let your confidence sag. Puberty causes hormonal changes which affect teen self-esteem. Teens require a lot of encouragement but don't give much. I have to maintain my self-confidence so my teen's moodiness doesn't drag me down too.
* Be the adult. Because they're in constant emotional upheaval, teens don't always know what they need. Puberty mood swings mimic bipolar behavior. Kids vacillate and appear hypocritical. They take without giving. They demand help and then resist it. They expect parents to guess what they're thinking. I have to trust my parenting instincts. I have to be mature during this time when my teen can't be.
* Be honest. Trying to help my teen, I can't overlook my own needs and feelings. Teens aren't so fragile that they must be protected from reality. It's fine to honestly share feelings with teens, so long as we don't burden kids or share too much negative. Parent sharing provides a good role model for teens. It reassures teens that they're worthy of trust. It makes them feel good to offer support as well as receive it.
* Be upbeat. If mood swings scare parents, they terrify teens. Kids need to know they're normal and healthy. Without patronizing or downplaying feelings, stay positive.
* Use HALTS. Depression may stem from a lack of fundamentals. When my kids act depressed, I ask if they're: hungry, angry, lonely, tired or sick. I help them meet those needs. Parents, be sure you meet these needs in yourself too, especially before you try to help your kids.
* Teach self-care. Young kids turn to parents in need. Adolescents look to peers for affirmation. Peers are going through their own issues and aren't always affirming. Sometimes (perhaps without meaning to) age mates make depression worse. Teach kids to protect themselves from hurtful behavior and to be cautious about whom they trust.
Most of all, take teen emotions one day at a time. And know that this too, shall pass.