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Teen Depression: Start the Mental Health Discussion With Your Teens

Are you worried that your teen might be feeling depressed, but you don’t know how to talk to him or her about it? You’re not alone in dealing with teen depression.

How to Talk to Your Teen About Depression:

Use the following tips to start the conversation with your teen.

1. Ask open-ended questions.

Begin by making an observation about a change in your teen’s mood or behavior, and then ask an open-ended question that encourages a lengthy response, rather than a one-word answer.

“I’ve noticed you’ve been really quiet and not hanging out with your friends lately. What’s going on?”

2. Listen…don’t lecture!

Active listening is key; pay close attention to what your teen is saying, and provide feedback without judgment or criticism. Don’t bombard your teen with questions or solutions. When dealing with teen depression your teen just needs you to just listen.

“Yes, I can see that you are feeling lonely. That must be really hard for you.”

3. Validate, validate, validate.

Express your understanding by reflecting it back to show that you are listening. When it comes to teens, you can never validate enough! It helps a teen feel heard and understood.

“Of course you’re feeling sad, given that your friends have been treating you poorly.”

4. Be patient, but persistent.

Don’t be discouraged by one-word answers and “I don’t knows.” Remember, teen depression is a difficult subject to talk about. Once you have planted the seed, keep at it. The most important thing is that your teen knows that you are there when they are ready to talk .

“I understand if you don’t want to talk right now. I am here to listen whenever you are ready.”

5. Discuss options.

So after all your best efforts, maybe your teen is still having trouble talking about how they’re feeling. That’s okay! Discuss other options, including speaking with a mental health professional, so that they have other sources of support.

For more teen depression help, you may want this:

“How would you feel about talking with someone about how you are feeling? We could find a therapist who works specifically with teenagers.”

Meredith Bonacci, PhD

Meredith Bonacci is a licensed psychologist practicing in New York City who specializes in adolescents and young adults. Get in touch with Dr. Bonacci at rennickeassociates.com.