COVID-19 and Teen Depression
Depression is Covid-19’s unspoken casualty for many of our teens. In the blink of an eye, and now what appears indefinitely our teens are forced beyond the everyday struggles of fighting for independence, managing hormonal shifts, and exploring social identity to a life of isolation and fear which so often results in profound sadness and suicidality. While there is no playbook, consider the following tips:
Recognize the signs. Many of us miss the signs of depression in adolescents. We chalk up isolation in their room as typical teen behavior and irritability to hormonal shifts. While those are both true some of the time, they may also be signs of depression. Look for shifts in behavior (even during quarantine!). A teen that typically socializes with the family who is now in their room most of the time; increased physical complaints or changes in weight; increased negativity in their thought process; decreased motivation for success in school or activities they once enjoyed.
Talk talk and more talk. Ignoring our suspicions will not make the concern go away. They are annoyed we keep asking and bring it up? Talk more.
Listen. Listen past the irritability and often disrespectful responses. What are they saying to us? Are they giving up? Are they angry and depressed?
Choose your battles. Some life lessons can wait. If we are concerned about depression, this may not be the time to address their use of profanity or the tone they are speaking in.
Timing is everything. Let them know you would like to have a conversation with them. Choose a mutually agreed upon time to engage the discussion.
Ask the hard questions. Ask about suicide and self-injury. Taking the “not my kid” stance does not keep them safe. Asking about suicide and self-injury creates safety, not danger.
Share your feelings. Many of us feel anxious, sad, and even depressed during Covid-19. Share your feelings. Sharing doesn’t mean “dumping” our feelings. Share enough that lets them know you understand.
Create opportunities. Encourage teens out of isolation. Create fun, enjoyable opportunities within the bounds of your own comfort. Are you comfortable with your teen socializing outside? Are you comfortable with your teen joining other teens to complete homework? Or sitting together for class Zoom calls?
Focus on solutions. Covid-19 affects many areas of our life. Consider the worst parts. What concerns your teen the most? Social isolation? School frustrations? Activities canceled? Brainstorm on solutions. Many of the issues can’t be “fixed” but what can we do to make things a little bit better?
Get help. Teens often take guidance more willingly from anybody other than a parent. This is not a reflection on parenting, it is an essential part of developing independence. Who can help? A mental health professional? A school professional? A coach? A friend’s parent? A relative?
Turn The Page remains available for TeleTherapy session for children and adults. Contact Turn The Page at (973) 728-5111 or firstname.lastname@example.org.