Rachel Dubrow, LCSW
4 Things parents can do to help their anxious or depressed teen
The loss of Dylan Buckner is tragic and our hearts go out to his family, friends, teachers, and coaches. We know that this is an exceptionally challenging time. We hope that this post finds its way to those who need some guidance and support right now - wherever you are.
Let's face it - we hear about teen suicide across the country and don't really think about how much it impacts us, our children, and our community. However, when it happens to someone we know, to someone in our community, or hits home for some other reason, it gives us reason to take pause. The problem is, most of us don't know what to do next to help ourselves and our teens at home.
Here are some things that we, as parents, can do to keep tabs on our teens but not feel like we're invading their personal space and lives:
Give space...and then have a meet up point. Most teens aren't the "share all" type, so it can be really hard to know what's going on. If your teen comes home (or, in the e-learning world, stays in their room), give them that time and space to do so as long as you have some sort of ground rule in place about when you reconvene. For example, have 20 minute dinners as a time to connect. Plan a trip to get coffee, bubble tea, ice cream...whatever your teen likes so you have time to talk in the car. We're not thinking long and drawn out heart to hearts here, you can simply connect while talking about a song or podcast, planning the next thing to do together, or even talking about the best and hardest parts of the day so far.
Offer a listening ear. Teens are more likely to go to their friends when they need to vent and not us as their parents. And that's okay. As long as your teen knows that you're there if they ever need anything, you're keeping the door open to any conversation that may come your way. Teens may not feel inclined to say things to you but just giving them the reminder that you're there offers them back up support should they ever need it. When they do reach out, the best thing you can do is listen and ask what they need from you (as opposed to jumping right into solution-finding mode).
Have a brief conversation about things that they need to share with you. Say something like "I wanted to touch base about what happened with the GBN student last week. You've probably heard this before but it's important and worth repeating. If you ever feel like you want to hurt yourself or are just feeling really anxious or down, come talk to me. I promise, I won't be mad or upset. Instead, I want to help you get the help you want, need, and deserve. I love you and am here for you anytime - day or night. We will figure whatever it is out together".
Model getting help if you need it. If you are feeling overwhelmed, lost, or just struggling with how to manage things with your teen, reach out yourself to get help. And be open about it. The more open you are about your own mental health successes and struggles, the more used to talking about it your teen will be. We're not saying to have a daily mental health check-in in front of your child, but if you decide to start therapy or a medication, tell your teen casually and talk through how it is helping. Being open about the things we all experience at some point in life - anxiety, worry, fears, excitement, loneliness - the better chances are that our teens will be open to sharing those, too (even if it isn't directly with you at the moment).
Parenting can be one of the most rewarding and challenging things all at the same time. Reach out to us for a free 15-minute phone consultation if you are in need of more personalized parenting support or are concerned about your teen. We're here to help - and if it's outside of our specialties, we will connect you to someone who can. We're all in this together.