Updated on August 24, 2023
How to Support Teens with Depression During the School Year
As a parent, ensuring the well-being of your teenager is of utmost importance, especially as they face the daunting task of returning to school while battling depression. In this article, we discuss actionable strategies to support and uplift your teen during this crucial time.
Although the number of teens with depression increased alarmingly during the COVID-19 pandemic, the epidemic of depressed students in the U.S. actually began before 2020.
The CDC reports that between 2010 and 2020, feelings of hopelessness, sadness, and suicidal thoughts increased by 40% among preteens and teens.
Rising Teen Depression Rates Before and After the Pandemic
The pandemic worsened depression rates among young people due to three major factors: academic disruption, losing one or both parents to COVID-19, and social isolation.
Moving the classroom online further exacerbated signs of depression in teens. In addition to being alone much of the day during the pandemic, teens between 13 and 17 years old began relying on social media platforms to stay in touch with peers.
In fact, about 35 percent of teens say they are posting, scrolling, and interacting with others on social media sites “almost constantly.”
With many kids currently in teenage depression treatment or needing treatment, parents may be understandably concerned about their child’s mental health when school starts.
This guide helps parents recognize signs of depression in teens and provides tips for parents who are worried about a depressed child making the transition from being at home to coping with school-related anxiety.
Visualizing The Impact: Teen Emotional Struggles and Social Media Engagement
What’s the Difference Between Normal Teen Moodiness and Teen Depression?
If your school-aged child is already in treatment for depression, you’re able to answer this question more definitively than parents who have no experience with adolescent behavioral changes.
The main difference between depression and normal moodiness in teens involves the length of time your child presents certain symptoms.
For example, if a 15-year-old comes home from school, slams the door to their bedroom, but exits a few hours later to eat supper apparently without a care in the world, that is simply teen moodiness.
On the other hand, teens with depression will self-isolate for weeks or even months, seem apathetic toward things that they used to enjoy, and may make statements like “Nobody likes me” or “I wish I were dead.”
Red Flags: Serious Signs of Teen Depression You Can’t Ignore
Other serious signs of depression in teens include:
- Engaging in self-harming behaviors
- Refusing to eat or binging on junk food
- Sleeping too much or staying awake all night
- Misinterpreting what people say to them/oversensitivity to how others refer to them
- Neglecting academic work/failing classes, they previously had not failed.
- Abusing drugs or alcohol
- Lashing out for no apparent reason at parents and siblings
Symptoms of major depression in school-age kids do not fluctuate like moods. Instead, symptoms will worsen without professional treatment from adolescent psychologists and counselors.
If you think your child may be suffering from depression and the child is not already in treatment, contact us today for immediate assistance.
How Parents Can Support Teens with Depression: Making the Transition Back to School Easier on Your Teen
Peer acceptance, academic pressure, bullying (if the teen has been a victim of bullying), and actualizing their independence are what teens focus on the most when going back to school. Anxiety over these issues is especially heightened in kids with depression.
Life for depressed teens is perceived as hostile, unfriendly, and without meaning. A group of peers talking in the hallway may be talking about the clothes they wear, their hairstyle, or their physical appearance.
Teachers never call on them to answer questions because they think all their teachers dislike them. Nobody listens to what they have to say because nobody really cares about them.
Key Elements in Supporting Depressed Teens
It’s difficult for many parents to understand why their child is depressed and thinks so negatively of themselves and the world around them. That’s why it is important for parents to ask questions, research the impact that brain chemicals have on emotions and thought patterns, and understand that their teen needs to be treated with patience and empathy at this point in their lives.
Six Practical Tips for Easing Your Teen’s Return to School
Here are six tips for parents to help depressed teens returning to school:
1. Staying Connected with Teachers. since middle and high school teens change classes throughout the day, find out if they have a homeroom teacher who can provide insight into how your teen is adapting to the new school year.
If your child has classes with a teacher they like and have had before, contact that teacher and ask them to call you if they notice unusual behavioral changes in your teen.
2. Fostering Open Communication About Anxiety and School. Tell your child that you understand their anxiety over returning to school and that you are always available to listen to what your child has to say.
Describing a time in your past when you had problems coping with school pressure is often a good segue into getting your teen to open up about their emotions.
3. Structuring Home Environment. Try to keep the home environment as structured as possible. Making sure dinner is served around a specific time, maintaining consistent disciplinary methods, and letting your teen know ahead of time of changes to their routine are some ways to help stabilize the home.
4. Compliment your teen when a compliment is warranted. Children and teens have an amazing ability to see through “fake” or obligatory compliments.
Focus compliments on their strengths and natural abilities while verbally encouraging them to continue cultivating their talents.
5. Balancing Screen Time and Social Media. Have a serious, purposeful discussion about screen and phone time. Tell your teen you understand how important it is to talk to their friends on social media, but also let them know that their school work and mental health come first over social media.
Listen to what your child thinks is an acceptable amount of time to spend on Instagram or Facebook. Negotiate with your teen if the time they propose is not feasible. However, never become impatient or judgmental when settling differences with your child.
6. Discuss Drugs, Alcohol, Peer Pressure, and Sex with Your Teen. Don’t be afraid to talk to your teen about drugs, alcohol, peer pressure, and sex. Your teen hears all kinds of false stories about these subjects from other teens and on social media. If you don’t tell them the truth, they will believe the distorted information they read on TikTok.
When Teenage Depression Treatment Becomes Necessary
It is not unusual for some teens to need a little extra help when trying to cope with school, peer relationships, low self-esteem, and depression. When signs of depression in teens worsen no matter what a parent says or does, it may be time for the parent to consider more intensive treatment at Turning Winds.
By introducing a restorative intermission from regular school to a therapeutic environment like Turning Winds, parents will be actively helping their teen excel in academics, learn coping skills for depression and anxiety, and give their child a chance at a fresh start upon returning home.