Ask the Expert | Kaitlin Arnold, LPC
Q: Is My Teen Moody or Depressed? What Can I Do To Help?
A: Is your teen having trouble getting up in the morning? Failing to shower or brush their teeth? Feeling tired much of the time? More irritable or tense? Are their grades slipping? Eating or sleeping habits changing? Less interested in activities they used to enjoy? Spending more time alone?
According to the Centers for Disease Control, in 2018-2019, 15.1% of adolescents had a major depressive episode, 36.7% had feelings of sadness or hopelessness and 18.8% seriously considered attempting suicide. These increased during the COVID-19 pandemic.
We all have a bad day, but if you notice a trend, say something and be ready to listen. Share what you observed and get your teen’s take. Are they feeling different? Are things harder to do? Are they feeling overwhelmed? What feelings are they experiencing toward activities they used to do easily, used to enjoy?
Suggest some coping skills and practice them along with your teen. Paced breathing, visualization techniques and grounding skills can be helpful, and specific exercises can be found with an internet search. Here are some links you and your teen can use to access easy coping skills from home:
Paced breathing: https://youtu.be/cEqZthCaMpo
This super-short video is any easy, accessible way to add some spaciousness to your day.
Visualization exercise: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ceh94IpbD9A
Imagine a walk on the beach with this 3-minute guided meditation.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation (a helpful grounding technique): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=86HUcX8ZtAk&t=19s
This 15-minute guided, progressive muscle relaxation mediation will help you release tension, relieve anxiety, manage panic attacks, or fall asleep. It is good for everyone, all ages, even kids.
Resist relieving your teen of their responsibilities (e.g., chores, going to school, participation in extracurriculars). While giving them a break may seem appropriate, it can increase isolation and lethargy. Instead, empower your teen to take responsibility while giving them support to help them feel less overwhelmed. Try to find a time when you can help them do their chores together. Set the expectation that they attend school but work with them to identify a self-care plan they can implement when they return home.
If your teen is experiencing continued depression, it is important to seek out professional help. A mental health therapist can help give an accurate diagnosis, develop a treatment plan and provide additional resources. Be kind to yourself during this time too. It is hard to see someone you care about going through a difficult time.
Kaitlin Arnold, LPC is the founder and therapist at Finding Your Balance Therapy. She helps individuals and families dealing with depression, anxiety, other mental health issues, and stressors from life challenges to develop positive coping skills, navigate and gain confidence in dealing with stressful situations, and improve their relationships.