Six Strategies to Help Your Troubled Teen Overcome Depression

The emergence of the first symptoms of depression in a teen can frighten a parent, and the very first natural reaction may not always be the most effective. The most important thing to do is to talk to them to try to get to the root of the problem. You should make yourself emotionally available — let your child know that you want to listen and try to help them through this difficult time. Of course, just sitting your child down for a chat won’t always make the problem disappear. If the symptoms of depression persist, there are a few other things you can do that can alleviate the problem if you have caught it before it has become severe. Therapy and medication may be necessary, but even then the following strategies can be helpful.

  1. teen-depression-strategies-1Focus on Positive Thinking

If you can change the way you think, you can change the way you feel — that’s one of the basic tenets of psychology. Positive psychology doesn’t focus on sadness and depression. Positive psychology focuses instead on cultivating well-being through accomplishment, engagement, positive relationships, positive emotions, and meaningful work and play. Helping your troubled teen focus on the positive and participating in healthy, fulfilling activities will help them move away from hopeless thinking and help them re-engage with the activities that they used to love.

  1. Just Do

One of the symptoms associated with depression is the loss of interest in activities or hobbies that used to be enjoyable. This loss of interest often reflects a perception that the activity is less pleasurable or more challenging than it really is. The best way for your child to overcome this perception is to simply engage in the activity. Exercise, in particular, can have therapeutic benefits. One study found that, after 10 months, individuals who exercised regularly reported significantly lower levels of depression than those who took medication. Exercise also helps release positive endorphins, which create feelings of well-being.

  1. Foster Accomplishment

Depression can give teens a feeling that they can’t accomplish anything. Successfully completing a task, on the other hand, can reverse these feelings and have positive therapeutic effects. One way to help a troubled teen overcome depression is to encourage them to engage in positive activities that will provide a feeling of achievement. Some examples include sports, dance, debate, art, sailing, rock climbing, and science clubs. These activities can satisfy your child’s need for accomplishment and will nurture positive feelings and a sense of empowerment.

  1. Encourage Positive Relationships

As teens become depressed, many choose to isolate themselves. To keep your child from becoming isolated, encourage them to develop positive relationships. Physical relationships are important — meeting people online provides a weak level of interaction that eliminates face-to-face and non-verbal communication. As a parent or caretaker of a depressed teen, it’s important that you maintain a positive relationship with your child.

  1. Create Meaning

It’s important for teens to feel like they’re a part of something. You can help your child by helping them develop meaning in their life. American psychologist, educator, and author Martin Seligman relates meaning to being connected to something greater than ourselves. This can range from being a part of a sports team, a religion, or a club at school. Therapist Brene Brown echoed this sentiment when she said, “Connection is why we’re here; it is what gives purpose and meaning to our lives.”

  1. Engage in Positive Activities

Another way that troubled teens learn to cope with depression or feelings of hopelessness is to engage in negative or high-risk activities. Engagement in unwanted or troubling behaviors is often an indicator of a mood disorder. Getting your child involved in positive, confidence-building activities such as sports (team or individual) can help them gain self-esteem and will keep them safe and busy. Team sports have the added benefit of giving your child the opportunity to make new, healthy relationships.


While all of these suggestions are healthy, positive ways to try to help your child through depression, nothing can substitute for therapy in the case of major depression or a severe mood disorder. In any case where you suspect your child to have a severe mood disorder, it’s always best to talk to a doctor and a therapist as soon as possible to mitigate any lasting damage that may occur as a result of the disorder.


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