Teens are notorious for not talking to their parents about what’s bothering them. They’re likely to keep an eye out on social media for friends (connections) who may be having similar experiences. They’ll search on the internet and usually click on the first link that appears. So, it’s critical for parents to pay attention to what their teen is doing and isn’t doing. The signs of depression in teens aren’t always obvious. In this article, we’ll discuss some signs your teenager might benefit from teen counseling.
5 Signs Your Teenager May Need Teen Counseling
Here are 5 behaviors to look for in your teenager that may signal your son or daughter is troubled and could benefit from teen counseling:
1. Spending unusual amounts of time alone
Does your son or daughter spend a lot of time alone in their room? Would they prefer to spend time alone rather than hang out with the family, or even other friends?
Teenagers, much like adults, tend to physically retreat from life if they are dealing with feelings of depression. They may believe that they are alone, that nobody else understands what they are feeling.
This belief then keeps them from reaching out for help. Teen counseling may be beneficial for the teen who is isolating from others, as a trained therapist can help uncover and heal the fears, doubts, and limiting beliefs the teen has.
2. Stops enjoying activities
Another behavior that is indicative of a troubled teen but is easily unnoticed is when your teenaged son or daughter stops engaging in the activities that once brought them joy. For many teens, that’s sports. For others, it’s youth group activities, video games, shopping, sleepovers, or simply hanging out with friends.Take a moment to think about the activities your teenager enjoys. Make a list. This will help you increase awareness, as a parent, about behavior change in your teen. Now, ask yourself if your teen has stopped either engaging in a once-enjoyed activity or just doesn’t exemplify the excitement he once did.
A teen may show their disinterest in something if they are avoiding it. Teens, like adults, avoid what they don’t enjoy. Teens active in sports or music are often dedicated to practicing independently. Teenage depression may manifest in a discontinuation of the independent practice.
Your teen may continue to engage in organized group practices, but you may begin to see their enthusiasm wane in other ways as she stops dribbling the basketball, stops engaging in soccer footwork, or stops practicing the piano, etc.
Sometimes when a teen stops a particular behavior, you may think it’s a good thing. For example, if your teen stops playing video games, you might be relieved, but it’s worth having an exploratory conversation with him to understand his thinking.
Does he seem less excited about other activities as well? Has he told you he feels like something is missing? Have you noticed him retreating in other ways? Talk with your teen and listen without judgment. Introducing the idea of teen counseling or teen therapy may prove to be a tremendous relief to him.
3. Friendships change
Many parents are surprised to learn who their kids’ friends are. Not every teen has friends visit them in their home. Friends might be just at-school friends, sports friends, youth group friends, or friends met on various social media platforms. It’s important for parents to have an ongoing dialogue with their teens about who their friends are.Teens garner self-esteem through friendships, what others think of them. Teenagers want to impress, and they want to be noticed. Teen friendships end and change for a variety of reasons. If you discover that your son or daughter has become depressed over a relationship loss, it may be time to consider therapy rather than chalking it up to teen problems or “drama.”
Conversely, some teens who become depressed choose to retreat even from their friends. They feel confused, anxious about being seen as different, and ashamed of feelings they’re unable, or unwilling, to explain. When they retreat, not only do they become more isolated, but they also lose an opportunity for much-needed support.
Regularly ask your teen about their known friends. Ask them how things are going with regard to their social relationships. And, help your teen understand what healthy friendships and relationships look like. A teen counselor can be particularly helpful to your son or daughter as they navigate important relationships during the critical and formative teen years.
4. Unexplained irritability
Have you ever asked your teen an innocuous question like, “How was your day,” only to have them snap at you? That would be an example of unexplained irritability. Now, you need not be alarmed if this happens on occasion. Occasional teen irritability is expected. A guiding question is, are you noticing irritability in your teen that is happening on a consistent and prolonged basis?
Sometimes teen depression can manifest in displays of anger, such as snapping when someone asks a seemingly simple question, throwing an object, giving up easily on tasks that require extended effort, and low frustration tolerance. Your teen may be experiencing problems for which they have yet to seek support. When problems are not dealt with directly, they often come out as anger.
Adopt an attitude of curiosity. You might say, “I’ve noticed you’ve been getting easily frustrated lately and I’m wondering if anything has changed in your life, either with yourself, your friends, or even us as a family.”
Propose the idea of teen counseling if they identify that something is bothering them but aren’t quite ready to share it with you. Let your son or daughter know that a teen therapist can help them figure out what’s going on with them, even if they feel like they know something is wrong, but just aren’t sure how to express it.
5. Devaluing possessions.
A clear sign of teen depression is when a teenager begins to devalue his or her belongings. It is a sign of hopelessness when a teen doesn’t take care of something she once valued. There is a deeper, more immediate sign of depression that may indicate your son or daughter is contemplating suicide: if they begin to give away items of value.
As a parent, have a current and accurate understanding of what’s important to your child, as values and interests do shift during the teen years for quite natural reasons, so you can notice this sign of depression.
Teens in an emotional crisis may also stop taking care of their possessions. They may carelessly leave valuable items on the floor or frequently lose things you believed to be important to them. Losing, mistreating, or giving away possessions are all signs that your teen may be retreating further inward and could benefit from a teen counselor.
Troubled teens don’t always realize they are troubled. They may not understand that their irritability reflects a deeper emotional challenge. Teens may think it’s natural to retreat from friends or to spend more time alone. They may not be able to pinpoint exactly what’s bothering them.
If you observe any of the above signs of depression in your teen son or daughter, have a conversation to explore your concerns with curiosity and without judgment, and then explore the possible benefit of introducing your child to teen therapy or teen counseling.
Above all, let them know you and professionals are available so they don’t have to feel alone. As a parent, you know your child best. If something feels off, it likely is. Be acutely aware of the not-so-obvious signals that your child may benefit from professional teen counseling.