Teen depression is serious. Approximately 20 percent of teens experience depression before they hit adulthood, and as many as 15 percent of teenagers can experience symptoms sometime during adolescence. Suicide is the third leading cause of death for adolescents. These statistics are the reasons parents must pay attention to the silent treatment, and try to break the silence.
About the Silent Treatment and Depression
When your teen is depressed, it doesn’t mean he is in a bad mood. It also doesn’t mean he’s just being a typical teenage boy. It MAY mean he is struggling with something extremely painful – emotionally, physically, and mentally.
The silent treatment is a typical defense mechanism for teens. Adolescence is characterized as a stage in which many teens want to detach from their parents, so they can be independent. They do this by going against what their parents say, so they can show they can make their own decisions. With the silent treatment, teens are trying to send the message that they do not want to discuss what is going on inside of them because they know it will just be refuted. They want to be gain control of themselves without having to bring their mom or dad into it.
The problem with the silent treatment when a teen has depression is that it can lead them into a dark place. A place where thoughts grow into problems, and those problems turn into hopelessness. That hopelessness can cause them to feel as though they will never be able to find light in their life, and that can result in suicide.
Breaking Through the Silence
Confronting your teen about the silence will often times result in an argument, so what do you do?
Hugs, kisses on the forehead, telling him you love him, and just being attentive can go a long way. You’re providing the support he needs while going through this difficult period in life.
Stop Asking Questions
Questions can seem like interrogation. Asking how his day was is okay, but beyond that, it can set off an alarm in a teen’s brain that you’re trying to find something to reject. If the answer to how the day was is, “Fine.” then take it as just that.
Spend Quality Time
Watch television with him, eat meals together, and engage in activities he enjoys. While you may not speak a lot during these times, it can maintain and rebuild the bond that may have been lost through adolescent upheavals.
Watch for Signs of Suicide or Risky Behaviors
Depressed teens can sometimes fall into an obsession with social media. Relationships formed online can become quite intensive quickly. Monitor social media activities, who he is meeting offline, and be weary of any signs of self-harm. Listen to any mention of bullying or problems with peers. Implement rules in the home about how much social media can be used, who he can see, what times he needs to be home, and anything else that seems to be contributing to the hostile situation. Love can come in the form of tough love if it seems as though the world is causing your teen’s depression.
Seek Professional Help
The silent treatment waxes and wanes with adolescents. However, if the silent treatment seems more like a consequence of a mental health issue, such as depression, professional help may be needed. An experienced psychologist/psychiatrist or other mental health specialist can help uncover what is really going on with your son.
It’s important to know that your son may resist help. The good news is you’re the parent who still has the responsibility of caring for your child, even if he is bigger now. Bringing him for an evaluation is just the same as taking him in to get his immunization when he was a baby. This care shows you love him, and can save him from a difficult future.