First, what does a normal teen act like? The following teen behaviors are completely normal: Moodiness, emotionality, focused on self, opinionated, some rebelliousness, limit testing, pushing for independence, less affection, struggling with identity, questioning beliefs, and seeming to “know it all.” These behaviors are healthy and evidence of the individuation process starting. Parents should be glad to see its arrival. Sure, it’s not always easy, but remember –it’s only a phase. It is helpful to understand it, allow it, and roll with the “fresh air” that blows through during these fun filled years.
The following behaviors are signs of depression in teens: Poor school performance, low self-worth, Isolating, Irritability and hostility, loss of appetite or not eating, low energy, hopelessness, suicidality, self-harm, and comments about death through any outlet. The more visible signs I look for in assessing risk are social Isolation, and school issues. With isolating, think of “normal” as 1 -2 hours out of their bedroom and near the rest of the family per school day. For friend time, think of “normal” as hanging out 2-3 times per week. Much less than this is cause for concern.
Take signs of depression seriously. The following may help: Work on your relationship – engage your teen – spend time with them and mostly listen. Seek for the trigger to the depression and address it. Go out of your way to support socializing – give rides and help organize it. Help lower stress at school, with peers, or otherwise–they may need help cutting back in areas.
Remember, parents have the most influence in their teen’s life.