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Teen Depression and Anxiety: What Parents Can Do to Help

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Trenna Sutcliffe

Topics Covered:

Mood Disorder
With parental support and therapy, teens can overcome anxiety and depression.

The ongoing mental health crisis has had a disproportionate effect on youth, worsening an already turbulent time – adolescence. With teens being under so much stress and change, it’s hard for parents to know where to start when it comes to offering help. These tips provide actionable steps you can take to better understand what your teen is going through, and give them support that’s truly helpful for them while being reasonable for you.



One of the most important things you can do for your teen is simply to have a conversation and be there for them. They need to know that they can come to you and share how they’re feeling without any judgment.

Establishing lines of communication about mental health doesn’t happen overnight, so the earlier you and your child can begin to open this conversation, the better. However, it’s important to remember that it’s never too late to start talking about mental health! 


It’s common for parents to instantly enter “fix-it” mode when faced with a problem – after all, it’s what’s often needed when your child is younger and less independent. However, it’s important to recognize that your teen may not be coming to you for a solution. They might want space to vent and blow off steam, and providing that could be much more affirming than immediately offering ideas to fix their problem.

When dealing with teen depression and anxiety, it’s important to be a parent who listens


Instead of problem-solving, one of the most helpful things parents can do is validate their child’s emotions. This can look like using active listening skills such as nodding and eye contact or asking brief clarification questions to show that you’re invested in the conversation. Afterward, you can show that you understand what your teen is saying, and then ask for what they need, whether that’s problem-solving, feedback, or just a place to vent. Being clear that you’re open to any option can help your teen feel respected and understood. 


One way of going about a conversation around mental health could be pointing out the warning signs you notice in your teenager’s behavior. These can vary between different types of mental illnesses and specific individuals, but common signals include changes in sleep, shifts in appetite, and decreased activity levels. For more information on signs that your child might be struggling with a mental illness, you can read our blog post on the subject: [insert link]


Providing resources can be helpful to a teen who’s struggling with their mental health. The first step to treating many mental illnesses is therapy, and connecting your teen with a qualified therapist can allow them to unpack what they’re going through.

The Sutcliffe Clinic offers comprehensive mental health services for teens and their families.


As the conversation about mental health has become more mainstream, a variety of resources have become available to understand struggles with mental illness further. Some books that are specifically aimed at parents include:

Additionally, the National Alliance on Mental Illness website provides informative materials, support groups, and helplines to individuals struggling with mental illness and their families.


Parents can support their children by creating opportunities for them to connect with activities that are important to them. If your teen is struggling, it might mean that they become distanced from their hobbies and interests, so offering them a chance to engage in those activities can help them find some joy and meaning. This can look like offering to play basketball with your child if it’s their favorite sport, or getting them some art materials if they love to draw.


A challenge many parents face is knowing how to balance supporting their children through turbulent times while still parenting them. Parents have the difficult job of holding their children to household standards while still being there for them. Small accommodations like letting your child sleep in on a school day or not calling out risky behaviors can seem like the right thing to do, but what’s more beneficial is aiding your child in sticking to healthy habits and staying connected to the things they love.


Often, parents fixate on getting everything perfect when it comes to handling their teen’s mental health, as they recognize just how important it is. However, making mistakes is a natural part of the process, both on your part and on your child’s. Being kind to yourself and your teen allows you both to understand each other better and grow together.