5 Ways to Protect Your Teen from the Depression Epidemic

1. Protect Your Teen from Isolation

Action Steps:

  1. Encourage outside activities. Talk to your teen about getting involved in extra-curricular activities and spending time with friends. An outside job is also a great way to engage in a social setting with the added bonus of making some cash!
  2. Limit time alone. Everyone needs a certain amount of time to themselves, but too much is not healthy. If you notice your teen is locked away in their room for hours at a time, it’s time to intervene. And it’s okay to say, “It’s time to come out of your room for a while and spend time with the family.” 
  3. Create family time. Your teen needs more than time with friends—they need you! Plan fun family outings to a favorite restaurant, a bowling alley, kayaking, or any other favorite activity. Or how about a family board game or even playing one of their favorite video games together? And don’t neglect to plan fun family vacations—it builds a special bond with your teen and creates memories that last a lifetime. You may even see that smile that’s been missing for so long!
  4. Eat dinner together. Family dinners have been found to prevent depression and even drug use among teens. Make having dinner together at least four times weekly a priority for the maximum benefit.

2. Nuke Screen Addiction

Action Steps:

  1. Monitor smartphone use. You can install apps on your phone that will control the other phones in your network. This allows you to monitor what is being looked at (another parenting must) and set time limits for internet and social media use.
  2. Set a curfew. Many families have a basket where all cell phones are gathered at a particular time each night—including Mom and Dad! This promotes healthy boundaries for everyone and sets an example for your teen.
  3. Make plans. Teens today default to screens when they’re bored. So make plans! Go on an outing, volunteer in the community, or encourage your teen to get a job. 

3. Instill Hope in Your Teen

Action Steps:

  1. Celebrate! Make a big deal out of…well, everything! Throw a party for birthdays and graduations. Decorate for holidays—and not just Christmas! Decorating for and celebrating Easter, Fall, Valentine’s Day, and any other holiday is a fun way to give your family something to look forward to. And be sure to roll out the red, white and blue for patriotic holidays, too!
  2. Attend church services. A Harvard study found that children and teens who attend church services with their families are happier than those who do not. They were also more likely to participate in community service and avoid drug use. Another study by Pew Research found that people who attend church and participate in religious practices like Bible reading and prayer are more likely to describe themselves as “very happy.” Beyond that, attending church as a family has gives young people a sense of belonging, which combats depression. 

4. Help Your Teen Find Purpose

Action Steps:

  1. Find a good youth group at a local church. Teens can find a strong sense of community among their peers and hear a message of hope at the same time.
  2. Teach patriotism. Public schools no longer teach patriotism, which provides all Americans—especially our youth—with a strong sense of pride and purpose. At the dinner table, tell stories about our Founding Fathers and other heroes. If you have relatives who served in the military, be sure to share as much as you can with your teen. Celebrate patriotic holidays, fly and American flag outside your home and talk about how blessed we are to be Americans!

5. Be Present

Action Steps:

  1. Do everything you can to be home as much as possible for your teen. Knowing you’re there when they need you is a big deal even if they have activities and homework.
  2. Prepare an after-school snack for your teen each day and be available to chat if they’re open to it.
  3. Forego overtime work or travel and make family time a priority.
  4. Make family dinner non-negotiable.

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