Helping Your Depressed Teen Plan for After High School

If your teenager has depression, you might be looking ahead to his or her high school graduation with a sense of fear. Your teen likely feels overwhelmed with all that needs to be accomplished, and you might worry about how he or she will do once they leave the nest. Having a plan can help your depressed teen feel more secure and able to cope. Read on for some tips on helping your depressed teen plan for life after high school and beyond.

Get a Diagnosis and a Treatment Plan

If you suspect that your teen is struggling with depression, then it’s important to seek a diagnosis immediately. There are a few reasons for this.

The first is that when treated early, depression can improve before it gets severe. In some cases, this can prevent suicidal thoughts or even a successful suicide. It’s essential that parents take the signs of depression, particularly when paired with suicidal ideation, seriously. Talk to your teen’s primary care physician and ask for a referral to a mental health care provider who can help.

Another reason for seeking a treatment plan now is that it’s going to be easier for you to help your teen get this situation under control while he or she is still under your care. Once your teen reaches the age of majority, it will be difficult, if not impossible, for you to insist that he or she seek the appropriate treatment.

Finally, taking your teen’s mental health seriously now will model good behavior. If he or she struggles with a mental health condition as an adult, your teen will know what to do and how to seek help.

Have Realistic Expectations (and Talk About Them)

Your depressed teen might be overwhelmed not only by his or her own expectations, but also by yours. It’s even possible that your teen thinks your expectations are much higher than they actually are. If he or she is feeling terrible about not being accepted to an Ivy League school, for example, then you might be putting his or her mind at ease dramatically by letting them know that you are just as proud of them for going to a state school or a community college.

If your teen is putting too much pressure on him- or herself, it can help if you talk about how to set reasonable expectations. A teen should be encouraged to apply to a “reach” school, but it’s also important that they also apply for programs that they will almost definitely get into. Also, remember that many teens will want to go directly into the workforce or into a short certificate program. Discuss all of these options with your teen, and encourage him or her to take pride in whatever path they choose. It can be hard for teens to remember that what they choose to do at the age of 17 or 18 is not likely to be their lifetime career path. Assure your teen that there is plenty of time to make a different decision later, if they so choose.

Communicate With the Guidance Counselor

Your teenager’s guidance counselor has undoubtedly helped students with various types of mental health conditions make choices about their futures. If your teen is amenable to you doing so, talk to the guidance counselor about your child’s current situation. The counselor can talk to your teen about the choices available. Many times, having a plan can help reduce the symptoms of depression and anxiety, because they can allow the teen to feel like they are in control during a time when things might seem very overwhelming.

Another benefit to talking to the guidance counselor is that the counselor can assure your depressed teen that they have seen other adolescents in the same situation go on to do great things and live happy lives. That hope can raise your teenager’s spirits and help him or her to look ahead to the future with excitement rather than dread.

Teach Your Depressed Teen About Time and Money Management

Depression can make even simple tasks seem overwhelming. For your teen, concepts like managing time and managing money can become paralyzing. Keep in mind that up to this point, you have been there to help your child manage his or her time and money. Knowing that within a few years, they’ll be responsible for these tasks on their own can be frightening for a teenager, particularly one who struggles with depression and anxiety about the future.

If you haven’t already, take your teen to the bank to open a checking account. Encourage a teen who is old enough to work to get a part-time job. This might mean spending a few hours per week bagging groceries or serving fries, or it might mean starting a babysitting, dog-walking, or lawn-mowing service. This can help your teen learn about money management and time management. There are many resources available to help if you are unsure of where to start; consider Dave Ramsey’s advice for teenagers and  Time Management Success.

Assure Your Teen of Your Continued Help

Your teen might need more help as a young adult if he or she is struggling with depression. Also, the thought of not having help after high school graduation can be very frightening for a teen with any type of mental health condition. Assure your depressed teen that you will continue to help him or her as needed after high school graduation and in the coming years. This assurance alone might help your teen relax and not feel as though they’re in such a time crunch.

Parenting a teenager with depression can be trying, and it’s normal for parents to feel overwhelmed. You might be worried about finding the balance between helping your adolescent and letting him or her trust their own wings. Don’t be afraid to seek help if you aren’t sure how to best support your depressed teen as he or she makes the transition from adolescence to adulthood while battling depression.