- Connection between parental depression and teen behavior
- Why is my child making me miserable
- What should I do
Ah, the teenage years. It’s a time of rebellion, identity crises, and endless mood swings. Just when you thought you had this parenting thing down, your once-sweet child transforms into a creature you barely recognize.
If you’ve found yourself whispering, “My teenager is making me depressed,” you’re not alone.
Many of us have been there, teetering on the edge of sanity, wondering where things went wrong.
The Connection Between Parental Depression and Teen Behavior
Research consistently shows a link between parental depression, especially maternal depression, and behavioral challenges in teenagers.
These challenges can manifest outwardly as aggression or delinquency or inwardly as anxiety or even depression in the teen.1
This relationship is a two-way street.
On the one hand, a teenager with pronounced externalizing behavioral issues can heighten stress and depressive symptoms in their parent.
Conversely, parental depression, especially maternal depression, can influence or lead to a teen’s disruptive behavior.
A parent’s parenting approach can become inconsistent due to depression, decreasing emotional support, or causing conflict between parents.
These factors can create a feedback loop and further contribute to a teen’s behavioral struggles.
While the parents suffer mentally, children of parents with depression are more likely to experience mental health disorders, academic difficulties, social difficulties, behavioral problems, and emotional health issues.
So, it’s important to tackle this issue early on.
But first, take a deep breath.
The teen years are often depicted as a whirlwind of mood swings and defiance.
Yet, it’s also a pivotal phase brimming with potential.
This is when their personalities evolve, values take root, and the groundwork for their adult lives is established.
Every tense moment, every argument, and even those exasperated eye rolls offer chances to nurture resilience and impart core values.
Why is my child making me miserable
Every parent dreams of a smooth journey for their child, one filled with happiness, success, and growth.
As parents, we naturally have aspirations for our children.
We envision them achieving milestones, making wise decisions, and leading fulfilling lives.
When their choices don’t align with our hopes or when they make big mistakes, it can be a source of distress.
Our innate desire to shield our children from harm means that our protective instincts kick into overdrive when we perceive them heading down a potentially harmful path.
Our teenagers are on a mission to find themselves, and sometimes that means tuning out our well-meaning advice.
Not only that, instead of a calm chat over breakfast, we find ourselves in tug-of-war debates and door-slamming showdowns.
And if you’ve got a strong-willed teen?
Their determination to stand their ground can turn everyday conversations into full-blown courtroom dramas.
You’re constantly walking on eggshells to avoid the next big blow-up.
What should I do
Two primary categories of factors can contribute to your misery: those you can control and those you can’t.
Events such as natural disasters or the loss of a loved one are uncontrollable circumstances that can understandably weigh heavily on any parent’s heart.
Unfortunately, we cannot change them.
And there are things that we can control. It’s these very elements that can be our saving grace.
By focusing on what we can influence and change, we can create a buffer against feelings of disappointment and distress.
The reality is we hold the most influence over our own actions and choices.
So, to make a difference in our situations, we must start with ourselves.
It might sound unfair or illogical.
But to turn the situation around, either one of you must start making changes.
Keep confiscating their iPads, iPhones, or video games, cutting their allowance, adding more chores, or grounding them will continue to make both of you miserable.
Stop searching for the one magical punishment that will change everything in your teen.
It doesn’t exist.
Here are some strategies to help navigate this intricate dance of adolescence to maintain your well-being and foster a deep, rewarding parent-child relationship.
Trust your teen is smart
We all know our kids are bright. But sometimes, they pull stunts that leave us scratching our heads, thinking, “What on earth were they thinking?”
Though teenage brains are still developing, we can’t pin all their disruptive behavior solely on immature brains.
Another reason they might be tuning out our advice is that we’re standing in their way.
When we’re always in their face, pointing out every misstep or laying down the law, we block their views and become the main obstacle they see.
So rather than thinking about the real fallout of their choices, they’re too busy trying to dodge our lectures or push back against our rules.
Now, don’t get me wrong. If they’re about to do something seriously dangerous, like leap off a cliff, then absolutely step in and be the barrier.
They need to see it’s not about your frustration but about the real-world consequences on them.
Believe in your teen.
Give them the space to mess up, learn, and then figure things out.
They’ll start connecting the dots when they see the real results of their actions.
With your guidance, not directives, they’ll soon start making smart choices without you yelling at them.
The less you try to control them, the more motivated they will be
Teenagers’ unpredictable actions aren’t just about not grasping the consequences; there’s more to it that can leave parents of teens feeling depressed.
When we attempt to control and change their bad behavior, we inadvertently sap their motivation to do what we ask them.
Psychologists have found that autonomy is a fundamental psychological need.2
This sense of control and independence leads to the kind of intrinsic motivation you want them to have to do things you want them to do.3
Without the freedom to choose, their motivation diminishes.
Using punishment to make teenagers do what we want is like a one-two punch: we obscure their understanding and undermine their motivation.
The fact that some kids flourish despite such constraints is genuinely remarkable.
So, while strict parenting might occasionally produce success stories, it’s more the exception than the rule.
Also See: What motivates your child
Instill Your Values, But Be Open to Theirs
Allowing your teenager autonomy is not the whole story.
You must also give them the tools to think things through and weigh the pros and cons.
The key is to explain your thinking and instill your values.
Break it down and explain your perspective.
If they get the reasoning behind your advice, they’re more likely to make sound choices in the long run.4
Your child and you won’t see eye to eye on everything.
When it’s not a life-or-death situation, let them chart their own course.
Chatting with teenagers can sometimes feel like you’re trying to crack a secret code.
They might not always be the best at putting their feelings into words, and sometimes, they might not even fully grasp what’s bubbling up inside them.
So, as parents, we’ve got to channel our inner detective vibes.
Listen—really listen—to their words, the silent pauses, and even the loud sighs to truly get what’s going on in their heads.
There may be some key insights for parents.
Ask one last question and let go
If they’re leaning towards a decision that makes you raise an eyebrow, ask them, “If things go south, can you handle it?”
If they’re sure they can, sometimes it’s a lesson they’ve got to learn on their own.
Separate your wants from their needs
Understand the difference between what you want them to do and what they need to succeed in adulthood.
For instance, a parent might want their child to pursue a particular career because they see it as prestigious or lucrative. Forcing their child into a career they do not like will not meet the child’s psychological needs.
It’s easy to project our own unfulfilled dreams or desires onto our children.
Maybe we missed certain opportunities and want to ensure our children seize them.
However, what was a missed chance for us might not be their passion or interest.
Allow open communication (even disrespectful ones)
Imagine this: you’ve just splurged on a pricey item, only to discover it’s faulty.
Naturally, you’re frustrated and return to the store, voicing your complaints sharply.
But instead of meeting your agitation with defensiveness, the staff member calmly apologizes and assures you of a solution.
Almost instantly, your demeanor and mood shift and the tension dissipates.
The lesson here?
Remember, their brains are still maturing, and they might not always have a grip on their emotions.
This is our chance to guide them in recognizing and managing their feelings.
Engaging in a shouting match or demanding immediate respect will likely lead nowhere.
By staying calm and understanding, we can foster a more constructive conversation and teach them how adults can disagree respectfully.
Also See: Top 10 Good Parenting Tips
Need Help Motivating Kids?
If you are looking for additional tips and an actual step-by-step plan, this online course How To Motivate Kids is a great place to start.
It gives you the steps you need to identify motivation issues in your child and the strategy you can apply to help your child build self-motivation and become passionate about learning.
Once you know this science-based strategy, motivating your child becomes easy and stress-free.
Seek help from mental health services
In challenging times, the relationship between parents and their teens can be strained, especially when mental health struggles come into play.
Seek help from your healthcare providers immediately if you are depressed or suspect you have depression.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration offers a confidential helpline, SAMHSA’s National Helpline, providing 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral.
Also See: Inspiring Parenting Quotes
- 1.Allen JP, Manning N, Meyer J. Tightly linked systems: Reciprocal relations between maternal depressive symptoms and maternal reports of adolescent externalizing behavior. Journal of Abnormal Psychology. Published online November 2010:825-835. doi:10.1037/a0021081
- 2.Guay F. Applying Self-Determination Theory to Education: Regulations Types, Psychological Needs, and Autonomy Supporting Behaviors. Canadian Journal of School Psychology. Published online October 27, 2021:75-92. doi:10.1177/08295735211055355
- 3.Hafen CA, Allen JP, Mikami AY, Gregory A, Hamre B, Pianta RC. The Pivotal Role of Adolescent Autonomy in Secondary School Classrooms. J Youth Adolescence. Published online December 24, 2011:245-255. doi:10.1007/s10964-011-9739-2
- 4.Van Petegem S, Beyers W, Vansteenkiste M, Soenens B. On the association between adolescent autonomy and psychosocial functioning: Examining decisional independence from a self-determination theory perspective. Developmental Psychology. Published online January 2012:76-88. doi:10.1037/a0025307