4 Effective Ways to Support a Depressed Teen at Family Gatherings So They Can Engage Happily

Do you have a depressed teen?

I was one myself, and I can’t imagine being a parent watching their child suffer. My kids are still little but in 10 years, they could be in the same shoes. I often wonder how I will handle it.

Check out this guest post about parenting a depressed teen at family gatherings, and let us know what you think in the comments!

Also, I am not a doctor or mental health professional. Just someone who has lived with depression and anxiety for many years who is passionate about sharing her experiences and tips for success. If you are in crisis call your doctor, then click here for some good mental health resources.

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Family gathering with a depressed teen

Did you enjoy family gatherings as a teen? If not, what did you dislike about them?

Family gatherings can be a stressful situation for depressed teens. They dread family gatherings and try to avoid them in the best possible way. Stress and social anxiety make them afraid of upcoming events.

As a parent, it’s an extremely tough situation. On one hand, you have to take care of your depressed teen. On the other hand, you can’t possibly avoid all the social gatherings since your relatives will be offended. They may feel that you’re showing attitude and sever ties with you.

No one can understand your pain unless someone is in your shoes.

What will you do in these situations? How many family gatherings will you skip? How will you avoid family gatherings at your home during the holidays?

It’s true that depressed teens love to isolate themselves inside their room day after day. But that is not healthy. You should encourage your teen to interact with people as much as possible. If there is a family gathering, you should encourage your teen to participate in it, and take the following steps to provide the best support you can.

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4 ways to support your teen

1. Try to understand the psychology of a depressed child

Depressed teens are emotional children. They need love, care, and emotional support from parents. They want their parents to understand them and give them some space.

As a parent, it’s tough to understand the psychology of depressed teens. Sometimes, your teen is aloof and sad. Sometimes, he or she shouts at everyone in the family. It’s difficult to understand what is wrong with your teen.

Consult a good psychiatrist in a nearby mental clinic, and try to understand how depression works in a teen. Ask the psychiatrist why a depressed teen likes to avoid a family gathering. Ask him how you can convince your depressed teen to attend the family gathering, and how you can deal with the situation deftly.

2. Have a frank discussion with family members

This is not the time to play hide and seek. Let your family members know that your teen is going through a very tough time. Explain why your teen is depressed and ask for support from them. Have an open discussion with your family members so that they can avoid hurting your teen even unknowingly.

If your teen is depressed due to a bad relationship, then instruct your family members not to ask questions related to it. If your teen is depressed due to bad academic record, then no one should ask questions about exams and grades. These questions will just add fuel to the fire, and increase their stress.

3. Motivate your teen to attend the party

Initially, your depressed teen will be completely against attending family gatherings. So you have to offer encouragement to him or her for attending the family gathering.

Tell your teen that it’s not possible to avoid people and questions throughout life. He or she has to face them and their questions one day. So isn’t it good that your teen faces them head-on at the family gathering, and gets over the social phobia?

Ask your teen if they are comfortable with sharing his or her bitter experience with family members. If your teen is not comfortable, then support him or her for the time being. Prepare a list of questions that people may ask him. Also, prepare smart answers that your teen can give to people. This will boost your teen’s confidence and reduce his or her fear of facing embarrassing questions from the family members.

Sometimes, people without having any bad intention say things that are insensitive. Those remarks are enough to hurt your teen. Teach your teen how to tackle those remarks and situations. If you have no idea of how to answer questions smartly, then ask the psychiatrist to explain to you the ways to handle them.

4. Be empathetic with your teen

Teenage is very dangerous emotionally. Children go through a transitional phase from childhood and adulthood. They are extremely sensitive during this time, and you need to handle them carefully. They have too much self-respect during this time. One bad word is enough to make them angry and irritated.

So, you should never vent out your anger if your depressed teen doesn’t want to attend a party in spite of your repeated requests.

The depressed mood won’t go away in a day. You have to be patient and provide constant support to your child. Just place yourself in his or her position for a second and try to feel their pain. Sometimes, it’s perfectly fine if your depressed teen decides to stay back at home.

Additional tips

1. Give a book or an MP3 player or a smartphone to help your teen distract himself or herself when uncomfortable conversations are going on in a party.

2. If the party is too overwhelming for your teen, then leave a bit early.


Family gatherings are all about hearty laughter, delicious meals, delightful conversations, and revisiting old memories. They act as oxygen for many people.

However, for depressed teens, social gatherings are full of insensitive dialogues, arguments, and tears. They don’t know the correct way of tackling a series of questions that often come from curious people.

As a parent of a depressed teen, you have double responsibilities. Your first responsibility is to let your teen know that the world is full of insensitive people, and it’s impossible to avoid them throughout life. Teach your teen how to respond to those insensitive people in a smart way. Assure your teen that you’ll be beside him or her if someone mocks or throws an unkind word.

Likewise, before the party begins, speak to the family members about the current mental state of your teen, and ask for their moral support.

When your depressed teen finds that everyone is cordial with him or her, he or she will also shed inhibitions, and participate in family gatherings whole-heartedly.

Have you ever dealt with this? What did you do to help? Let me know in the comments!

And remember, as long as your depressed teen knows they are supported, you are doing a great job!

About the Author

Ralph Macey is working with an upscale psychiatric facility.  His work involves removing the social stigma associated with chronic mental disorders like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, dementia, ADHD, depression, loneliness, PTSD, etc. His work focuses on the integrated interventions to improve mental health and the alternative approaches to healing. 

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Living With a Depressed Partner: How You Can Be Kind and Supportive in Difficult Times

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