One of the most difficult things to experience as a parent is to observe your child going through a period of personal pain. When a teenager is depressed, they can act as if the world has all but ended for them.
The first course of action as a parent is to carefully assess the reason for the depression. This may be difficult to accomplish if there are no known factors, such as a romantic break up, or failing at a sport or activity. It is important that the depression not be taken lightly if it is persistent and for no acknowledged reason. Treatment may require professional assistance in such a case.
If, however, you feel confident that your teen is just going through a normal down time, there are some positive steps you can take to help them through the situation. Mull over the thoughts in the following list. Just as all teens are unique, all of these items won’t be appropriate for all individuals. Select a couple that you can thoughtfully and lovingly use with your teen.
1. Tell them you love them, no matter what. Hopefully that is not a rare occurrence in your relationship. If your teen isn’t used to hearing that from you, it can be difficult for both of you. Nonetheless, it is a great starting point.
2. Give them a hug. Again, even if this is awkward, it may be just the thing your teen needs.
3. Tell them their hurt makes you hurt. Be empathetic, not sympathetic. Let them know you know they are down and hurting and you are there for them.
4. Listen. If your teen will talk to you, just listen. It’s hard to do, but make every effort not to offer immediate solutions. Respond in ways that let them know you are listening, but don’t quiz them. Don’t be judgmental or critical, no matter what is said. Listen first. If a response is appropriate or necessary, give it time and develop an approach after the listening session.
5. Do something fun. If you have a favorite place or activity that has been fun in the past, invite them to go with you to do it again. Don’t force it. Simply suggesting the activity might be enough to get a smile or a positive response.
6. Cook a favorite food. Think about the favorite dessert or food that your teen enjoys. Best of all, have them help you in the preparation. If you aren’t into cooking, it may be that ordering their favorite pizza is a good choice.
7. Watch a movie together. If you know their favorite movie, even if it’s from years ago, rent or buy it and put some popcorn on.
8. Consider that there may be a physical illness that needs a doctor’s visit.
9. If you know them well enough, talk to a close friend of your teen. This is a touchy step requiring sensitivity. Sometimes, a friend will know exactly what is going on and are glad to talk. This can be very helpful. It can also be a landmine, so be careful if you choose this step.
10. If the depression is ongoing and appears to be worsening, you may need to stop thinking about cheering up and instead seek professional help.
In truly difficult cases, it may be that your teen needs a change in environment. If that diagnosis is made, you might carefully consider a quality boarding school. Reading a few military school reviews may also be encouraging in realizing that you are and your teen are not alone in facing difficult times.
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