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Helping your Teenager Overcome Depression

  • The first thing to do is to help your teenager set realistic short-term goals. Ask him for suggestions on how he would like to improve his life. Then help him identify some simple steps he can take to achieve these goals. Remember not to set goals, which are unattainable, as this will just reinforce his belief that he is a failure. On the other hand, do not aim for things that are easily attainable. The whole idea is that your teenager must feel that he has been equal to the challenge. 
  • Make sure that you encourage him at every step and help him in every way possible without actually doing his work for him. For instance, if he wants to audition for a play, help him rehearse and boost his confidence without giving him false hope.
  • If he fails to reach his set goals, do not try to sweep it under the carpet and smooth it over with inanities like "you'll do better next time." Acknowledge his failure and discuss why it happened. Maybe he gave up too easily or didn't study hard enough or had a panic attack. It's important to get this out in the open so that you know what your teenager attributes his failure to and correct any misconceptions that he may have.
  • Do not compare your teenager to his peers and find him wanting. Don't say things like "why can't you be like that?" You will just be reinforcing his belief that he's not good enough the way he is, even for you. You have to teach him that he can admire others without necessarily envying them. If he comments in an envious tone about another teenager's attributes, admit that the other child is good, but point out something that your teenager is good at.
  • Depressed teenagers tend to vacillate over every decision. This is because they don't trust their own judgement and need to be constantly reassured that they are doing the 'right thing.' You have to help your teenager make decisions in a way that he will learn to trust his own judgement. It is also important that you insist that once he has made a choice, he must go through with it and cope with the consequences, whatever they are.
  • Short-term measures like buying your teenager tickets to a concert or taking him for a holiday are not going to alleviate his depression. You are going to have to sit down and talk to him about what exactly it is that bothers him and how he can overcome it. You have to take steps to make him feel empowered so that he feels that he can effectively accomplish the things he sets out to do.

Back to Part 1 - Why Do Teenagers Get Depressed?

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