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.
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- The Indiaparenting Team