In this lesson you are going to learn why your teenager is depressed and what you can do as a parent to help them through it.
In it you will discover:
- What emotions really are
- Why sadness and heavy emotions is a good thing
- How to not let your teenager’s depression escalate
- A quick fix to depression
- Why people become more depressed
- A step-by-step process in helping them
Before you start this lesson, think about the last time you were depressed. What did you do? Did you ignore those feelings? Did you turn on the TV? Open up a beer or bottle of wine? Eat chocolate? How do you face your sad feelings? Do you make a conscious effort to try and transform them? Or do you ignore or avoid them hoping they will go away?
The Signs Are Everywhere
Just turn on the TV and you will see another ad for a magic pill that helps cure depression. It’s unfortunate that our society feels it’s ok to not listen to the fact that we’re so unhappy. All emotions are signals that reflect our inner state of being. When someone becomes depressed, it is a signal from the inside saying:
“Hey, I am not happy here. Please take the time to figure out what’s going on. Then lets make a change!”
In many ways depression is our friend. It’s a warning sign that is telling us we’re going the wrong way. Suppressing and sweeping these emotions under the rug with pills so that we don’t have to face them is very dangerous. It’s like driving down a road and ignoring the “Bridge Is Out” sign up ahead. You may be able to drive a little longer but eventually you are going to go right off the cliff.
Emotions = Energy In Motion
Because so many parents are busy, it’s easier for them to ignore their child’s emotions. In fact, many of these parents do the same thing with their own emotions. Whether by taking a pill or just looking the other way, many of us have learned to take our emotions and push them down; way down. What most of us fail to realize is that emotions are real; just because you can’t physically see them doesn’t mean they’re not real. In fact, you can see them through actions like the Columbine High School Massacre, Aurora Colorado shooting, and countless other dramas that stem from people suppressing their emotions.
Many of the parents who contact me to help them with their teenagers depression do so once they have hit their “rock bottom” and are exuding poor behaviors. The truth is, the signs were there much earlier. Why are so many parents waiting until their child starts acting out-of-control or becomes withdrawn? As soon as you see the first sign, please address it immediately. Don’t just think in your mind “Oh, they’ll be fine”. Wrong. You need to help them get it out of their mind and body and transform it otherwise it will fester and grow into something much tougher later on where you will end up spending thousands on therapy and counseling.
Some people who go through extreme forms of depression are seeking attention. Even though they say they do not want it, deep down it is a cry for help and their “inner being” is begging for some love and support. When people “act out” in malicious ways, it is because nothing was done when early signs were there. So if your teenager is exuding some emotional issues, pay “attention”! Countless times I hear people talk about how the person who went off the deep end seemed “normal”. But in a world where most of us are dealing with some form of emotional challenge, then normal is still not healthy.
Embracing Our Emotions
If your teenager is exuding feelings of sadness or depression, you can help them by seeing this as a good thing. At first, it may sound crazy but what you’re really doing is letting them know that it’s ok if they’re sad, lost, confused, etc…and that it’s their responsibility for the rest of their life to use their emotions as an opportunity to change the direction of their lives. Your teenager needs to learn now how to embrace their feelings and make them their friend so that they can learn to pay more attention and use them to change something in their life. As a Neutral Parent, you need to teach them to embrace these options and use it as an opportunity to explore what they want. Almost all forms of sadness and depression stem from people not getting what they want from their lives. And it is when people do not know how to solve their own problems is why they become depressed. They feel “stuck” and it looks like there is no way out.
The Downward Spiral
By teaching him or her that it is ok to have these feelings, they won’t move toward a downward spiral. Usually people become more depressed because they judge their feelings. They think, “Oh, I’m wrong or bad for feeling this so something must be wrong with me.” This makes the situation they’re experiencing ten times worst. When we judge ourselves in this way it literally closes the door to ideas and opportunities that could help us get out of it. Just look at this statement:
“I feel lost and confused.”
A person feels “lost” because they judge where they’re at and it shuts the door on their ability to create a solution. However, if someone just feels sad without judging themselves, they can look at their feelings more objectively and come up with solutions that will help guide them to where they want to go. Society has evolved by us learning about who we are and what we want by first finding out what it is we don’t want. It’s important that your teenager not judge their experiences so that they can use them as a catalyst to get to where they actually want to go.
One of the best ways to help transform depression is exercise. Especially cardio. So why does it work so well? Remember, any form of depression is energy being suppressed in the body. Exercise helps the energy get unstuck and come out. If you’re familiar with the concept of “runners high”, it means that the individual is running at such a pace that their endorphins kick in and they feel great. People who become depressed are usually stagnant. This means that the negative energy is just sitting there and not going anywhere. One of the best things you can do to help your teenager is get them involved with some form of exercise or sport where they need to move their body rigorously. It should be something more than just weight lifting and it’s best to have some form of cardio where their entire body is moving.
What To Do
Here is a step by step plan you can use to approach your teenager when they’re feeling depressed:
Step 1 – “What’s going on?”
As a Neutral Parent, you want to open the line of communication in a way that does not add negative energy to the current situation they are in. Do not ask them “What’s wrong?” You can say, “What’s going on?” or “What is bothering you?” Remember, words are powerful and if you phrase it as “What’s wrong?”, they will associate feeling down with being wrong.
Step 2 – Explore the Situation
After you have asked them to share their feelings, let them talk it out without interrupting them. You may need to do some pulling and prodding to get it out of them but you need to make sure they put it all out on the table so they can look at it. Most parents are so focused on solving the issue that they miss the fact that just giving their teenager the space to vent their emotions is part of the process of them feeling better. If you are a woman reading this, then you know that most times you just want someone to “listen” to you and this helps you feel better. So don’t try and hurry through this step. Give your child a neutral space to “spill their guts”. The process itself is very cathartic.
Step 3 – Neutralize the Situation
Once they share everything that is going on, you can respond to them with something to the effect of, “I can understand how that might trouble you”. Or, “That is quite frustrating, I can see why you are down about that”. It is VERY important that you acknowledge their feelings so that you do not devalue or invalidate them. Once everything is on the table, by acknowledging the situation and expressing how you can understand their feelings, it helps neutralize the situation and makes it more manageable.
Step 4 – What Do You Want?
Things get us down because we are not getting what we want from life. There’s something going on where we’re not moving in a direction we prefer. You can ask them, “What would you like to see happen?” Or, “What would you prefer instead of this?” Do not try and fix them. Let them come up with their own solutions. If they’re having a hard time, guide them by asking more questions about what it is they really want. But do not move forward until they specify very clearly what they prefer or want instead. If they cannot come up with an answer right away, then let them know that you will revisit the topic later on (be specific with the time) and come back to it once they choose what it is they truly want.
Step 5 – Explore Choices
Once they’re clear on what it is they really want, you can explore the choices they would need to make in order to get it. It helps to write it down so it becomes their action plan. You need to guide them through a process where you paint a picture as to what each choice could look like. And remember, as a Neutral Parent, you are not injecting your own fear, agenda, or bias.
Step 6 – Take Action
As their coach, you will help them take action towards creating what it is they really want (It’s best to create weekly goals by writing them down and scheduling a time each week to follow up and see how they are doing). They might feel stuck, confused, or nervous so it’s very important that you coach them to take one step at a time. Be ready to be their cheerleader by encouraging them and giving them the support they need (without coddling them). Support them with “strength” and not fear. The last thing you want to do is “baby” them.
Once your child begins to take action toward a new path (and this path solidifies), their depression will almost vanish. But please, whatever you do, do not teach your child to ignore or suppress their emotions because it’s like making a ticking time bomb that will eventually explode. Remember, emotions are “energy in motion” and at some point, that energy has to go somewhere.
Lead By Example
It would also help tremendously if your teenager saw you either:
A. Generally being positive and in a good mood.
B. Able to transform your own negative experiences and turn them into a positive outcome.
If you are a “Negative Nancy” or “Debbie Downer”, then it’s going to be challenging for you to teach your child to behave positively when you haven’t learned to transform your own negative experiences. Take an honest look at yourself and make the adjustments necessary for you to lead by example.
If you don’t have a healthy and constructive system in place, now is a good time to figure out how so that you can teach it to your teenager.
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Hurt Feelings – How to talk to your teen if they have hurt feelings
Lying – How to address your teen when you catch them lying
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Out of Control – How to talk to your teen when they are out of control
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