"Thanks…finally hope at the end of the tunnel, but need some help on dealing with someone who is also depressed. Should I change anything about the program, or just try to follow the first week and see what happens?"
Simply follow the program as it is. Here are some things to bear in mind though:
- Validate feelings. Don’t try to talk your son out of his depression, even if his feelings or concerns appear silly or irrational to you. Simply acknowledge the pain and sadness he is feeling. If you don’t, he will feel like you don’t take his emotions seriously.
- Offer support. It's important to let your depressed teenager know that you’re there for him, fully and unconditionally. Hold back from asking a lot of questions (teenagers don’t like to feel patronized or crowded), but make it clear that you’re ready and willing to provide whatever support he needs.
- Listen without lecturing. Resist any urge to criticize or pass judgment once your teenager begins to talk. The important thing is that he is communicating. Avoid offering unsolicited advice.
- Be gentle - but persistent. Don’t give up if your son shuts you out at first. Talking about depression can be very tough for teens. Be respectful of his comfort level while still emphasizing your concern and willingness to listen.
- If your son claims that nothing is wrong, but has no explanation for what is causing the depressed behavior, you should trust your instincts. Remember that denial is a strong emotion. Furthermore, teenagers may not believe that what they’re experiencing is the result of depression. If you see depression warning signs, seek professional help -- but DO NOT feel sorry for your son and attempt to save him from his sadness by over-indulging him. This will make a bad problem worse. Plus he will get a huge payoff for staying depressed.
- Lastly, don't make the typical parenting mistake that most moms and dads make when they have a teen who is behaving badly - but who is also depressed (e.g., "I know he violated his curfew, but we shouldn't ground him because it will just make him even more depressed"). Even a depressed teen should receive appropriate consequences for his poor choices, otherwise you will be giving him the following message: It's O.K. to make poor choices since you are depressed.
Note: None of the above considerations go against the goals of the four-week program.
My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents