As a dad, it really tugs at my heartstrings anytime someone wants to know and asks How do I help my depressed teenage daughter? I’ve got some pointers today. how to help my child with depression
Teen depression, it’s become a big concern. In fact, suicide is the number three cause of death for people under the age of 25. That’s pretty significant. Now not all depressed teens are suicidal.
In fact, most of them are not, that’s just one of the symptoms or possible manifestations of depression. There’s a lot of other teens who are experiencing depression, and they may even be in the early stages of it, so as you look for changes in behavior, things that are not typical for your son or daughter.
How can you help your daughter who has depression?
I’ve got three suggestions for you today, maybe we could call them rules. Can we elevate them to that status?
1 – Put your own mask on first
Here’s rule number one. Put your own mask on first. Now, this goes back to my experience in flying on airplanes, and some of you have done this as well. You know when you’re getting on a commercial airliner, and they go through the little safety routine, right?
And you’re supposed to follow along on your laminated card. I hope that you do that and they get to this point where they say, if we lose cabin pressure then these oxygen masks are going to fall from the ceiling and you fasten them on with a little rubber band and then breathe normally, right?
Yeah, your planes going down, you’re going to breathe normally, but anyway, at that point in the routine, they always say this, if you’re traveling with young children or someone who needs assistance, please put your own mask on first.
Now, why do they say that? Because if you’re out cold in the aisle, you’re just in the way, right? You’re not fully functioning so that you can assist another person. Why did I make this the first rule? If you want to help your daughter.
For example, a teenage daughter who seems to be experiencing some depression or you’re noticing some of the signs and symptoms, it’s enormously essential for you as a parent to be in the right place. It’s an enormous burden for kids and especially for teenagers if they feel like they have to take care of their adult parent emotionally or otherwise and a lot of times, they’re hesitant even to share anything that’s going on because they’re afraid of how it might impact you so get into a right place.
I think as you find yourself in a place where you are positive and happy and you know what, we got many of article on that stuff so please go look at those and do whatever you need to get yourself into a right place, get some counseling, get some coaching, whatever you need to do to take care of this one, because then you can show up and really help your daughter or your son with what it is they’re experiencing.
This takes away the burden, so they don’t have to take care of you, so you got it? That’s rule number one, you put your own mask on first.
2 – Listen, Listen and Listen
Rule number two – listen, listen, and listen. I said it three times. Listen, you want to provide an open listening ear, there’s something enormously therapeutic about being able to share what’s on your heart and mind.
Especially with someone that you don’t have to worry too much about emotionally that they can handle it, they can take it, that’s just a little call back to why rule number one is so significant.
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So you put yourself in a position where you can create for your daughter, let’s just focus on your daughter for purposes of this Article but understand that this can go for sons too.
Your daughter’s experiencing some depression, she’s got some things on her mind, you create for her a safe, loving, stable open environment where she can talk about anything.
Now let me address that for. I’ve been practicing as a psychologist now for about 23 years, I’ve listened to a lot of stuff, you can’t shock which is enormously therapeutic to my clients who come in with some burden on their mind that they want to share, but they’re afraid of the shock value, you know, that maybe if they share these people are going to look at them differently, or people are going to think about them individually, or it’s going to shock or alarm someone.
We take all of that away, and we can hear anything so adding to rule number two of listen, listen, and listen including that, no freakout, alright?
One of the worst things that can happen is that somebody will share something with you and you’re like, what?
Right? And you freak out, it’s like, no, I can’t believe I’m hearing this.
Well, that’s not helping, okay. For them to share it is what we’re going to focus on. It doesn’t matter what the content is, you prepare yourself to hear anything, and usually, it’s not going to be as shocking and terrifying as that person who wants to share it with you thinks it is. So your daughter is thinking,
Oh my gosh, mom’s going to freak out, mom’s going to freak out, and she finally gets up the guts and the courage to share something with you, and you receive it peacefully. In fact, you practiced this response. Okay, thank you for sharing that with me, we can handle this.
Do you see how reassuring that is? You don’t even have to know how you’re going to handle it but what I want to create here is a listening parent that’s able to receive anything that’s going to come up, okay? Sometimes it helps beforehand to do the little what-if game, okay. So imagine that your daughter is into whatever it is that you’re afraid she’s into, what if my daughter tells me she’s on drugs, okay, we’ll handle that beforehand so that you can practice saying okay.
You know, no matter what it is, okay, we’ve got this, we’ll do whatever it takes to handle this. See, you’re going to be reassuring peaceful present. Well, what if my daughter is having sex with her boyfriend? Okay, we got this. Same response to anything that they can share with you, that’s powerful, so rule number two listen, listen, and listen and remember, you got two ears and one mouth, So we’re going to use them at least in that proportion okay. Usually, your kids just need to offload some stuff. First, they don’t need to hear any advice at this point.
In fact, I would have refrained from giving advice. You just open up that space for them to talk. Okay, you with me? And that’s challenging enough okay so whatever you need to do to create a context for that, and sometimes you get out of the house, alright. You might notice that your daughter needs to talk a little bit, so you say,
Hey honey, let’s go take a drive. You know, and you get her in the car, and you go up through the mountains or something where you’ve got a little bit of time where you’re in a private space, and she can talk or hey, can I take you to lunch today? You know, and you go somewhere where you actually have a little booth where you can have some kind of a private conversation in a public place, these are just a few tips and tricks to sort of help get them talking.
Now if they don’t want to talk yet, if she’s just like, I can’t. I can’t even talk about it, mom. I can’t, I don’t feel like saying, anything, dad. Okay, that’s fine, accept that and continue to create the open safe space where that can happen. As you work on your listening, your focus is really important.
3 – As A Parent You Have Some Responsibility
Now let’s go on to rule number three. Here’s where I’m going with rule number three. As a parent, you have some responsibilities. We never want to take depression or suicidal thoughts or actions lightly, this is important, so let’s do everything that we can to assist our child.
Rule number three is this, be willing to be the parent. Now up until now, it’s kind of feeling like, well, we’re going to be their friend, right? Because we want to make sure that we’re doing okay first so that we’re in a right place that’s rule number one, we’re going to listen, listen and listen, create that safe environment for the communication lines to be open that’s rule number two. It feels really chummy, really friendly at this point.
You’re still the parent, so I want you to be able to ask the hard question.
Talking about death won’t kill you. That’s pretty good advice and talking about the things that you’re concerned about won’t cause those things to come about, and probably it’s stuff that your teenager is already thinking about. So, as you’re sitting with your daughter, it’s okay for you to ask the hard questions.
You can preface it by saying something like, you know, sweetie, some kids in your position have gotten into drugs or sex or are thinking about hurting themselves or have been cutting themselves or doing potentially harmful things. I know that that happens. Is that something that’s happening for you?
You can ask the question and be willing to ask the hard questions because that opens up a whole new line of communication and it sends a message to your daughter too that anything is a fair game we can talk about any of this stuff and I’m still not going to be freaked out.
Remember the no freakout rule? You come to this as a calm, reassuring loving parent, you’re willing to ask those hard questions and then the second part of that third rule which is to you know, be the parent. The second part of that is to provide the necessary support, and they may not be really eager or willing to do it at the time.
Some I asked some Child’s that Did your parents drag you in here kicking and screaming? And that kind of puts them at ease a little bit because I’m acknowledging, hey, this is not an easy thing to do but your parents love you so much that they are willing to provide resources that you need so that might mean counseling or therapy or coaching or getting into some kind of a program that offers peer support or group therapy, medication sometimes is helpful.
But as a parent, you still get to call the shots on that, and there will be times when they don’t want to, or they feel resistant, and you’re going to have to make a judgment call to say, you know what?
sweetie, I care about you so much that I’ve set up this appointment, and I’m inviting you to come with me because I think this is an excellent resource to help you deal with the things that are coming up for you.
So, you got it? Three rules.
Number one, you put your own mask on first.
Number two, listen, listen, listen.
And number three, you get to be the parent still, ask those hard questions, and provide the necessary support.
Whether it’s your daughter or your son or anybody else that you love, I hope you found some useful content here. Would you please comment below about what you’re learning?