Depressed And Anxious Teens: Experts Give Practical Advice On How To Help (Including Checklists)

Depressed Anxious Teens Practical Advice

About ten to fifteen minutes is needed. For the first week teens should do this exercise daily. After that consider reducing the frequency to three or four times a week. Eventually you can reduce this to once weekly.

How, specifically, do you go about getting the most out of this Best Self Ever exercise? Easy. Find a quiet place to sit. No interruptions. Set a timer for ten or fifteen minutes. Have a pen and paper.

After quieting one’s mind begin to think about what the best version of yourself would be like.

Not the fantasy version where you can fly or have superhuman strength. Save those thoughts for another time. This is a reality grounded exercise.

What would the best version of you be like, and more importantly, how would this change your life? Begin to write what comes to mind. There is no need to worry about spelling, grammar, etc. Remind your teen that no one is looking over his/her shoulder. No one is grading their writing. 

This should be approached with the mindset that your son or daughter has already worked very hard to achieve their goals. They have succeeded in hitting the targets in life that are of the deepest importance to them.

The question for your teen is “What qualities did you use to achieve these goals? Was it persistence, creativity, ability to work with others?”  

Also ask, “How would my life be different?” Not just in regard to having achieved certain goals, but more generally. Would your best possible self-have deeper friendships; be more adventurous and explore the world; be more generous and involved in charitable activities.

The point is to explore the possibilities that exist if your teen were to fully develop his or her strengths.

Stop The Bullies

Some teens who are bullied suffer in silence. When this happens it is often because they are embarrassed. They already feel weak and humiliated. To disclose to their parents that they are being bullied just adds to their sense of shame. It makes them feel even more fragile.

Many teens also worry that their parents will go to the school, and this (in their minds) would make matters worse.

If your teen is depressed or anxious, and you cannot discern what is causing the distress, it is wise to consider whether bullying might be involved.

Depressed And Anxious Teens
Depressed And Anxious Teens

Talk to your teen. Speak directly to the subject. There is no need to be subtle when asking about this subject (such approaches can add to the sense of this being an embarrassing topic).

If it turns out that your son, or daughter, is being bullied you will need to take action. Most youngsters have little idea how to effectively deal with a bully by themselves. This is why your help will be essential.

Let’s look at several ways you can respond if your teen is being bullied.

Enlist The Help Of The School

It would be terrific if you were able to count on the school to help you deal with bullies. My experience over the past 25 years has led me to conclude that schools are uniquely inept at dealing with this problem.

This is not for a lack of concern, but usually due to a lack of courage. Teachers and administrators are afraid of upsetting parents. Normally, the only circumstance under which teachers and administrators take decisive action is when the bullying is so egregious that there is no question but that one student is in the wrong. Even then, successful intervention by schools is rare.

Nevertheless, it is important to bring the issue up with teachers and administrators (usually the school principal). Be specific about what the problem is and how you expect the school to respond in order to safeguard the well-being of your son or daughter.

Make certain to contact school personnel through email (a written record of your attempts to engage the school is important). Follow up with ‘in person’ meetings. After each meeting send the main participants an email that summarizes what was spoken about and the agreed-upon steps for resolving the problem.

This type of documentation helps keep the school accountable and is vital for effective follow up.

If this fails to resolve the issue (again, it probably will not have the desired outcome of ending the bullying), then some of the following suggestions may help.

Related: 6 Ways Parents Can Communicate With Their Teenagers Better (According To Teens)

Contact The Bully’s Parents

Call the parents of the teen who is causing the problems. Calmly describe your concerns and attempt to engage the parents in setting limits on their teen. It may be that the parents are unaware of the problem and are highly invested in not raising a youngster who engages in this sort of behavior.

Enroll Your Teen In An ‘Antibully’ Program

Find a local program that teaches teens how to stand up to bullies. Your teen will be encouraged by learning new skills for dealing with bullies, and by forming friendships with other teens who struggle with the same challenge. A sense of optimism will grow and take root as they hear success stories from their peers.

Encourage Healthy Friendships

Help your teen develop healthy friendships with other students. This often creates a buffer from bullies. It also provides a counterweight to the negative impact of being bullied (instead of feeling helpless and rejected they will experience being accepted, appreciated, and supported).

Instill A Sense Of Physical Competency

Enroll your teen in Jujitsu training. No, the goal is not to have your teen play ‘whack a mole’ with his or her tormentor. But this type of training will increase your teen’s confidence tremendously. Moreover, if the bully does push things to the point of physical confrontation, your son or daughter will be more than capable of defending themselves. In all likelihood, the bully would then move on to other targets.

A word of caution. Not all martial arts are created equal. There are many karate studios in nearly every city, large or small. These studios teach important lessons about self-discipline and respect for authority. What they generally do not teach is effective self-defense. Many of these dojos (not all) focus on quickly promoting students in order to maintain a large class size (it is part of a business model).

Most Jujitsu and Judo studios take a different approach. This means getting promoted to a higher belt occurs more slowly, but what is learned in the process (persistence, discipline, confidence, teamwork and combative skills) is more deeply rooted.

Find a Jujitsu (or Judo) school and you’ll be good to go.

Depressed And Anxious Teens

Change Schools

Consider removing your teen from school. This may mean you change to a different school, a private school, charter school, or even home school. The deep and pervasive impact of severe bullying is not worth the victory of graduating from high school where bullying takes place.

The last suggestion is to seek legal counsel. Many schools fail to protect children from bullying and in doing so open themselves up for litigation. It is the school’s responsibility to protect every student, and when they wantonly fail to do so they should be held accountable.

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