Depressed Teenager: Hope For Happiness | Teaching Self-Government

Depressed Teenager: Hope For Happiness

I have attended your classes at home school conferences and bought the mp3;s.  I am currently purchasing your book, however, I am in crisis.  I have a 17 rd old son that has  been homeschooled since fourth grade.  We originally took him out due to severe depression.  This is something he struggles with.  He has always done well in school.  He went to the public high school for his freshman year.  He was top of the class academically but he hated every minute of it and we allowed him to come back to home school for the past two years.   About six months ago I could see that he was clinically depressed and we found a counselor to help us through that.  It turns out he was introduced to pornography at school and became addicted and the guilt has caused him to lose about a year of his life.  We are dealing with this issue and he is doing very well and continues to receive counseling with us.   The crisis is that he cant make a decision about anything in his life and he seems to have no self control.  He wants us to tell him every little thing to do and takes no responsibility.  He takes 8 hours to do simple science due to the fact that if I walk out of his earshot he will immediately waste time doing anything else.  It is so frustrating that we have to literally babysit him and that he needs us to.  I am at my wits end with him and feel like throwing in the towel and sending him to boarding school.  Of course, my rational mind knows that I must clean up this mess with him and no one else.   Can you please give me some direction on how to get this kid to take back his life and not put us in  the position of jailers.
I feel your pain through your words. This is definitely a difficult situation indeed. I commend you for tackling this yourself. It is hard work to live with and teach someone with depression. I have had foster children who had depression too. I know it gets in the way of everything. On that train of thought I want you to know that some of the depression is a learned response and some of it is real. It can be hard to differentiate between the two different kinds. Some of my foster children with real depression got so much sympathy and attention for their depressed behaviors and down episodes that they learned to respond to many situations they normally wouldn't in a depressed way because of their desire to control other people's responses. I am not saying your son is doing this. I have not met him, and each depression case is very unique. Depression is a real thing, but it can be conquered too. Teaching cause and effect is so important. Do you have him do the four basic skills? If you taught him to follow instructions then he wouldn't want to waste time because he wouldn't be following instructions. If he wants to be a baby then he should do really well with learning the four basics. One of the main things that helps a person conquer impulses to become depressed is vision of a successful future. What does your son want for his life? What will make him happy in the future? He needs to get in touch with that and write it down. Make a collage of pictures which represent his dream and hang it on the wall. Take him to inspiring places and introduce him to inspiring people. These kinds of experiences will do more than pushing the math books until he wants to learn. Oh, you should really limit media time. It does bad things for depressed people. He needs to keep busy. The other thing that will help him make a change for the better is the feeling of success. What is he good at which is useful? If nothing, start something. Help him have opportunities to succeed. Praise all the good he does. If you want him to take more responsibility for himself, you have to praise him for the tiny responsibilities he takes from time to time. Praise him in a way that will give him vision of him becoming something great. Focus on being positive. Don't let the situation get you down. You get to control your feelings regarding this situation, not him. If he can get you frustrated and depressed, then he has one the power in the home. Don't give it to him. Even if he chooses to fail every day it is not your fault. You are happy. You are inspiring. His behavior is his. It shouldn't effect you. Don't allow his behaviors to punish you. If you ever find yourself outside of this mentality, getting frustrated, or feeling like a failure then go pray until you feel calm. An upset parent can't do any good. I know you are looking at your 17 year old and are wondering if you are stuck with a baby forever. However, life will go on and he will pave his own way eventually. I wonder if you are doing too much for him and if you are getting sucked too much into his moods and behaviors. You will not help him if you get too involved in his moods. Stay caring but independently happy. Even if he chooses waste and sadness forever you can't let it take over your own happiness. You can always control you. Change your heart and then his heart will change also. You may want to really focus on the chapters in the book called Acceptance, Trust, and Love. You have to accept that he is where he is even though you know he should be at another level. Just accept and move on from there. Trust that he will progress. Don't force so much. He needs to be accountable of course, but if the mood is force then the mood is a power struggle which will divide you, not unite you. And love, love, love. No matter what happens. Still speak his love language.

I want you to know that it is okay for your son to fail. We all do it. Maybe he has been protected from some failures in the past. I don't know. Either way, ultimately he will have to really understand the principle of learning from mistakes and bad decisions. I wonder if he has a false sense of reality and how he fits into things. Maybe he thinks failure isn't acceptable. Let him fail and don't show any emotion about it, just go on with the regular routine and cause and effect system. Don't be emotional. Then praise the good things. After that you have to just trust in the natural learning process and let him take whatever time he needs. The whole false reality thing is another reason to turn off the TV and computer etc for a long while. It will get in his way of running his own life. Tip** You mentioned that he wastes time. Time wasting isn't necessarily a sign of depression. It could just be a sign of laziness. Maybe you should go back to the core phase of his education. Work, work, work, together of course. If you are not familiar with the phases of education you may want to read a great book called A Thomas Jefferson Education by Oliver Van DeMille. It is a great help. I am sure we could talk at length about his behaviors and certain situations, but for now, try these things. If you need more help you can always schedule a mentor call with me for $50 per hour.