You can connect with your son through:
- Video games
- His interests
Connecting with teens can be very challenging for parents and caregivers in the 21st century. Relating to adolescents has always been a challenge for adults. Unfortunately, the technological divide between generations has amplified this trend. While the internet age has had some negative side effects, you can also use it to connect with your teenage son.
If your son is depressed he may be a lot of time online for better or worse. In my work as a counsellor depressed boys often go online in search of communities and people who can relate to their struggles.
One of the most important things you can do to Help Your Depressed Son is to deepen your relationship with him. Don’t get frustrated at his apparent lack of interest in outside activities. Instead meet him where he is at any try to communicate on his level.
It may seem awkward or foreign at first. But at the very least your son will appreciate your efforts at connecting. This will help strengthen your relationship with him, which is one of the most important factors in supporting his mental health.
Memes may seem like a funny source of entertainment at best, or offensive at worst, but to today’s adolescents, they are one of the most common ways to communicate. Meme’s are having such a big impact on culture through social media that some Universities have whole departments dedicated to the study of them. Here are two ways you can use memes as a tool to communicate with your son, and better understand his inner world.
Use humorous memes
Look for memes that you think your son would find funny. Send them to your son via text or whatever messaging app he typically uses. Send a message that accompanies the meme which explains what you like about it. Alternatively, ask him to comment on it.
Use dark memes
There are many memes about depression online. You can use these to better understand your son’s thought process. Look for a meme that you feel your son might relate to. Send it to him with a message that says, can you relate to this? He may not respond or he may correct you. As long as you remain respectful and curious he is unlikely to put off by these bids for connection.
Never have I ever met a depressed teenage male who doesn’t play video games. That being said, if your son is the exception you can skip this part. Video games meet many needs for young men including but not limited to: excitement, adventure, fun, social interaction, and an escape from boredom and painful emotions.
On the other hand, too much video game time can harm his mental health. If you’re wondering where to draw the line read my article on How Much Screen Time is Too Much. You may not like video games, but you can use them as a tool to deepen your relationship and better understand your son. Here are a couple of ways to connect with your son through video games.
Watch him play and ask questions
Your son may play games with his friends online in which case you can’t really join him unless you know how to play, or unless he’s willing to teach you. If he’s not you can ask to watch him play and make comments and ask questions about the gameplay, most teens are good enough to play and talk at the same time.
This is an approach I used as a counsellor trying to connect with a very socially anxious teen was who was on the autism spectrum and it was the only thing that worked to get through to him.
Learn a new game together
If your son plays different games ask him which game he is excited about trying and ask if you can learn the game together. You may not like the game, but your goal is not to have fun. Your goal should be to better understand your son and make him feel that you understand him as well.
If there is one thing teen boys love as much as video games it’s music. You’ll often see them walking around with both or one earbud in at all times. As with video games, excessive earbud use can be harmful when it cuts off social connection but music is also a pathway to understanding your son’s experiences. Use music to connect with your son and consider trying the following.
Ask what he’s listening to
Ask what he’s listening to and if he’ll allow you to share one of his earbuds. It may not be music to your ears but use it as a launchpad for communication. Ask him what artist it is, what does he like about the music, what does he like about the lyrics?
Share songs with him
Young people are always on the lookout for new music. Once you get an idea of what he likes look for similar artists and share it with him. If it’s appropriate and pleasant you can even play it on speakers for everyone to hear.
The teenage brain is constantly looking for stimulation and novel experiences. In his book The Teenage Brain: A neuroscientist’s survival guide to raising adolescents and young adults neuroscientist Dr. Frances Jensen outlines how this is normal and natural, and often why teens do foolish things that get them into trouble.
Help meet your son’s need for novel and stimulating experiences by learning about what interests him and create opportunities to engage him on this topic. You may not find it very interesting, but as your learn it will open doors to connect with your depressed son.
Learn about his interests
Find out what your son is interested in and learn everything that you can about the topic. Watch youtube videos, go on online forums, and ask him questions about it. As you become more versed in the topic it will give you more things to talk about together. It also shows him that you care about him, because you care about what he cares about.
Host a debate
Warning: If you already argue a lot this may not be the best option to try and connect.
Is there something related to your son’s interests that he is particularly passionate about? Have him argue his point and you or another family member take the opposite position. Make it formal with each person allotted 10 minutes. Then have them switch sides and argue the opposite position. It will help him voice his views, and also take the perspective of others as an essential social skill for life and relationships.
What ways have you found to connect with your son? If you have any questions or helpful advice feel free to leave a comment below.