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Teen Depressed over Move
Q: I am not a parent but a teenager desperately seeking help. My mother and I recently moved to Sonoma after living in a small town for 13 years. It is safe to say that I am having severe emotional problems dealing with the move. I fear that I am now suffering from a case of depression. A large part of the problem is school. I tried to get approved for homeschooling but was denied. How are they to decide whether or not a teenager qualifies by checking attendance records and grades? They're right -- attendance is a factor, but the reason my attendance is so poor is because I am utterly depressed. I do not have the drive to attend school any more.
So now I am left incredibly frustrated and even more stressed. No one will help me and I don't know what to do. I fear my mother is going to be fined or something even worse because I can't attend school. But the school will not accommodate my needs. Please help me.
A: It sounds to me that you are feeling overwhelmed not only about school but also about other things in your life. At your age, I bet the move to Sonoma has been difficult for you on many emotional levels. It probably has been a tough transition for your mom, too.
I have no way of knowing why you have lost your "drive" for school -- the difficulty of the course work compared to your former school, having difficulty making friends, or just plain having lost your motivation for lots of things, including school, because you are depressed. You are absolutely right in wanting to take care of the school situation, but you also need to address the reasons why you are feeling so unmotivated and depressed. Leaving school is not automatically going to fix all the inner turmoil that you're feeling. In fact, you may find that if you see this as a solution to your depression, you will be more anxious when you discover that not going to school has not solved your emotional difficulties.
If homeschooling is indeed the best educational route for you to take, your mom needs to network with the homescholing community in the Sonoma area to get the appropriate support and advice. In most states, parents have to submit a homeschooling plan that must be approved by the local school authorities. Homeschooling families who have done this successfully are the best resources for this assistance.
I'd really like you to see a therapist. It might even be a good idea for you and your mom to see a family therapist together. Please suggest this idea to her. You need some sound, caring professional guidance and support right now. Once you get this help, I am sure that you will begin to feel more understood and more hopeful. Thanks for writing and keep me updated if you'd like.
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Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.