Prep for Parenting Your Modern Family

Posted on June 25th, 2018, 0 Comments

How Much Moodiness is Normal?

Most teens are moody. Everyone knows that. But how much moodiness is normal?

New data released by the CDC last week show that teen depression – which has been increasing for a decade – is continuing to rise. In the past year, 31.5% of high school students reported feeling sad or hopeless almost every day for two weeks or more in a row. Yet, we parents are often painfully slow to acknowledge the warning signs of depression in our teens – especially when compared to the attention we give other disease symptoms.

Part of our hesitation can be explained by the fact that teen depression is a relatively new diagnosis. Until the 1980’s psychiatrists didn’t think that adolescent brains were mature enough for an adult illness like depression. Plus until the mid-80’s there were no safe, effective drugs to treat depression in teens. So historically speaking, doctors were reluctant to diagnose the illness in teens and quick to dismiss teen moodiness as part of normal adolescent development.

But we parents can also hesitate to acknowledge the warning signs because none of us would choose for our teen to have depression. Given the choice between, “My teen is a moody kid” and “My teen has a potentially life-threatening illness” we’ll pick the first. The second is too scary.

Try This
How much moodiness is normal and how much is a sign of depression? With teen depression on the rise, more parents are asking themselves this question.

To monitor your teen for signs of depression, look for changes in three main areas:

Changes in Mood
Feeling sad or low
Feeling nothing or a lack of enjoyment in formerly pleasurable activities

Changes in Physical Symptoms
An increase or decrease in appetite, leading to a change in weight
Sleeplessness or not being able to get out of bed in the morning
Not being able to focus or concentrate
Having little or no energy
Feelings of agitation or restlessness, sometimes relieved by self-medication via drugs, alcohol, or self-harm

Changes in Self-Attitude
A loss of confidence or self-esteem
Feelings of worthlessness

Note: Although most people have experienced one or more of these symptoms in their lives, to diagnose depression, psychiatrists look for a cluster of symptoms that last for at least two weeks, interfering with a person’s functioning socially, academically, or emotionally.

(Karen Swartz, psychiatrist and director of clinical programs at the Johns Hopkins Mood Disorders Center)

Bottom Line
Adolescent depression is a common illness among teens that is often not recognized. There are effective, safe therapies and medications to treat it. But if left untreated, depression can have dire consequences.

So be on the lookout for warning signs in your teen. When you ask them how they’re doing, also ask them how they’re feeling. Get help if worrisome symptoms persist. And be sure that your teen knows that if they’re concerned about themself or a friend, they can talk to you about it.

Selected Sources and Resources
The Rise of Teen Depression by Joe Sugarman in Johns Hopkins Health Review; Fall/Winter 2017
Youth Risk Behavior Survey: Data Summary & Trends Report 2007-2017

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Prep for Parenting Your Modern Family

Posted on June 11th, 2018, 0 Comments

Talking to Your Teen about Suicide

After a tragedy such as the celebrity suicides that have been in the news recently, it can be a struggle for us parents to figure out what to say to our kids and what not to say. Some of us may worry that talking about suicide may put ideas in our teen’s head. But the research is clear that talking about suicide does not make someone suicidal. Plus your teen has almost certainly heard the news and not talking about it with them can send the message that you’re not open to discussing it with them.

Try This
Below are some ideas for talking with your teen about these tragedies in a way that can increase their safety and resiliency.

Start by being curious about what your teen already knows or thinks they know. Ask what they’ve heard. Most teens will have heard something and some teens may respond with, “I already know all about it.” But asking them to share with you what they know can be very enlightening. After listening to their response, calmly correct any misinformation if you can.

Ask what questions they have. Teens are likely to have questions and can often benefit from added information. So share any additional information you have, avoiding graphic details and speculation. Of course, teens have access to detailed information and rumors online, so it’s best to be aware of what’s out there and talk with them about what they might see or hear.

Put the news in context. Broaden the discussion from tragic news items to a larger conversation about how people cope with stress, disappointment, and other hardships. It can also be helpful to talk about the complicated factors that can contribute to someone committing suicide, including mental health issues.

Make sure they know who they can turn to if they’re in distress. One of the most valuable messages you can communicate to your teen is that if they have thoughts about harming themself, you and others who care about them will listen. Emphasize that no matter how hopeless or terrible a situation might feel, there are always options. Assure them that even if there is no quick solution to the problem, working together you can come up with options and figure out a plan.

Our teens are sometimes reluctant to confide in us, so it’s wise to make sure your teen knows there are other people they can talk with. Help your teen identify a few other caring adults, including relatives, family friends, or medical professionals, they can trust.

Finally, talk with them about the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Let them know that they can call this number any time of the day or night to talk with a skilled person who will listen to them, understand how they are being affected by the problem, and provide support. The service is available to anyone for free, and all calls are confidential.

Bottom Line
We need to talk with our teens about suicide. Talking about it can help reduce the risk.

Selected Sources and Resources
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Parenting Teenagers: How to talk to your teen about suicide

What to Do if You’re Worried About Suicide: A parent’s guide to helping a child in distress

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