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Teen Well Being

Posted Feb 19 2009 5:12pm

What’s more challenging: Being a Teen or Raising a Teen?

The teenage years are a time of transition for both parent and child as each struggles with boundaries of dependence, responsibility and independence. We learn what is ours and what is not. But lets face it, parents have the advantage of years of wisdom and experience, while teens are just getting started.

Teens can be overwhelmed by waves of normal emotional and physical changes as they navigate a sea of pressures to fit in, do well in school, participate in activities like sports or part-time jobs and prepare for the future.

How can adults best help teens?

Giving unconditional love is most important. Kids develop a sense of self based largely on how the adults in their life treat them. A warm, loving relationship will ease the challenges of the teenage years.

It’s also important to communicate your values and set expectations and limits. Insist on and always modelhonesty, respect and self-control. Treat everybody the way you want to be treated, especially your kids. If you cannot do this, get the help you need and develop these skills so that you can i mpart them to your kids.

Its easy for adults to get caught up in the need to teach and then get in the habit of criticizing and correcting. Although teens need guidance, they respond better to positive reinforcement. Praise appropriate behavior to give kids a sense of accomplishment and to reinforce desired values.

Here are guidelines to prepare for a child’s teenage years, developed by The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP):

-Provide a safe and loving home environment

-Create an atmosphere of honesty, trust and respect

-Allow age-appropriate independence and assertiveness

-Develop a relationship that encourages your teen to talk to you when he or she is upset

-Teach responsibility for your teen’s belongings and yours

-Teach basic responsibility for household chores

-Teach the importance of accepting limits

What is normal, what is not?

Teenagers experiment with values, ideas, hairstyles and clothing in order to find their own preferences and define themselves. This is normal. Don’t panic! But inappropriate or destructive behavior is usually a sign of a problem.

Teens are at risk for a number of self-destructive or dangerous behaviors including drug or alcohol use,  inappropriate or unprotected sexual relationships, self-injury and verbal aggression or physical violence toward others. In addition, biologically-based illnesses like depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and mental illnesses often emerge in the teen years. If you suspect these issues, learn all that you can and seek professional help.

The following may be warning signs that a teen needs professional help:

-Agitated or restless behavior

-Weight loss or gain

-A drop in grades

-Trouble concentrating

-Ongoing feelings of sadness

-Not caring about people and things

-Lack of motivation

-Fatigue, loss of energy and lack of interest in activities

-Low self-esteem

-Trouble falling asleep

-Run-ins with the law

What to do if there is a problem?

Maintain open communication. If you suspect a problem, ask your teen about what is bothering him or her. Don’t ignore a problem in the hopes that it will go away. It’s easier to cope with problems when they’re small. This also gives you the opportunity to work through problems together. Seek professional help. Talking to your family doctor or school counselor are good first steps.

You can also check out these online resources:

American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

American Psychiatric Association

National Alliance for the Mentally Ill

National Institute of Mental Health

National Institute on Drug Abuse

National Mental Health Association

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