We want our teens to grow into responsible adults able to make decisions. Why then do we fall back on the old lecture when we should be using any problem area as an opportunity to teach a child the process of making a good decision? Treating them like little children rather than budding adults simply alienates teens. This is not to say they no longer need guidance, it just has to be handled in a more adult manner, with discussion, negotiation, and understanding of the conflicting needs of maturing teens. They need the safety of the home and knowledge that the parents are there, but not suffocating control of an overprotective despot.
2. Ignore the Obvious
Our teens are suddenly sleeping late, missing classes, missing curfew, not introducing new friends, and we write it off as “normal teen behavior.” We often wait until the situation is urgent, burying our heads in the sand to avoid confrontation and more displays of our teen’s belligerent, hostile attitude. Overreacting or underreacting…
3. Not Following Through on Rules and Consequences
“You are grounded!” “That’s it; no allowance this week!” Most parents have no problem creating punishments for breaking the rules. It’s what happens a few days or so later that creates the cycle of defiance: your teen drives you nuts until you back down on the consequence. If you set rules, it is important to make clear in advance the consequences for breaking that rule. If that rule is broken, if you do not enforce the consequences you set, your teen has just learned that getting away with breaking the rules is really a piece of cake.
4. Setting Unreasonable Goals
Make sure that when you set goals, they are attainable. If your child has a learning disability, yelling at them for not doing well on a math test probably will not help them do better next time. Set expectations that allow the child to succeed based on his or her abilities. If your child needs academic help, find out about local tutoring and after-schools programs. If you want your child to be a concert pianist and they simply can’t get to the next level, find out if there is something else they might have a natural ability to do well in.
5. Pointing Out Only the Negative, Expecting Only the Positive
Do you just expect good behavior, good grades, and, well, utter goodness, with little encouragement or praises, yet quickly jump on every mistake or example of poor judgment like a pit bull? Some parents believe a job well done is its own reward. While this is true, there is nothing that encourages a child more than the positive feedback of a parent. This is not to say you should jump up and down with joy just because your child didn’t skip class this week. If you set consequences for bad behavior, the reward is getting to do the things they normally enjoy. Think of it this way: When you show up at your job every day your boss doesn’t praise you for being there; he pays you your wages as he or she normally would.
6. Leaving the Educating up to “Someone Else”
Assuming your child will learn about the dangers of drugs, alcohol, and other risky behaviors at school or elsewhere is a risky assumption at best. Studies have show kids whose parents talk to them about high-risk behaviors and who set clear guidelines about the consequences for engaging in these behaviors are less likely to smoke, drink, use drugs, or have sex.
7. Giving Up on Family Time – Too Much of a Hassle
Family time is essential. Setting time aside every day for the family to eat together and talk is one of the best defenses against negative peer influences on your teens. Make time for your children on a daily basis to keep communication open. Parents who spend time with their children will be more aware of changes in their demeanor and behavior. Parents who do not spend time with their children often take longer to notice changes in their teens that could signify behavioral or emotional issues.
8. Assume Good Grades Mean No Other Problems
A smart kid who does well in school may be able to maintain good grades even though they are drinking or using drugs. In fact, they may know that by maintaining their grades they will avoid your suspicion. Don’t write off other signs of trouble just because the grades are not slipping.
9. Not Taking the Time to Know What’s Up with Adolescents Today
We were all teens once. But teens are different every generation. They have different music and other cultural influences. The teen icons of the 70s and 80s were very different than the icons of today. Media influences are much stronger today as well. Not only are teens exposed to more outside influences on TV, they are also exposed to the Internet where there really are no rules of engagement. Anyone can put up a website. For example, there are websites by anorexic girls that teach other girls how to hide their disorder. It is a good idea to know the Internet and other cultural influences that may impact your child and impact their decision making. One of the best ways to keep a close eye on these influences is to put computers in common areas, making it more difficult for teens to secretly visit sites that might negatively influence their choices or even put them in danger.
10. Giving Up Too Soon: Forgetting the “Three Times” Rule
Most teens who have already figured out creative ways to get what they want will not “buckle down” after one attempt to change their behavior, especially if you have backed down on consequences consistently for a period of time. Face it: your teen is going to test your resolve. They are going to test it once, twice, and again. Some teens will look for that crack in the armor to appear and test every time they see it. Teens are smart. They know if you are tired and frustrated, and they often have an uncanny ability to test you just when you are least likely to have the energy to resist. Don’t give up. Be consistent. Stay vigilant. This might sound alarmist, but as a parent, your primary job is to raise your children to be independent adults. If you relinquish this full-time responsibility, someone else will teach them the ropes, and that someone may not have their best interests in mind.
HANG IN THERE MOM. DON’T GIVE UP HOPE… THINGS ARE GOING TO GET BETTER! JUST TRY TO REMEMBER WHEN THEY WERE LIKE THIS
THE PROBLEM WITH PEER PRESSURE by PeersUnited Staff
“Come on! ALL of us are cutting math. Who wants to go take that quiz? We’re going to take a walk and get lunch instead. Let’s go!” says the coolest kid in your class. Do you do what you know is right and go to math class, quiz and all? Or do you give in and go with them?
As you grow older, you’ll be faced with some challenging decisions. Some don’t have a clear right or wrong answer – like should you play soccer or field hockey? Other decisions involve serious moral questions, like whether to cut class, try cigarettes, or lie to your parents.
Making decisions on your own is hard enough, but when other people get involved and try to pressure you one way or another it can be even harder. People who are your age, like your classmates, are called peers. When they try to influence how you act, to get you to do something, it’s called peer pressure. It’s something everyone has to deal with – even adults. Let’s talk about how to handle it.
Defining Peer Pressure (Help for Parents with Troubled Teens)
Peers influence your life, even if you don’t realize it, just by spending time with you. You learn from them, and they learn from you. It’s only human nature to listen to and learn from other people in your age group.
Peers can have a positive influence on each other. Maybe another student in your science class taught you an easy way to remember the planets in the solar system, or someone on the soccer team taught you a cool trick with the ball. You might admire a friend who is always a good sport and try to be more like him or her. Maybe you got others excited about your new favorite book, and now everyone’s reading it. These are examples of how peers positively influence each other every day.
Sometimes peers influence each other in negative ways. For example, a few kids in school might try to get you to cut class with them, your soccer friend might try to convince you to be mean to another player and never pass her the ball, or a kid in the neighborhood might want you to shoplift with him.
Some kids give in to peer pressure because they want to be liked, to fit in, or because they worry that other kids may make fun of them if they don’t go along with the group. Others may go along because they are curious to try something new that others are doing. The idea that “everyone’s doing it” may influence some kids to leave their better judgment, or their common sense, behind.
How to Walk Away From Peer Pressure
It is tough to be the only one who says “no” to peer pressure, but you can do it. Paying attention to your own feelings and beliefs about what is right and wrong can help you know the right thing to do. Inner strength and self-confidence can help you stand firm, walk away, and resist doing something when you know better.
It can really help to have at least one other peer, or friend, who is willing to say “no,” too. This takes a lot of the power out of peer pressure and makes it much easier to resist. It’s great to have friends with values similar to yours who will back you up when you don’t want to do something.
You’ve probably had a parent or teacher advise you to “choose your friends wisely.” Peer pressure is a big reason why they say this. If you choose friends who don’t use drugs, cut class, smoke cigarettes, or lie to their parents, then you probably won’t do these things either, even if other kids do. Try to help a friend who’s having trouble resisting peer pressure. It can be powerful for one kid to join another by simply saying, “I’m with you – let’s go.”
Even if you’re faced with peer pressure while you’re alone, there are still things you can do. You can simply stay away from peers who pressure you to do stuff you know is wrong. You can tell them “no” and walk away. Better yet, find other friends and classmates to pal around with.
If you continue to face peer pressure and you’re finding it difficult to handle, talk to someone you trust. Don’t feel guilty if you’ve made a mistake or two. Talking to a parent, teacher, or school counselor can help you feel much better and prepare you for the next time you face peer pressure.
Powerful, Positive Peer Pressure
Peer pressure is not always a bad thing. For example, positive peer pressure can be used to pressure bullies into acting better toward other kids. If enough kids get together, peers can pressure each other into doing what’s right!
Updated and reviewed by: Kevin J. Took, MD
Date reviewed: November 2007
A GUIDE FOR PARENTS AND TEACHERS WITH TROUBLED TEENS
Teenage depression isn’t just bad moods and occasional melancholy. Depression is a serious problem that impacts every aspect of a teen’s life. Left untreated, teen depression can lead to problems at home and school, drug abuse, self-loathing—even irreversible tragedy such as homicidal violence or suicide. Fortunately, teenage depression can be treated, and as a concerned parent, teacher, or friend, there are many things you can do to help.
Understanding teen depression
There are as many misconceptions about teen depression as there are about teenagers in general. Yes, the teen years are tough, but most teens balance the requisite angst with good friendships, success in school or outside activities, and the development of a strong sense of self. Occasional bad moods or acting out is to be expected, but depression is something different. Depression can destroy the very essence of a teenager’s personality, causing an overwhelming sense of sadness, despair, or anger.
Whether the incidence of teen depression is actually increasing, or we’re just becoming more aware of it, the fact is that depression strikes teenagers far more often than most people think. And although depression is highly treatable, experts say only 20% of depressed teens ever receive help.
Unlike adults, who have the ability to seek assistance on their own, teenagers usually must rely on parents, teachers, or other caregivers to recognize their suffering and get them the treatment they need. So if you have an adolescent in your life, it’s important to learn what teen depression looks like and what to do if you spot the warning signs.
If you’re a teenager struggling with depression or you’d like to learn how to help a depressed friend, see Dealing with Teen Depression: Tips and Tools for Teens.
Signs and symptoms of teen depression
Teenagers face a host of pressures, from the changes of puberty to questions about who they are and where they fit in. The natural transition from child to adult can also bring parental conflict as teens start to assert their independence. With all this drama, it isn’t always easy to differentiate between depression and normal teenage moodiness. Making things even more complicated, teens with depression do not necessarily appear sad, nor do they always withdraw from others. For some depressed teens, symptoms of irritability, aggression, and rage are more prominent..
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF DEPRESSION IN TEENS
Sadness or hopelessness
Irritability, anger, or hostility
Tearfulness or frequent crying
Withdrawal from friends and family
Loss of interest in activities
Changes in eating and sleeping habits
Restlessness and agitation
Feelings of worthlessness and guilt
Lack of enthusiasm and motivation
Fatigue or lack of energy
Thoughts of death or suicide
If you’re unsure if an adolescent in your life is depressed or just “being a teenager,” consider how long the symptoms have been present, how severe they are, and how different the teen is acting from his or her usual self. While some “growing pains” are to be expected as teenagers grapple with the challenges of growing up, dramatic, long-lasting changes in personality, mood, or behavior are red flags of a deeper problem.
The difference between teenage and adult depression
Depression in teens can look very different from depression in adults. The following symptoms of depression are more common in teenagers than in their adult counterparts:
Irritable or angry mood – As noted above, irritability, rather than sadness, is often the predominant mood in depressed teens. A depressed teenager may be grumpy, hostile, easily frustrated, or prone to angry outbursts.
Unexplained aches and pains – Depressed teens frequently complain about physical ailments such as headaches or stomachaches. If a thorough physical exam does not reveal a medical cause, these aches and pains may indicate depression.
Extreme sensitivity to criticism – Depressed teens are plagued by feelings of worthlessness, making them extremely vulnerable to criticism, rejection, and failure. This is a particular problem for “over-achievers.”
Withdrawing from some, but not all people – While adults tend to isolate themselves when depressed, teenagers usually keep up at least some friendships. However, teens with depression may socialize less than before, pull away from their parents, or start hanging out with a different crowd.
Effects of teen depression a Peers United Exclusive
The negative effects of teenage depression go far beyond a melancholy mood. Many rebellious and unhealthy behaviors or attitudes in teenagers are actually indications of depression. See the table below for some of the ways in which teens “act out” or “act in” in an attempt to cope with their emotional pain:
Untreated Depression Can Lead to…
Problems at school
Depression can cause low energy and concentration difficulties. At school, this may lead to poor attendance, a drop in grades, or frustration with schoolwork in a formerly good student.
Many depressed teens run away from home or talk about running away. Such attempts are usually a cry for help.
Teens may use alcohol or drugs in an attempt to “self-medicate” their depression. Unfortunately, substance abuse only makes things worse.
Depression can trigger and intensify feelings of ugliness, shame, failure, and unworthiness.
Anorexia, bulimia, binge eating, and yo-yo dieting are often signs of unrecognized depression.
Teens may go online to escape from their problems. But excessive computer use only increases their isolation and makes them more depressed.
Cutting, burning, and other kinds of self-mutilation are almost always associated with depression. To learn more, see Helpguide’s Self-Injury.
Depressed teens may engage in dangerous or high-risk behaviors, such as reckless driving, out-of-control drinking, and unsafe sex.
Some depressed teens (usually boys who are the victims of bullying) become violent. As in the case of the Columbine school massacre, self-hatred and a wish to die can erupt into violence and homicidal rage.
Teens who are seriously depressed often think, speak, or make “attention-getting” attempts at suicide. Suicidal thoughts or behaviors should always be taken very seriously.
Suicide warning signs in teenagers More Help for Parents with Troubled Teenagers
An alarming and increasing number of teenagers attempt and succeed at suicide. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), suicide is the third leading cause of death for 15- to 24-year-olds. For the overwhelming majority of suicidal teens, depression or another psychological disorder plays a primary role. In depressed teens who also abuse alcohol or drugs, the risk of suicide is even greater.
Because of the very real danger of suicide, teenagers who are depressed should be watched closely for any signs of suicidal thoughts or behavior. The warning signs include:
Talking or joking about committing suicide.
Saying things like, “I’d be better off dead,” “I wish I could disappear forever,” or “There’s no way out.”
Speaking positively about death or romanticizing dying (“If I died, people might love me more”).
Writing stories and poems about death, dying, or suicide.
Engaging in reckless behavior or having a lot of accidents resulting in injury.
Giving away prized possessions.
Saying goodbye to friends and family as if for good.
Seeking out weapons, pills, or other ways to kill themselves.
If you suspect that a teenager you know is suicidal, take immediate action! For 24-hour suicide prevention and support, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK.
To learn more about suicide risk factors, warning signs, and what to do in a crisis, see Helpguide’sSuicide Prevention: Understanding and Helping a Suicidal Person.
Helping a depressed teenager – Are you a Parent with a Troubled Teen?
If you suspect that a teenager in your life is suffering from depression, take action right away. Depression is very damaging when left untreated, so don’t wait and hope that the symptoms will go away. Even if you’re unsure that depression is the issue, the troublesome behaviors and emotions you’re seeing in your teenager are signs of a problem. Whether or not that problem turns out to be depression, it still needs to be addressed – the sooner the better.
Talk to your teen
The first thing you should do if you suspect depression is to talk to your teen about it. In a loving and non-judgmental way, share your concerns with your teenager. Let him or her know what specific signs of depression you’ve noticed and why they worry you. Then encourage your child to open up about what he or she is going through.
TIPS FOR TALKING TO A DEPRESSED TEEN
Let depressed teenagers know that you’re there for them, fully and unconditionally. Hold back from asking a lot of questions (teenagers don’t like to feel patronized or crowded), but make it clear that you’re ready and willing to provide whatever support they need.
Be gentle but persistent
Don’t give up if your adolescent shuts you out at first. Talking about depression can be very tough for teens. Be respectful of your child’s comfort level while still emphasizing your concern and willingness to listen.
Listen without lecturing
Resist any urge to criticize or pass judgment once your teenager begins to talk. The important thing is that your child is communicating. Avoid offering unsolicited advice or ultimatums as well.
Don’t try to talk teens out of their depression, even if their feelings or concerns appear silly or irrational to you. Simply acknowledge the pain and sadness they are feeling. If you don’t, they will feel like you don’t take their emotions seriously.
If your teen claims nothing is wrong, but has no explanation for what is causing the depressed behavior, you should trust your instincts. Remember that denial is a strong emotion. Furthermore, teenagers may not believe that what they’re experiencing is the result of depression. If you see depression’s warning signs, seek professional help. Neither you nor your teen is qualified to either diagnosis depression or rule it out, so see a doctor or psychologist who can.
Visit your family doctor
Make an immediate appointment for your teen to see the family physician for a depression screening. Be prepared to give your doctor specific information about your teen’s depression symptoms, including how long they’ve been present, how much they’re affecting your child’s daily life, and any patterns you’ve noticed. The doctor should also be told about any close relatives who have ever been diagnosed with depression or another mental health disorder.
As part of the depression screening, the doctor will give your teenager a complete physical exam and take blood samples to check for medical causes of your child’s symptoms. In order to diagnose depression, other possible causes of your teen’s symptoms must first be ruled out. The doctor will check for medical causes of the depression by giving your teenager a complete physical exam and running blood tests. The doctor may also ask your teen about other things that could be causing the symptoms, including heavy alcohol and drug use, a lack of sleep, a poor diet (especially one low in iron), and medications (including birth control pills and diet pills).
Seek out a specialist
Finding Help for Your Teen
Click here to search for a psychiatrist who specializes in children and teens.
Source: American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry
If there are no health problems that are causing your teenager’s depression, ask your doctor to refer you to a psychologist or psychiatrist who specializes in children and adolescents. Depression in teens can be tricky, particularly when it comes to treatment options such as medication. A mental health professional with advanced training and a strong background treating adolescents is the best bet for your teenager’s best care.
When choosing a specialist, always get your child’s input. Teenagers are dependent on you for making many of their health decisions, so listen to what they’re telling you. No one therapist is a miracle worker and no one treatment works for everyone. If your child feels uncomfortable or is just not ’connecting’ with the psychologist or psychiatrist, ask for a referral to another provider that may be better suited to your teenager.
Explore the treatment options
Expect a discussion with the specialist you’ve chosen about treatment possibilities for your son or daughter. There are a number of treatment options for depression in teenagers, including one-on-one talk therapy, group or family therapy, and medication.
Talk therapy is often a good initial treatment for mild to moderate cases of depression. Over the course of therapy, your teen’s depression may resolve. If it doesn’t, medication may be warranted. However, antidepressants should only be used as part of a broader treatment plan.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health:
When medication is used, it should not be the only strategy. There are other services that you may want to investigate for your child. Family support services, educational classes, behavior management techniques, as well as family therapy and other approaches should be considered. If medication is prescribed, it should be monitored and evaluated regularly.
Unfortunately, some parents feel pushed into choosing antidepressant medication over other treatments that may be cost-prohibitive or time-intensive. However, unless your child is considered to be high risk for suicide (in which case medication and/or constant observation may be necessary), you have time to carefully weigh your options before committing to any one treatment.
Risks of teenage antidepressant use
In severe cases of depression, medication may help ease symptoms. However, antidepressants aren’t always the best treatment option. They come with risks and side effects of their own, including a number of safety concerns specific to children and young adults. It’s important to weigh the benefits against the risks before starting your teen on medication.
Antidepressants and the Teenage Brain
Antidepressants were designed and tested on adults, so their impact on the youthful, developing brain is not yet completely understood. Some researchers are concerned that the use of drugs such as Prozac in children and teens might interfere with normal brain development. Says neuroscientist Amir Raz, quoted in a June 2007 article in Scientific American Mind, “The human brain is developing exponentially when we are very young, and exposure to antidepressants may affect or influence the wiring of the brain, especially when it comes to certain elements that have to do with stress, emotion and the regulation of these.”
Antidepressant Suicide Warning for Teens
Teens on Antidepressants:
Red Flags To Watch Out For
Call a doctor if you notice…
New or more thoughts of suicide
Trying to commit suicide
New or worse depression
New or worse anxiety
Feeling very agitated or restless
Difficulty sleeping (insomnia)
New or worse irritability
Acting aggressive, being angry, or violent
Acting on dangerous impulses
Being extremely hyperactive in actions and talking (hypomania or mania)
Other unusual changes in behavior
Antidepressant medications may increase the risk of suicidal thinking and behavior in some teenagers. All antidepressants are required by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to carry a “black box” warning label about this risk in children and adolescents. In May 2007, the FDA recommended that the warning be expanded to include young adults from ages 18 to 24. The risk of suicide is particularly great during the first one to two months of antidepressant treatment.
Certain young adults are at an even greater risk for suicide when taking antidepressants, including teens with bipolar disorder, a family history of bipolar disorder, or a history of previous suicide attempts.
Teenagers on antidepressants should be closely monitored for any sign that the depression is getting worse. Warning signs include new or worsening symptoms of agitation, irritability, or anger. Unusual changes in behavior are also red flags.
According to FDA guidelines, after starting an antidepressant or changing the dose, your teenager should see their doctor:
Once a week for four weeks
Every 2 weeks for the next month
At the end of their 12th week taking the drug
More often if problems or questions arise
For more, see Antidepressants: Understanding Depression Medication
Supporting a teen through treatment
As the depressed teenager in your life goes through treatment, the most important thing you can do is to let him or her know that you’re there to listen and offer support. Now more than ever, your teenager needs to know that he or she is valued, accepted, and cared for.
Be understanding. Living with a depressed teenager can be difficult and draining. At times, you may experience exhaustion, rejection, despair, aggravation, or any other number of negative emotions. During this trying time, it’s important to remember that your child is not being difficult on purpose. Your teen is suffering, so do your best to be patient and understanding.
Encourage physical activity. Encourage your teenager to stay active. Exercise can go a long way toward relieving the symptoms of depression, so find ways to incorporate it into your teenager’s day. Something as simple as walking the dog or going on a bike ride can be beneficial
Encourage social activity. Isolation only makes depression worse, so encourage your teenager to see friends and praise efforts to socialize. Offer to take your teen out with friends or suggest social activities that might be of interest, such as sports, after-school clubs, or an art class.
Stay involved in treatment. Make sure your teenager is following all treatment instructions and going to therapy. It’s especially important that your child takes any prescribed medication as instructed. Track changes in your teen’s condition, and call the doctor if depression symptoms seem to be getting worse.
Learn about depression. Just like you would if your child had a disease you knew very little about, read up on depression so that you can be your own “expert.” The more you know, the better equipped you’ll be to help your depressed teen. Encourage your teenager to learn more about depression as well. Reading up on their condition can help depressed teens realize that they’re not alone and give them a better understanding of what they’re going through.
The road to your depressed teenager’s recovery may be bumpy, so be patient. Rejoice in small victories and prepare for the occasional setback. Most importantly, don’t judge yourself or compare your family to others. As long as you’re doing your best to get your teen the necessary help, you’re doing your job.
Taking care of the whole family
As a parent dealing with teen depression, you may find yourself focusing all your energy and attention on your depressed child. Meanwhile, you may be neglecting your own needs and the needs of other family members. While helping your depressed child should be a top priority, it’s important to keep your whole family strong and healthy during this difficult time.
Take care of yourself – In order to help a depressed teen, you need to stay healthy and positive yourself, so don’t ignore your own needs. The stress of the situation can affect your own moods and emotions, so cultivate your well–being by eating right, getting enough sleep, and making time for things you enjoy.
Reach out for support – Get the emotional support you need. Reach out to friends, join a support group, or see a therapist of your own. It’s okay to feel overwhelmed, frustrated, helpless, or angry. The important thing is to talk about how your teen’s depression is affecting you, rather than bottling up your emotions.
Be open with the family – Don’t tiptoe around the issue of teen depression in an attempt to “protect” the other children. Kids know when something is wrong. When left in the dark, their imaginations will often jump to far worse conclusions. Be open about what is going on and invite your children to ask questions and share their feelings.
Remember the siblings – Depression in one child can cause stress or anxiety in other family members, so make sure “healthy” children are not ignored. Siblings may need special individual attention or professional help of their own to handle their feelings about the situation.
Avoid the blame game – It can be easy to blame yourself or another family member for your teen’s depression, but it only adds to an already stressful situation. Furthermore, depression is normally caused by a number of factors, so it’s unlikely—except in the case of abuse or neglect—that any loved one is “responsible”.
Peers United is Devoted to Helping Parents with Troubled Teens Find the Answers They Need to Help Their Children. If You Have Lost Hope, Please Know That There Are Answers & Solutions to Help You With Your Teens Problems. Please Bookmark This Page and Come Back Often for Updated Articles and Commentary. – Peers United