- Danielle Matthew
New Fears That Today's Adolescents Have and Ways Parents Can Help
It is no surprise that many people, including teens, currently suffer from anxiety, depression, and severe stress. Some of the last few years' events contributing to the mental strain and exhaustion seem almost surreal. These events have caused some changes to society and our world, including many of our mental states. Today's reality may seem like we live in some radical movie, which we hope will get followed by a more peaceful and predictive sequel.
Teens have especially been affected by recent and current events. The rising concerns of the world and the growing uncertainties of life have led to increased teen suicide, anxiety, and depression. Saddening and alarming rates have surfaced regarding our teen's mental health. A CDC study reported that over 40% of American high school students have had "persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness" within the last decade. This is the highest level of teenage sadness ever recorded. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, nearly 20% of high school students report severe thoughts of suicide, and 9% have attempted to take their own lives.
There are various speculations about why these rates have jumped. Likely contributors are the dangers and uncertainties of COVID-19, growing concerns over climate changes, racial injustice, extreme political indifferences, gun violence, and the list continues. So far this year, there have been 27 school shootings. And the most recent, heartbreaking incident at a Texas elementary school will intensify fears and anxiety for many.
While the state of our world may seem disheartening and despairing, it's essential to know that there is hope! And you are not alone. Below are some tools and ways parents can help teens manage stress, lessen anxiety, and move forward with newfound hope and happiness.
Parents, Use the Three E's
(Empathy, Empowerment, and Engagement)
Parents can begin to understand and address their teens' fears using The Three E’s -
Show Empathy by validating your teen's feelings. You can do this by asking open-ended questions and taking the time to listen without jumping in with assumptions and your own conclusions.
Empower your teen to move forward in healthy ways by guiding them to think of things they can do to feel better about a situation and reach their goals.
And provide Engagement by regularly checking in with your teen to see how they're doing and remind them that you're there to support them.
Encourage your teen to consider past obstacles in their life that were also fearful and challenging but that they overcame. While the circumstances may not be the same, this can aid your teen in realizing some skills or mindsets they've used in the past, which they can use now.
Help Your Teen Find People They Can Talk To
When teens feel down, they may also feel like they're all alone and don't have anyone to share their thoughts with or who will understand how they're feeling.
The reality is that kids need to hear from their parents, but they sometimes need to hear from others too. It can be helpful to have your teen consider the friends in their life who they trust. Breaking friends down into ABC friendships can help your teen know which friends they can feel comfortable with sharing their thoughts.
· 'A' Friendships are always dependable friends who support you through and through. You can share information with them, and you know that they have your back. They will go above and beyond to make sure you are okay and know you will do the same for them.
· The B's are also friends but not as involved. They sit with you at lunch, talk to you about their lives, do homework with them, and hang out with them sometimes after school, but maybe they wouldn't be the first person you go to when you are in crisis or need support.
· Finally, you have the C's, which are your acquaintances you say hi to but don't expect much from them. Maybe you are paired up with them as math partners or for a project in school, but you don't share much with them.
While it's fine to lean on close friends and family, having more neutral people like a pastor, rabbi, counselor, or therapist is also beneficial. This handful of trusted adults gives you and your child safe places to turn to when you need a listening ear.
If your teen is struggling to find a person they can talk to, find help. Going to a therapist can provide your teen with benefits beyond having someone to talk to and who will listen nonjudgmentally. Therapists can help promote social-emotional learning and teach strategies that a teen can use in many aspects of their life to help them more successfully handle difficult situations and address anxiety, depression, and more.
For more ways that you can help your teen get through their fears, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you or a friend or loved one is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: at 800-273-8255.