What’s going on with your teenager?
Is it just the ups and downs of adolescence, or is it something more?
She's teary every day, one minute demanding I tend to her needs and the next minute demanding I leave her alone....
Depression has the ability to derail a teenager's progress toward healthy adulthood—and confuse and frustrate parents. Dr. Gregg Jantz answers the hardest questions about this critical season of life in his latest book When Your Teenager Becomes... The Stranger in Your House.
Is this "just a phase," or is it clinical depression?
How do hormones affect my teen's behavior—and what can I do about it?
How can I get help when I see the warning signs of suicidal thoughts?
Why does my teenager seem to need me some days and hate me other days?
How can I be a source of peace in my child's life, especially when I feel stormy too?
This book will help parents see beyond the closed-room years of adolescence and open the door to hope.
An Interview with Dr. Gregg Jantz,
Author of The Stranger in Your House
Q: What percentage of adolescents deal with clinical depression?
According to mentalhealthamerica.net, up to 20% of teenagers suffer from depression.
Q: Depression was not an issue that was discussed 30 years ago. Do you believe that it is more prominent in today's society, and why do you think there are so many teenagers struggling with it?
Much more attention is being given today to teenagers from a medical/pharmaceutical perspective. With the introduction of adult anti-depressants to teenagers, healthcare professionals are more cognizant of teens and depression. I believe the increase in teen depression is not so much from the teens themselves but from the adults around them paying more attention and becoming more alarmed by behavior that was previously dismissed as just a teenage "phase." As more adults (physicians, parents, educators) come to understand the symptoms and signs of depression for themselves and for teenagers, there are simply more people watching and sounding the alarm on behalf of troubled teens.
Q: How can parents know if their child's behavior reflects him/her "just being a teen" or if it's something more serious? What are some of the signs of deeper emotional issues?
Teens don't always exhibit the same depression symptoms as adults, so you need to know what to watch for:
· Poor performance in school
· Withdrawal from friends and activities
· Sadness and hopelessness
· Lack of enthusiasm, energy or motivation
· Anger and rage
· Overreaction to criticism
· Feelings of being unable to satisfy ideals
· Poor self-esteem or guilt
· Indecision, lack of concentration or forgetfulness
· Restlessness and agitation
· Changes in eating or sleeping patterns
· Substance abuse
· Problems with authority
· Suicidal thoughts or actions
· In an attempt to alleviate depression, teens may also become sexually promiscuous, engaging in risk-taking behavior.
Q: What causes teens to be overly emotional? What part do hormones play in their behavior?
Teenagers deal with an influx of sex hormones that motivate behavior. In addition to that, their capacity for critical thinking, executive reasoning and problem-solving may not yet be fully developed. Emotional escalation because of hormonal stresses and not being able to articulate, communicate or understand the source of these feelings can lead to feelings of frustration, irritation and anger. Teenagers are definitely packages that need to labeled "Handle with Care."
Q: What do teens need most from their parents?
· Space—Part of the adolescent process is learning how to handle emotions, people and situations on their own. A smothered teen is not a healthy, growing one.
· Not too much space—Teens have a way of putting up the "do not enter" sign on their lives, but parents need to stay actively involved and aware of what's going on with their teenager. This doesn't need to be an overt, in-your-face interrogation but rather a subtle, observant, alert process. Teens that have firmly locked their front doors may be accessible through the back door of parental accessibility, calmness and care.
· Boundaries—Teens may resist and resent the boundaries you set but they also may count on them. Teens may not like boundaries, but they need them as long as they make sense, are backed up with reasons and are calmly, assertively presented. It's still your house, your rules—teens get that. For all their talk, most are not ready to make any changes to that set-up, at least until they graduate from high school.
Q: If a parent feels that their child is struggling with these issues, where can they turn for help?
One of the first places depression shows up is in the teenager's school work or school relationships. Touching base with teachers and/or counselors can give parents a different perspective and a validation of what they're seeing or feeling. If the adults surrounding that teen are all seeing similar signs, it's time to meet with a professional. If there's one available in the school setting, this can be a good start for evaluation. School is a teen's turf and they're more likely to meet with someone there than in a stranger's office with music playing from the ceiling and fish tanks on the wall.
When looking for a counselor, choose one that has experience and a proven track record working with adolescents. Your teen isn't going to open up on command. He or she needs to connect with the counselor and you can't always predetermine who that person will be. You need to be prepared to try out several. Don't give up and keep searching until you find someone who clicks with your kid. Once you've got a counselor, be prepared to follow that person's recommendations, whether it's family counseling or a medical exam or a chemical dependency evaluation or tutoring help for school. If you're trying to get off as cheaply as possible, with as little effort as possible, chances are high you're going to short-change your teenager's recovery.
About the author: Dr. Gregg Jantz is the best-selling author of numerous books, including Hope, Help, and Healing for Eating Disorders. He is the founder of The Center for Counseling and Health Resources, a leading healthcare facility near Seattle that specializes in whole-person care.
(When Your Teenager Becomes...) The Stranger in Your House by Gregg Jantz with Ann McMurray
David C Cook/October 2011
www.davidccook.com and www.DrGregoryJantz.com
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