"Teenagers are known for their angst and moodiness. You really can’t blame them with all that’s going on in their lives from physical changes and peer pressure to academic expectations and the formation of relationships." Tyler Jacobison (Twitter | Linkedin
Feeling moody and grouchy once in a while is normal. Trouble begins when these feelings become more intense, persisting for weeks, months or even longer. Teen depression is an uncomfortable reality in our society and it’s up to parents to support and help their affected teens.
Situational vs. Clinical Depression
You can help your child by first identifying the difference between situational and clinical depression, their causes and treatment methods.
Situational depression (also known as adjustment disorder) occurs in the aftermath of monumental or traumatic changes in an individual’s life. In teens, situational depression can be triggered by parents’ divorce, a breakup from a romantic relationship, death of a loved one, academic struggles or even moving to a new area. Keep in mind that situational depression is temporary and things should go back to normal once the stressors are removed or your teen learns to cope with them.
In the meantime though, their symptoms are very real and are similar to those of chronic depression. They include:
- Persistent feelings of sadness, anxiety, worthlessness or hopelessness.
- Changes in sleeping patterns –either difficulties in falling asleep or oversleeping.
- Changes in eating patterns, loss of appetite and weight changes.
- Loss of interest in hobbies, studies and life in general.
- Persistent lethargy and fatigue.
- Difficulties concentrating, making decisions or remembering tasks.
- Self-harming or suicide attempts.
Clinical depression, on the other hand, is more severe and is thought to be caused by a complex mix of brain chemical imbalances, genetic factors and social situations. It causes major long-term depressive symptoms that are pervasive enough to interfere with your teen’s daily life.
Different Treatment Approaches
The treatment your teen requires depends on the type of depression they have.
Managing Situational Depression
● Urge your teen to continue pursuing their hobbies and other leisure activities.
● Also, encourage them to eat a nutritionally well-balanced diet and get regular exercise to stimulate the production of dopamine to boost their mood.
● Joining a support group or talking out the situation with close friends and relatives can also help.
● If all else fails, seek the help of a trained psychotherapist.
Managing Clinical Depression
● Psychotherapy is a crucial part of helping your teen deal with clinical depression. Get feedback on their progress to ensure that the therapist you engage is the right fit.
● Appropriate medication in tandem with therapy will provide the best outcome for your teen. The medication might be for short or long-term use depending on the diagnosis.
● Hospitalization in a psychiatric facility might also be necessary especially if your teen is self-harming, suicidal or showing signs of delusion or psychosis.
With proper coaching, parents can learn responsive parenting skills that will help them discern behavioral issues that may predispose their teens to depression as well as learn how to assist their children to get over rough patches in their lives.
GUEST AUTHOR: Tyler Jacobson is a proud father, husband, writer and outreach specialist with experience helping parents and organizations that help troubled teen boys. Tyler has focused on helping through honest advice and humor on: modern day parenting, struggles in school, the impact of social media, addiction, mental disorders, and issues facing teenagers now. Follow Tyler on: Twitter | LinkedIn
Your child becomes a teenager and parenting can suddenly turn into a frustrating experience. You are understanding your child from a different viewpoint in the circle of life. You could observe:
- That the harmony is gone in your relationship.
- You find yourself in disagreement with your child.
- You feel the so-called generation gap grew.
Yes, your child is changing, but the basic temperament is still there. Understanding your teen is still the key to having a harmonious relationship. These ten tips for understanding your teen and dealing with the new brain wiring will help you stay centered as a heartwise® parent.
While you used to pal around with your child when he or she was younger, you now have to set boundaries between your role as a parent or a friend.
1.Help stabilize the changes.
At this stage, you are primarily the circumspect parent who will listen, negotiate boundaries and behaviors, and stand steadfast in your expectations. Doing so helps stabilize all the changes the adolescent experiences. Friends can be found, but good parenting is a rare commodity these days.
2. Become Involved
Understanding your child as a teen means becoming involved while your schedule and life remain just as busy. Being involved is finding the time to be with them. Being involved means knowing where they are at all times and establishing communication protocols.
Even more important are the conversations about life your teen appreciates. These conversations open opportunities to understanding your child, as their thoughts and feelings change each day, disappear, and flare again: Listen to the what your child tells you about their life events. You will glean their thoughts and feelings so that they will be at ease coming to you if they are in trouble.
3. Train Teens in Accountability Skills
You as the parent, are responsible for preparing your child for adult life for as long as they live under your roof.
If they want something, exert the effort to achieve it or get it.
Being responsible for communication, earned expenses, and tasks is now their domain.
Money is not the important asset. Rather, qualities about handling money are what matters.
As a parent, you can help here by providing their allowance for completed jobs, but they must do their part. You are training them to survive in a competitive world.
4. Listen To Them
The teen years are crucial years for understanding your child. Teens expect you to hear them and decipher what they need or want. You may feel like judgments arise surrounding teen activities, finances, and studies. Don't worry because 99% of the job is listening to them and understanding what they want.
5. Explain Your Viewpoint
By letting teens know the reasons for any decisions you make, you empower them to make their choices. Offering them a reason, even if it considered lame by your teen, helps them review their personal choices. For example
Concern for their safety is why you establish a mutually agreed on curfew.
Your need to know where they are if they leave one place for a new destination requires a phone call to know they are safe and capable of holding their own among peers.
6. Tune In
Understanding your child occurs when you are
listening to their kind of music
keeping tabs on what activities they are involved in
Knowing the names of their friends
7. Be Flexible
Setting agreed-upon rules with your teen is always healthy. However, exceptions to rules always occur. Whether you are flexible enough to bend the rules requires discussion with your teen. Lay the groundwork for those instances when rules can be adjusted.
8. Share Your Interest With Your Child
Sharing interests with your child means you better understand them You learn together and share your experiences. You need to stay connected with your child through those teen arguments.
9. Keep Talking Even If Your Teen Is Not Listening
Teenagers do listen to their parents. While they may argue with you, your advice is well-entrenched in their minds. After all, you did raise them. Although they pretend passivity with what you say, the truth is that your advice has influence.
Be a Certified Coach
Defiant, stubborn children test your patience and parenting skills to the limit on a regular basis. Is this just part of raising children? All children go through at least two stages of being stubborn. Stage one is the "terrible twos," when they learn to say "no." The teen years is also when they say "no" as they practice making mature choices.
If a doctor has diagnosed your child as having ODD (Oppositional Defiant Disorder), you will encounter similar issues. Differences between the two diagnoses relate to the frequency and the severity due to the cause of the defiant behavior. To have the understanding of the child's problems and being able to develop suitable plans and consequences are the first steps for parents.
Whether your child experiences the typical defiant stages, dealing with ODD, or has another major issue, address the problem early. In fact, at the first sign of rebellious behavior, model and teach your child acceptable ways to react and respond. Next is an example of a conversation between a stepmother, whose 12-year-old stepson came to live with his dad, new stepmom and and younger sister.
Stepmother: Can I help you get settled into your room?
Stepson: You're not my mother, and you never will be.
Stepmother: You are right. I am not your mother, I am your dad's wife, your stepmother. I asked if I could help you get settled.
Stepson: You're a liar. You don't want to help. By the way, I do my own laundry and I cook my own food.
Stepmother: All right, let's back this conversation to the beginning. If you are going to live here, we have some rules about respect. We show respect in our action and words. You don't get to call me a liar, and I don't get to call you a liar. Can you live with that rule?
This stepmom felt that this boy was begging for some attention, for some rules. He wanted to know if he was welcome in their home. Several weeks passed before the stepson settled into accepting that he was in a new home with people who would love him, but also not let him fall into his defensive anger.
Strategies To Help You Handle Defiance
The first approach is asking why a child behaves the way he or she does? Understand that you, as the parent, can best understand explosive behavior as a form of developmental delay. Dr. Ross Green, the author of The Explosive Child, suggests that the following questions will help parents see more clearly the crux of the problem.
- This child acts this way because...
- How come what works for other kids isn't working for this child?
- What can I do instead?
- Build a sound basis. Parents start teaching expected life skills at the earliest ages:
- Clarify perceptions through answers to the more common questions.
- Focus on the present: What is happening right now?
- What is the major issue?
- Distinguish between needs and wants.Which needs or wants can be prioritized?
- List your options.
- Hold yourself accountable.
- The problem is...use your best descriptions.
- Brainstorm. Write down your best ideas that might help solve the problem.
- Consider the pros and cons of each possible solution.
- Which of the possible solutions seems likely to work?
- Plan out the solution step-by-step: What? When? How?
Refuse to bargain: Kids use bargaining to make several points: get out of chores, make a break or cut a deal. All children learn to accept the consequences of their choices and behaviors.
Reinforce the positive: Reward their positive behaviors. Point out when your child completes a job and has done
it well. Support and praise a thoughtful decision. The power of positively deserved praise cannot be under-rated.
We have all fallen victim to erroneous thinking. Sometimes we use it on purpose to make ourselves feel better about making a bad choice. Well, defiant children know how to use them to. However, if their errors in thinking are not challenged, they hold onto them and this can be detrimental later in life.
Children don't see things the same way that parents do. Without the benefit of years of experience, they act on emotion and instinct. In particular, defiant children want what they want and don't mind using negative tactics to get it from parents. It is all about them. Instead of evaluating a situation to see all sides, they only consider how they feel.
Children with mental disorders like Oppositional Defiant Disorder can get caught in a bad cycle. They start acting on these thinking errors and things spiral out of control from there. As long as you feed into their way of thinking with your behavior or responses, they will continue to manipulate, yell, scream, and terrorize others. The solution is to get help.
Thinking Errors Defiant Children Use
All of us have experienced erroneous thinking. Sometimes we use it on purpose to make ourselves feel better after making a wrong choice. However, one habit of defiant children is using such thinking errors as excuses or reasons for their desires or behaviors. As parents and parenting coaches, our role would be to challenge the error-prone thinking, lest it becomes habitual.
The Mind of a Child
Children and parents don't often see eye-to-eye. Children act on instinct and emotion. Parents respond from their years of experience. Children want what they want, and defiant kids and may use negative tactics to get what they want from you. Defiant children are absorbed in their needs. They are capable of knowing only how they feel at that moment, and they don't evaluate a situation to see all sides. They haven't matured to that point yet.
Children, diagnosed with a mental health issue, can get caught in a negative cycle. They start acting on these thinking errors, and a situation can quickly spiral out of control. If you feed into the thinking errors, then you also get caught up in their behavior. They could continue manipulation through yelling and screaming.They could terrorize everyone around them. The solution is to get help.
Parents Know These Four Thinking Errors
- The road to healing could be long; the first step is to understand your children.
- The second phase is to know how they think.
- The third step is to observe and understand how they get their way.
Injustice stance: This is the thought that the entire world is against the defiant child. When things don't go their way, then nothing is fair, and they shouldn' have to comply. This thinking translates into this kind of logic in your child's head: "School sucks. Therefore, I don't have to go."
A defiant child can also be passive-aggressive. If not heard, then moving too slowly in the morning means they get their way and stay home from school.
Pride in Negativity Stance: Defiant kids can convince themselves that they know more than their parents. Defiant kids are perfect for making their point in statements of which their parents aren't aware. They could say a lot of hurtful words. They learned how to steal something, or how to take drugs, or how to play mature video games they shouldn't be watching. Telling you that they don't know what you are talking about is to make you feel stupid, or to feel hurt that they have one up on you.
Dishonesty Stance: Kids do lie and will continue if parents don't catch them in the act and deal with the situation immediately. Any delay would be considered a victory scored by the defiant child. Defiant kids use lying, telling half-truths, and keeping secrets to deny that their bad behavior.
Victim Stance: As the last victim, a rebellious child blames someone else for what happens to them or for what they do. Even if they are the aggressor, the "other" person ís at fault always for what they had to say or what they did to victimize the defiant child.
Recognize the methods that rebellious kids use to justify their behavior. Teach them and help them to change their way of thinking.
Traditionally, many school-aged children love school and look forward to start of a new school year. But for many children, it’s also a time of great stress. In fact, stress—those overwhelming feelings of doubt about ourselves or our ability to handle things—is as common in children as adults.
The greatest challenge to parents today is teaching children to manage stress effectively. Children may react to excess stress with behavior that seems immature, inappropriate, or even disturbing. One child exhibits anxiety and tears the night before going back to school. Another child speaks of new teacher and asks her parents questions while trying to imagine the teacher's personality. Another child enjoys shopping for school clothes and looks forward to seeing new friends.
Stress can be terrifying to children who lack the emotional maturity or experience to understand and deal with it. The challenge for parents, teachers, and other caretakers include how to recognize signs of stress in children of different ages, how to know when stress threatens to overwhelm a child, and what to do about it.
In Nurture Your Child’s Gift, I offer excellent suggestions to help parents cope with their children’s stress. A stressed-out condition can result from a specific cause or from life in general. Here are some examples:
- At 17, Jen was a high school senior expecting to graduate with honors in the Spring. Just before Christmas, however, Jen’s father lost his job and the family had to move into the basement of a cousin’s house. Jen soon developed a severe allergy, then asthma. The illness cost her so much time from school that she required home-schooling to make up the difference.
- Mark was only two when his parents divorced. Confused, Mark wandered the house, calling plaintively for his father, but weekends with Dad made him cry. Most weekends, Mark developed upset stomachs that were so bad he’d miss preschool on Mondays.
Toddlers need to feel safe and comfortable. Stress for preschool children can arise from a new face at home or at day care, the disappearance of a familiar face, visiting lots of new places at once, or abrupt changes in the family’s structure, relationships or daily routine.
During the grade-school years, children become concerned with pleasing people like teachers, parents, guardians and coaches. School life—even a change in assigned seating or having to take a test—brings higher levels of stress every year. And when it comes to peers, even the threat of diminished acceptance is terrifying. Sleep-overs, birthday parties, sporting events and music competitions can trigger stressful reactions.
Through middle school and beyond, the pressures kids feel from parents, teachers, peers, society at large, and from within increases. Children have to learn adapt to these pressures. Because they have grown in their intelligence, curiosity and knowledge of community, demands for their attention, time, energy and effort can often feel like a tug of war. As in the cases of Mark and Jen, it is not unusual for life-altering events to express themselves in illness. At the University of Missouri, for instance, researcher Mark Flinn found that a child’s risk of upper-respiratory infection increases by 200 percent for the seven days following a high-stress event. And parents like Miranda’s might confuse what they believe are normal behavior with an expression of anxiety. Children often display their tensions in small acts that have aggressive undertones.
How You Can Help
- There are many ways parents can help their children deal with stress and stressful situations.
- Don’t try to fix everything for the child, and avoid offering advice. Sometimes just listening so that your child feels truly heard may be enough to relieve the stress.
- As you listen, ask questions that encourage your child to think a situation through. “What’s the next step?” or “How would you handle that?” are good questions. Ask a lot of “what-if” questions, too.
- Help children listen to themselves. Nurture Your Child’s Gift suggests quiet-time techniques for children to listen to nature sounds like rain or waves upon the beach, to their own heartbeat, or to recordings of whales, dolphins or birds.
- Encourage children to spend time listening to their thoughts. When they feel free to speak their own thoughts aloud about a situation, things suddenly become clear.
- Nurture Your Child’s Gift details a diaphragmatic breathing exercise for kids and parents. Shallow breathing is associated with the production of cortisol, the stress hormone. Deeper, effective breathing produces feelings of relaxation and calm.
- Use soothing and rhythmic music, even simple drumming, to help your child relieve muscle tension. It works!
- Don’t overlook exercise for releasing stress and tension. It works for your child just as it does for you. Have children walk the dog, get on the treadmill or stretch through easy yoga movements for children. Any movement they enjoy will help ease stress away.
- Parents can do much to alleviate stress in their children’s lives. Effectively dealing with your own stress is the first step. Showing your kids how to release their stress comes next.
Copyright © Caron B. Goode.