Dr. MJ Bazos MD,
What should I know about my
teenager's emotional health?
Your child's teenage years can be a difficult
time. Teens may feel overwhelmed by the emotional and physical changes they are
going through. At the same time, teens may be facing a number of pressures -
from friends to fit in and from parents and other adults to do well in school,
or activities like sports or part-time jobs.
The teenage years are a time of transition from
childhood into adulthood. Teens often struggle with being dependent on their
parents while having a strong desire to be independent. They may experiment with
new values, ideas, hairstyles and clothing as they try to define who they are.
Although this may be uncomfortable for parents, it is a normal part of being a
What can I do to help my teen?
Communicating your love for your child is the
single most important thing you can do. Children decide how they feel about
themselves in large part by how their parents react to them. For this reason,
it's important for parents to help their children feel good about themselves. It
is also important to communicate your values and to set expectations and limits,
such as insisting on honesty, self-control and respect for others, while still
allowing teenagers to have their own space.
Parents of teens often find themselves noticing
only the problems, and they may get in the habit of giving mostly negative
feedback and criticism. Although teens need feedback, they respond better to
positive feedback. Praising appropriate behavior can help your teen feel a sense
of accomplishment and reinforce your family's values.
What warning signs should I look
Teens, especially those with low self-esteem or
with family problems, are at risk for a number of self-destructive behaviors
such as using drugs or alcohol or having unprotected sex. Depression and eating
disorders are also important issues for teens. The following may be warning
signs that your child is having a problem:
- 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
- Low self-esteem
- Trouble falling asleep
What should I do if
there is a problem?
If you suspect there is a problem, ask your teen
about what is bothering him or her. And then listen. Don't ignore a problem in
the hopes that it will go away. It is easier to cope with problems when they are
small. This also gives you and your teen the opportunity to learn how to work
through problems together. Don't be afraid to ask for help. Many resources,
including your family doctor, are available. Some are listed below.
American Academy of Child and Adolescent
Psychiatry : www.aacap.org