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Coping with Adolescence

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Most adolescents swing between happy and sad from one day to the next, or even within a few hours. Among the triggers are the dramatic changes they see in their physical selves and the new relationships they are forming. Changes in hormones, sometimes extreme, also play a significant role in how she feels.In addition, adolescents have not yet developed a perspective on how their experiences fit into the greater scheme of things. For instance, an adolescent girl may feel that life couldn’t be better when she scores high on an exam, or that it couldn’t be worse when she doesn’t make the team. Her responses make great sense to her, although they may seem overly dramatic to you. Being snubbed by a friend, for example, can be just as calamitous to her as your learning you are losing your job.Sometimes a child’s low mood will make it difficult for him or her to carry on with their normal activities and relationships. If it lasts more than two weeks, your child may be suffering from depression and not the blues.Depression is a physical illness in which some of the chemicals transmitted from one neuron to another become unbalanced. A predisposition to depression, sometimes genetically based, seems to play a part in the illness, as do negative events or prolonged stress. In extreme cases, depression can lead to suicide.
Stress can also have an effect on a teenager’s life. The intense focus on tests today is increasing stress levels in many students, but just about anything can act as a stressor. Switching to a new school or dealing with a prolonged illness in the family are stressful situations. Stress can occur even when all appears to be going well. A child can get tired from constant efforts to keep up in school or with his or her friends.
These are some ways by which you can help your teenage son or daughter:
  • LISTEN to your child. In doing so, you can share in their joys. If she is anxious or sad, help them identify their problems clearly and with some perspective
  • Stay CALM. Let your child know that frequent ups and downs are normal during adolescence, and that stress is part of life. Help them adjust their expectations of life, of themselves, and of you. If appropriate, suggest they develop a realistic problem-solving plan for whatever may be troubling him or her.
  • As a parent, you might also get stressed. Children, relatives, and jobs make demands on your time and strength, and you will need time out for yourself. Parents who work outside the home can come home still caught up in their other world. The children need your attention, but try to take a few minutes for yourself before shifting back into your parental role.
  • If you think your son or daughter may be depressed, have him or her evaluated by a mental health professional. Depression is a very treatable illness, usually with psychotherapy, medication, or a combination of the two. Starting early has long-term benefits.
  • The same mechanism that can turn on stress also turns it off. Learning practical coping skills or developing a relaxation response are among the stress-management techniques teenagers can draw on to help short-cut anxiety. A consultation with a mental health professional is wise if your son or daughter appears to be overanxious or otherwise not handling stress well.
Don’t wait until your son or daughter is troubled to reach out to him or her. Throughout your child’s life, use every available opportunity to help them develop their inner resources so that they can fall back on their own strengths when life seems to go awry. Supportive personal relationships and healthy coping skills will also help your teenage child come through the hard times.
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