Dr. Denise Pope moderates and participates in a Mental Health Panel featuring Stanford Physician Panelists – Positive Responses to our Children’s Distress Signals
Common Ground Speaker Series, January 14, 2016 at Sacred Heart Preparatory School–
Below is Cynthia Klein’s, Certified Parenting Educator, panel discussion summary.
Shashank Joshi, M.D.
Neville Golden, M.D.
School is presenting a tremendous amount of stress with the increased amount of homework with each grade. The desire to go to the “best” college is driving our kids to stay up late doing homework rather than getting the sleep they need. (Some children have decided to not follow this fast track and that often causes worry and stress as well.)
The average amount of homework is 2 ½ hours in middle school and 3 hours in high school. How can kids fit in school, homework, extra activities, down time and sleep? They can’t. Sleep is what’s being reduced. The average amount of sleep for a teenager is 6.8 hours and they need 9 hours in order to be alert and function well.
Stress is not all bad. Eustress is positive whereas distress is negative.
Eustress, or positive stress, has the following characteristics:
- Motivates, focuses energy.
- Is short-term.
- Is perceived as within our coping abilities.
- Feels exciting.
- Improves performance.
In contrast, Distress, or negative stress, has the following characteristics:
- Causes anxiety or concern.
- Can be short- or long-term.
- Is perceived as outside of our coping abilities.
- Feels unpleasant.
- Decreases performance.
- Can lead to mental and physical problems.
It’s important to tune in to understand if your child is stressed to the point that you need to worry and he needs outside help. The symptoms of the need for help to look for are functional impairments such as:
- When they have a down mood and it stays rather down than swinging back up.
- They start withdrawing. They are not even texting with their friends.
- Loss of interest in things they used to like.
- Headaches, chest pains.
- Can’t get up to go to school
Younger teens don’t know how to say, “I’m stressed.” It is important for adults to learn how to ask the right questions. There is a stigma with shame about having troubles that can make it very difficult to share their feelings. To learn more about communicating with teenagers about their struggles read my article How to Be Your Child’s Effective Supporter and Confidant
The organization Bring Change 2 Mind was recommended as a great organization working on destigmatizing mental illness. Glenn Close started this organization due to mental illness in her family.
Most 14 – 15 year olds are not equipped developmentally to share about feeling of stress with parents. At the end of the article I have some links to helpful article on how to improve your changes of opening up dialogue with your children about these difficult topics. Girls are more likely to talk to their parents than boys whereas boys are more likely to talk to a doctor instead.
Many psychologists/pediatricians/psychiatrists follow the psychosocial interview assessment for teenagers to discern how the teenager is doing. It is called HEADSS. Here are the topics they ask about.
H – Home
E – Education / Employment
A – Activities
D – Drugs and depression
S – Suicide
S – Sexuality
An additional E for eating and S for safety has been added by some pediatricians as well. Modern Medicine Network gives more details about this commonly used process of assessing a teenager’s mental health.
Psychiatrist also describe three spheres of influence in a teenager’s life. To help discern whether your teenager needs additional help, ask yourself if f more than one of the three spheres is affected. If so, then get help.
A parent can also help by helping a teenager get between 8 1/2 – 9 hours of sleep, adequate nutrition, and tension release through music and exercise.
Some teenager information and statistics:
- More accidents by drowsy teenagers now than by drunk teenagers.
- 16 – 18 % have considered suicide.
- 6-8% have made suicide attempts.
- Social and emotional learning is key to academic learning.
- Don’t ask teens about their day during the first 15 minutes you see them.
Dr. Denise Pope of Challenge Success suggests that a teenager needs PDF; Play time, Down time, and Family Time. A recent study shows that a teenager need mandated family time for 20-25 minutes 5 times a week. Dinner time is great for this. Family meals positively impacts eating disorders. Everyone can share how their day was at a family meal. They learn how to develop empathy with face to face interaction.
Pediatricians recommend no more than two hours of screen time a day and at least 1 hour of exercise. It is very important for parents to enforce these standards as well as 8 ½ – 9 hours of sleep each night.
Denise Pope’s, co-founder of Challenge Success, final recommendation to reduce the stress of feeling like a teenager has to go to the best school is to read the book Where You Go is Not Who You Will Be: An Antidote to the College Admissions Mania.
To learn more about communicating with teenagers about their struggles read my article How to Be Your Child’s Effective Supporter and Confidant
©2016 Cynthia Klein, Bridges 2 Understanding, has been a Family Success Coach since 1994. She works with parents and organizations who want more cooperation, mutual respect and understanding between adults and children. Cynthia presents her expertise through speaking and private parenting coaching sessions. She writes the Middle School Mom column for the Parenting on the Peninsula magazine. She works with parents of 4 – 25 year-old children.
To learn how Cynthia can help you solve your specific challenges, contact Cynthia at bridges2understa.wpstagecoach.com, , or 650. 679.8138 to have a complementary 45-minute discovery session. Why keep suffering? It’s time to change!