Winter break is a great time for relaxing and enjoying family… for a little while. If you have teenagers at home, you’re probably wondering how to keep them engaged in healthy activities during all of Winter Break.
Teenagers are comprised of 13-19 year olds. Teenagers are the age group that has equally (if not more) drastic changes happening inside their bodies than outside. They are learning how to deal with new emotions, life changes and social belonging. And now, more than ever, teenagers are experiencing all-time-high levels of anxiety and depression.
This age group is known for making poor decisions.
You’ve heard the saying, “They’re just at that age… that’s what teenagers do [in reference to drinking and partying].”
Throughout this article, I’d like to share with you how the above statement is enabling youth to make poor decisions. I also hope to equip you with some tools to keep you teens safe and yourself sane during this Winter Break.
In a recent New York Times article titled, Why Are More American Teenagers Than Every Suffering From Severe Anxiety, Benoit Denizet-Lewis shares several real-life situations where the teenager in the story seems to be enjoying a successful life whilst inside they are in a constant battle against anxiety.
The article states that that the American College Health Association found that anxiety rates rose from 50% in 2011 to 62% in 2016. Anxiety has overtaken depression.
Many teenagers are taking a variety of depression or anxiety medications like Prozac Xanax.
What group of teenagers, you may wonder, is at greatest risk here?
Suniya Luthar, a professor of psychology at Arizona State University explains, “Teenagers raised in more affluent communities might seemingly have less to feel anxious about…but privileged youths are among the most emotionally distressed young people in America.”
These youths are constantly striving to do more, be better and strive to get into an Ivy League University.
To receive satisfaction and comfort, teenagers have come to rely on the quick reward of social media. The brain’s reward system is triggered when they receive a “like” or “love” on one of their posts or photos. For a moment, the individual feels accomplished. The problem, is that, social media is a façade of reality. It’s stuck inside of a cold, wired box that displays colors and actions that our brains respond to. It’s a trick.
And the worst part is that it’s working.
The rise in anxiety and smartphone adoption are two trend lines that seem to be directly related, Jean Twenge, a professor of psychology at San Diego University states.
With all of this information, how can you keep your teenager safe?
- Let them handle it. When parents are stepping in and making life “easier” for their child, it’s actually making them incapable of being independent. Teenagers are going to experiment and experience conflicts within themselves and the world around them. This is natural. Do not take rob your child of their ability to struggle and solve problems.
- Validate, validate, validate. Teenagers need to know that you, their parents, are proud of them.
- Be there. Time is the most valuable thing you can give to your teenager. They need your interaction, touch, understanding and attention. Even if they push you away and spend ridiculous amounts of time in their bedroom or on their smartphone… they just need your support.
- Don’t assume. Let’s say it’s Friday night and your teenager says, “Mom, I’m going to Jesse’s house!” What is your first thought? Is it that your teenage is going to be drinking at Jesse’s house? Experimenting with drugs? You don’t know what will happen, but what you can say to your teenager is that you trust them to make the correct choices.
- Create boundaries. They are still living under your roof. Parents want to be cool too! Sometimes parents will allow their teenagers to drink and have parties in their own home because, “They will just do it elsewhere, I’d rather they drink here and be safe.” That is enabling them to engage in underage drinking. No way around it. Let your teenager know what is okay and what is not okay – then stick with it.
- Follow through. If your discover that your teenager struggles to make good choices when hanging out with specific friends, you still have say over when they can come and go in your house. Set firm, reasonable house rules.
- Lastly, separate your desires from your childs desires. This one is extremely difficult for some parents. Parents have high hopes for their children, as they should, but it should not force them to go in a specific path. Maybe you were an Olympic skier and you just want your child to experience the same victories. Your child may not want to ski. And you have no option but to be okay with that and support them in what they do like. Help your child find their passion.
Enjoy this winter beak with your teenager. As you know, the first couple stages went by fast. This one will fly by too.
Happy Holidays from The Drug Coalition!
Article written by Program Director Emilee Struss