Being a teen or pre-teen can be a difficult phase of life. When your children were younger, you and your partner worked hard to help them learn and develop a strong sense of self and protected them from dangers and tough situations. Now that they’re older, they’re becoming more independent and are likely to run into more complex problems and issues.
Here are three of the top problems your kids may have to deal with today and how you can help them navigate them safely and successfully.
Too much screen time. Kids (and adults) spend a lot of time online, whether it’s on a smartphone, an Internet-connected gaming system or a computer. For some kids, the virtual world overtakes the actual one, with some young people spending the majority of their time each day online. While the online world does have a lot of positive things to offer, if your children are spending all their time online, they miss the vital opportunity to develop their interpersonal skills and build strong relationships. There’s also the darker side of the Internet to consider—cyber bullies, sexual predators, pornography.
The solution isn’t to keep your kids off the Internet, it’s to help them build the smarts and skills they need to stay safe while online. Just like you taught them how to cross the street when they were little, start teaching them how to be safe online well before the teen years. Talk to them about what they do online and who they talk to. Teach them never to share personal information or photos with strangers and never to agree to meet someone they meet online. You should have the passwords of younger pre-teens online accounts and check them occasionally.
Depression and suicide. More than two million adolescents in the U.S. had an episode of major depression in 2012, the most recent year for which statistics are available, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. In addition, suicide is the third leading cause of death for adolescents and young adults and the risk is even higher for LBGTQ young people.
Knowing what depression looks like in teens and young adults is important. In addition to feeling sad or withdrawing from friends and family, depressed young people often express a higher level of frustration or anger, even over small things. They have changes in their sleep patterns, sleeping too much or suffering from insomnia. They can neglect their appearance and hygiene or take part in risky behaviors. If these behaviors seem to be interfering with your child’s life or if your child is having suicidal thoughts, talk with his or her physician right away and get a referral to a mental health specialist. There are a wide range of treatment approaches that can help your child.
Alcohol and drug abuse. Most young people test their boundaries. For some, that can mean taking part in underage drinking or using drugs. Some kids do it to fit in with their peers, others do it as a form of self-medicating to deal with depression, anxiety or other problems.
As a parent, you won’t be with your older kids 24/7 (nor should you be), so you need to be alert to any behavior changes that could indicate that they’re taking part in these behaviors. Open dialogue is also important. Your kids need to know the physical and emotional risks that binge drinking and drug use carry and understand how the consequences can affect their lives and the lives of those they care about.
Join RAACE by becoming a RAACE Fan on Facebook and/or subscribing to our monthly newsletter and inviting those within your child's circle of trust to join in the fight against and prevention of child sexual abuse! Visit RAACE.org today or call 1.800.755.KIDS.