Teenagers are feeling the stress of the economy – and when teens feel stressed, the whole family is likely to suffer. Studies show that a stressed teen is more likely to experiment with drugs and alcohol, struggle in school, fall in with the wrong crowd, and rebel against his parents.
The single biggest predictor of teens’ economic worries is how worried their parents are. Teens also worry more when economic concerns have impacted their daily lives; for example, when parents cut back on allowances or purchases because of the economy.
In order to keep teen worries to a minimum – and take advantage of the teachable moments presented by the recession – experts recommend that parents talk openly with their children about the economy and its impact on their family. Here are a few tips to get the conversation started:
Describe the Recession. Adolescents are old enough to understand the basics of economics and personal finance. Calmly and directly explain that recessions occur with some regularity and that, as it has in the past, the economy will rebound. Note that a major part of the problem involved people living beyond their means and misusing credit so that your teen can learn important lessons about budgeting and responsible use of credit early in life. Also explain the effects of the recession, namely that consumers are spending less money, banks are making less credit available, stocks are falling, families are struggling to afford their homes, and companies are laying off workers.
Explain the Impact on Your Family. After you’ve explained the situation in general terms, explain how the recession is affecting your family in particular. Even though you may feel a great deal of anxiety and fear about the economy, convey just the plain facts to your teen. Make sure she knows that she will be safe and taken care of no matter what, and that she can rely on you to find solutions to the family’s struggles.
From first-day jitters to exam angst to worries about finding a prom date, the school years are rarely without their pressures and stresses. And many mental health experts are of the opinion that one of the most prevalent and potentially damaging sources of school stress is bullying.
Once viewed as little more than an annoying rite of passage, bullying is now seen as capable of inflicting life-long emotional damage on victims, and as indicative of possibly significant mental health problems for perpetrators.
In an online article that was originally published in ADDitude magazine, clinical psychologist Peter Jaska, Ph.D., addressed the prevalence of bullying in the United States today:
- A nationally representative study of more than 15,000 students in grades six through 10 revealed that 17 percent of students reported having been bullied during that school term.
- About 19 percent of the children who were surveyed reported bullying others "sometimes" or more often.
- Six percent of the surveyed students said they had been both perpetrators and victims of bullying.
- In another national study of sixth grade students and their teachers, researchers with the University of Nebraska discovered that 75 percent of survey participants had been victims of bullying, had bullied others, or had been both a perpetrator and a victim, during the current school year.
No child is immune from being bullied, but kids who are considered to be "outside the norm" (for example, students with learning disabilities, overweight children, and gay youth) are often at increased risk for being victimized by bullies.
For parents of children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), the threat of bullying can be a double-edged sword. While their children’s behaviors and possible learning differences may raise the risk that they will be victimized, studies have shown that kids with ADHD have an increased likelihood of being bullies themselves.
For years experts have told us that depression has a strong genetic component. But recent research by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) suggests that environmental factors play a much larger role than previously thought. Potentially more important than genes in increasing the risk of depression, researchers report, is the number of stressful life events an individual endures.
"Mental disorders are the most complex of all diseases," said study author and senior investigator at the NIMH, Kathleen Ries Merikangas, in a June 16, 2009 HealthDay News article. "We’re learning more about how genes can control the different biologic pathways in the brain but, more importantly, how that brain is wired to respond to environmental factors. We’re at the very primitive stages of knowledge."
Depressed Parents, Depressed Teens
Depressed parents tend to raise depressed teens. Recent reports from the National Research Council and the Institute of Medicine suggest that approximately 15.6 million children under 18 live with an adult who has had major depression in the past year and about one in five U.S. parents experience depression each year. Depression affects the entire family, particularly children, and increases the chances that children will have emotional and behavioral issues.