Teenagers today are faced with more obstacles and situations than many generations before them. The rate in teen suicide and depression is rising, leaving many parents feeling helpless in their attempts in reaching their teen.
It is much more than peer pressure that is causing extreme changes in the behavior and mental wellness of our teenagers. As parents, educators, grandparents and extended family and friends, we must begin to work together and create a safe-haven for teenagers to feel safe and secure to discuss the present issues that they are being confronted with on a daily basis.
There are profound feelings of worthlessness, uselessness, and despondency that is gripping today's teenagers. It is no longer just normal peer pressure, but as well, a growing number of teenagers are being faced with heavy burdens of home life, and their parents struggles with unemployment, home foreclosures, and illnesses.
According to the Encyclopedia of Youth Studies*, 3.3 million 13 to 17 year olds in the United States have serious alcohol problems. An article published by the National Institute on Drug Abuse*(NIDA) says that 41 percent of high school seniors have used marijuana. A recent survey cosponsored by the NIDA shows that among illegal drugs, marijuana use is increasing the fastest among senior high school students.
Some have asked the question if teenagers are being given too much in school; placed under too much pressure to compete and to get ahead. Combine these pressures with those of peer pressure, and added pressures from the home; it is creating a toxic mix that is resulting in severe depression, drug and alcohol abuse, teen abuse, and suicide.
Our teenagers are in trouble. And we have to do something to reach them. Telling them and directing them is not enough. We have to begin to teach them and reach them with an understanding ear without judgment or ridicule. And to be able to lead them by example.
The truth is, most teenagers are just becoming who they see around them. If we have not taken the time to teach our children the necessary skills to be able to cope and make sound decisions in life; we should not be surprised at the choices that they make or the situations that they may end up in.
Grant it; there are teens that have a tendency to gravitate towards trouble, but even they deserve to have someone reach out to them, and try to facilitate some kind of positive reinforcement in their lives. To reach out to them and make every attempt to get them back on track.
Every teenager is not the same. Every problem cannot be addressed the same. But we do have to start somewhere, in order to reach them and get a hold of them before they travel down a road that has no return.
Know the teenager you are dealing with. Ask questions. Go to their schools and get involved. Know their friends, their habits, their hangouts, and open the lines of communication. Don't talk at them, or down to them. Listen with an open heart and an open ear without jumping to conclusions.
As a parent, now is not the time to be a friend. Your teenager does not need another friend; they need a parent. Try and reassure your child that the situations at home will get better, and that as the parent you are responsible for the household.
Listen to your teenagers. Do not assume that because your teenager hasn't complained or acted out, or are showing visible signs that everything is okay. Many parents, sadly, have learned too late about the pain and suffering that their teenager was going through.
Talk. Talk often. Pay attention to what your teenagers are saying. If you are around teenagers; pay attention to their dialogue and body language. Have an open mind and open ear. Offer a safe haven for them to disclose what is in their hearts and on their minds. Many teenagers that have tried to commit suicide, and those who have; have often stated that there was no one they could talk to.
Be alert. Be present. Be available. Pay attention.