In our last article we talked about how it's not always as easy as we think it should be to spot a teen at risk. We often think that some actions and behaviors are just kids being kids; however, that is not always the case.
Part I: How Do You Know If A Teen is At-Risk?
Pay close attention to Who Is your child hanging around with offline as well online, plus your teen may be reluctant to open up; he or she may be ashamed, afraid of being misunderstood. Alternatively, at risk teens may simply have a hard time expressing what they’re feeling.
If your teen claims nothing is wrong but has no explanation for what is causing the at risk behavior, you should trust your instincts. Remember that denial is a strong emotion.
Tips for Talking to a Depressed Teen
- Offer support
Let your teenager know that you’re there for them, fully and unconditionally. Hold back from asking a lot of questions (teenagers don’t like to feel patronized or crowded), but make it clear that you’re ready and willing to provide whatever support they need.
- Be gentle but persistent
Don’t give up if your adolescent shuts you out at first. Be respectful of your child’s comfort level while still emphasizing your concern and willingness to listen.
- Listen without lecturing
Resist any urge to criticize or pass judgment once your teenager begins to talk. The important thing is that your child is communicating. Avoid offering unsolicited advice or ultimatums as well.
- Validate feelings
Don’t try to talk your teen out of his or her feelings or concerns even if they appear silly or irrational to you. Simply acknowledge the pain and sadness he or she is feeling. If you don’t, he or she will feel like you don't take his or her emotions seriously.
Some counsel that parents can give to help their teens, especially if talked about these things long before the need arises:
Addictions harm your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. They damage relationships with family and friends and diminish your feelings of self-worth. They limit your ability to make choices for yourself. If you are struggling with any type of addiction, seek help from your parents and your bishop now.
Your emotional health is also important and may affect your spiritual and physical well-being. Disappointment and occasional sadness are part of this mortal life. However, if you have prolonged feelings of sadness, hopelessness, anxiety, or depression, talk with your parents and your bishop and seek help.
In all aspects of your life, seek healthy solutions to problems. Do all you can to safeguard your physical and emotional health so that you can fulfill your divine potential as a son or daughter of God.
Many young people have established, at least in the back of their minds, lofty goals which probably include education, marriage, successful careers, and, of course, the safe return to God’s presence in Heaven.
One of the great challenges of being a teenager is successfully connecting these celestial goals with their everyday life. This is difficult because our lives are jammed so full of worldly stuff. You’re involved with schoolwork; dozens of activities which include music, dance, sports, various clubs; and, of course, many throughout the world work part-time jobs as well. Mixed in with this hectic schedule are weekend activities such as games, dances, Scouting activities, and parties. Everywhere you go you’re bombarded with temptation from peers, television, movies, and music. Wow! What an adventure!
The real trick is trying to balance the importance of what is happening next Friday night with what’s going to be happening 2, 5, or 10 years from now. You might be asking, “What does Friday night have to do with two years from now?” Well, it could have a lot to do with it, depending on where you are and what you are doing.
If you want to reach your potential in the future, if you want to become the person that person, you had better work on it today, because it is a true principle that we become what we do. If we want to be a successful university student, we had better be successful in high school. Our futures are truly connected to our past.
One way of helping kids is to create the developmental assets—relationships, opportunities and qualities—they need to avoid risks and to thrive. Find ways to foster stable relationships, promote critical decision-making abilities and instill positive values. Talking about problems and offering support can go a long way toward getting your teenager back on track.
Resource: Larry Lawton
Resource: Keeping Our Kids Safe