Modern 'Tweens' Have it Harder than Ever
Although it has never been easy being a teenager, the breadth and intensity of what teens face these days compared to a century ago are staggering. Forced child labor, nation-wide poverty, rampant illness, and social isolation were among the greatest issues teens in 1900 faced in the United States.
Teens in 2017 face the following: cyberbullying and staking, easy access to porn, violence everywhere, gender identity confusion, suicide and self-harm as options for resolving problems, absentee parenting, terrorism and school shootings, obesity and eating disorders, self-medication through drugs and alcohol, unmatched depression and anxiety, and online addiction, just to name a few of the things modern teens struggle with.
Impact of Modern Stress
What’s the impact of all this stress on today’s teens? Besides feeling constantly overwhelmed, many research studies show increased reports of feeling fatigued, loss of appetite, lack of sleep, reduced or no exercise, increased dependence on drugs and alcohol, increased instances of self-harm and suicide, and a growing overall withdrawal from the world.
What can be done to help today’s teens? “Tweens,” those human beings that are no longer children, nor quite yet adults, otherwise known as teens, do not have completely developed brains, especially the emotional and reactive parts, but they are very much driven to make decisions about their lives as if they were fully matured. Needless to say, teens’ labile moods, negative attitudes, hormonal imbalances, and unproductive behaviors, make for some very poor choices.
Stress in America, a report published recently by Psychology Today, from the American Psychological Association, showed that while teens are typically poor judges of the impact of stress on their lives, many will exhibit signs of flash-point irritability, feeling overly nervous, wanting to cry, and being sad for no apparent reason.
What Can Be Done
First, doing nothing is not an option. Every teen who is showing the signs of being overwhelmed by stress has to do something, anything, to try to positively and constructively cope with the stress. One thing, the easiest thing to do, is to engage in some kind of physical activity immediately, like walking, running, dancing, or jumping.
Second, turn off all electronic devices, put them away, and go to sleep. Pick a time at night to end each day, a time to start the next, and do it right away. And hold to it. Make sleeping at a particular time and place a daily habit.
Third, find someone to talk to regularly about what’s going on in your life. It’s good to get “it” out of you, in the open, where you can examine it and ultimately deal with it. Stuffing your negative thoughts and feelings is only a recipe for disaster.
Fourth, if necessary, get professional help. Resources are limited but see your doctor anyway. He or she may know just the right person to help, and can get you “in the door.”
Experts also recommend parents taking a shot at Emotional Regulation Training, which can actually be accomplished at home. ERT is simply an activation of your teen’s pleasure-seeking drive and the rewarding of them with things they currently want and value. Check it out online.
Sites, where parents and teachers can get data and help, include the Data Resource Center for Child and Adolescent Health, Family First Aid, National Institute on Mental Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the National Institute of Drug Abuse.