House Calls

FAL 2018

House Calls Magazine is a quarterly publication that focuses on health and wellness. It includes a wide assortment of articles with topics on the latest health and wellness information, nutrition, safety, lifestyles, and more.

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28 { fall 2018 } h o u s e c a l l s figure out their identity in the social world. When you add stress like getting into the 'right' school or finding a career, as well as a divorce or a parent losing a job, a great deal of your mental and emotional capacity is absorbed. It's like having a huge number of tabs open in Chrome; everything slows down." If you notice teen sadness, withdrawal, or fatigue lasting a couple of weeks, it's time to intervene, starting with a visit to your child's general practitioner. He or she can refer you to an appropriate specialist, such as a therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist. "For most kids, the idea of talking to a counselor is intimidating," says Bethany. "But don't make it optional. Rather than issuing threats or ultimatums, point out that things don't seem to be going well and that it's worth it to see if someone can help sort it out. The child typically finds it's not as bad as they thought it would be." Aside from knowing the signs of teen troubles, what can parents do to help instill good mental health habits in kids? The biggest protective factor is having a good relationship, emphasizes Bethany. "More than just being present, it's about being willing to listen and knowing who your child is—their talents, personality, energy level, favorite music and TV shows, what's going on with them. It seems obvious, but so many parents seem to feel as though their job is done by the time their kids reach 13 or 14, but they still need guidance and direction. Try figuring out what it's like to be them, rather than just telling them how you expect or want them to be." It's also important for parents to manage their own emotional well-being. "The more parents take care of themselves, the better things will be for their kids," says Bethany. Seek professional help for yourself if stresses or conflicts are becoming central in the household. "The best thing you can do is provide a stable, healthy environment. Teens are in the lifeboat without a paddle if their parents aren't doing well," he adds. One of the most valuable lessons adults can teach kids is to take on challenges. "Teens may avoid challenges in the hope that there's an easier way. In reality, taking them on and succeeding is extremely empowering," notes the therapist. Crucial, too, is helping kids realize that failure is a natural part of the process. "I read about a father who asks his kids every day, 'What did you fail at in school today?' Not to suggest, 'You better do better,' but in the sense that if you're not failing at something, you're not stretching and trying hard enough." Keeping lines of communication open is also key, though that can feel like a struggle for many adults who may not have been used to it in their own childhood or who struggle with which topics to broach with teens. Bethany offers this Fred Rogers quote as a guide: "Everything that is human can be mentioned, and everything that can be mentioned can be managed." That's easier if you approach your child from their point of view, without a lot of censure, Bethany says. "You're not looking for things to criticize; you're helping them to wrestle with the challenges they face as they get older." Say It Out Loud, a program of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), helps adults start conversations with teens about mental health. OK2TALK is a NAMI community where teens struggling with mental health conditions can share stories of recovery, struggle, or hope in a safe, moderated space. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides free and confidential support 24/7. (800) 273-TALK (8255), Roper St. Francis Physician Partners Behavioral Medicine provides mental health diagnoses and treatment for a variety of mental illnesses, including depression and anxiety. partners/behavioral-medicine School counselors serve as an easily accessible and valuable resource to teens and their parents and are typically well versed in helping students navigate depression. HELPFUL RESOURCES

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