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    With teen mental health deteriorating over five years, there ’s a likely culprit November 14, 2017 2.36pm GMT (The conversation.com)

    Around 2012, something started going wrong in the lives of teens.

    In just the five years between 2010 and 2015, the number of U.S. teens who felt useless and joyless – classic symptoms of depression – surged 33 percent in large national surveys. Teen suicide attempts increased 23 percent. Even more troubling, the number of 13- to 18-year-olds who committed suicide jumped 31 percent.
    In a new paper published in Clinical Psychological Science, my colleagues and I found that the increases in depression, suicide attempts and suicide appeared among teens from every background – more privileged and less privileged, across all races and ethnicities and in every region of the country. All told, our analysis found that the generation of teens I call “iGen” – those born after 1995 – is much more likely to experience mental health issues than their millennial predecessors.
    What happened so that so many more teens, in such a short period of time, would feel depressed, attempt suicide and commit suicide? After scouring several large surveys of teens for clues, I found that all of the possibilities traced back to a major change in teens’ lives: the sudden ascendance of the smartphone.
    All signs point to the screen
    Because the years between 2010 to 2015 were a period of steady economic growth and falling unemployment, it’s unlikely that economic malaise was a factor. Income inequality was (and still is) an issue, but it didn’t suddenly appear in the early 2010s: This gap between the rich and poor had been widening for decades. We found that the time teens spent on homework barely budged between 2010 and 2015, effectively ruling out academic pressure as a cause.
    However, according to the Pew Research Center, smartphone ownership crossed the 50 percent threshold in late 2012 – right when teen depression and suicide began to increase. By 2015, 73 percent of teens had access to a smartphone.
    Not only did smartphone use and depression increase in tandem, but time spent online was linked to mental health issues across two different data sets. We found that teens who spent five or more hours a day online were 71 percent more likely than those who spent only one hour a day to have at least one suicide risk factor (depression, thinking about suicide, making a suicide plan or attempting suicide). Overall, suicide risk factors rose significantly after two or more hours a day of time online.
    Of course, it’s possible that instead of time online causing depression, depression causes more time online. But three other studies show that is unlikely (at least, when viewed through social media use).
    Two followed people over time, with both studies finding that spending more time on social media led to unhappiness, while unhappiness did not lead to more social media use. A third randomly assigned participants to give up Facebook for a week versus continuing their usual use. Those who avoided Facebook reported feeling less depressed at the end of the week.
    The argument that depression might cause people to spend more time online doesn’t also explain why depression increased so suddenly after 2012. Under that scenario, more teens became depressed for an unknown reason and then started buying smartphones, which doesn’t seem too logical.
    What’s lost when we’re plugged in
    Even if online time doesn’t directly harm mental health, it could still adversely affect it in indirect ways, especially if time online crowds out time for other activities.
    For example, while conducting research for my book on iGen, I found that teens now spend much less time interacting with their friends in person. Interacting with people face to face is one of the deepest wellsprings of human happiness; without it, our moods start to suffer and depression often follows. Feeling socially isolated is also one of the major risk factors for suicide. We found that teens who spent more time than average online and less time than average with friends in person were the most likely to be depressed. Since 2012, that’s what has occurred en masse: Teens have spent less time on activities known to benefit mental health (in-person social interaction) and more time on activities that may harm it (time online).
    Teens are also sleeping less, and teens who spend more time on their phones are more likely to not be getting enough sleep. Not sleeping enough is a major risk factor for depression, so if smartphones are causing less sleep, that alone could explain why depression and suicide increased so suddenly.
    Depression and suicide have many causes: Genetic predisposition, family environments, bullying and trauma can all play a role. Some teens would experience mental health problems no matter what era they lived in.
    But some vulnerable teens who would otherwise not have had mental health issues may have slipped into depression due to too much screen time, not enough face-to-face social interaction, inadequate sleep or a combination of all three.
    It might be argued that it’s too soon to recommend less screen time, given that the research isn’t completely definitive. However, the downside to limiting screen time – say, to two hours a day or less – is minimal. In contrast, the downside to doing nothing – given the possible consequences of depression and suicide – seems, to me, quite high.
    It’s not too early to think about limiting screen time; let’s hope it’s not too late.

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    THE PASSENGER BY MADISYN TAYLOR

    Simply going through the motions of life puts us directly in the passenger seat when we should really be in the driver’s seat.
    It’s easy to go through this fast-paced world feeling as if you are being dragged through your weeks on the back of a wild horse. Many of us go from one thing to another until we end up back at home in the evening with just enough time to wind down and go to sleep, waking up the next morning to begin the wild ride once more. While this can be exhilarating for certain periods of time, a life lived entirely in this fashion can be exhausting, and more important, it places us in the passenger’s seat when really we are the ones who should be driving.

    When we get caught up in our packed schedule and our many obligations, weeks can go by without us doing one spontaneous thing or taking time to look at the bigger picture of our lives. Without these breaks, we run the risk of going through our precious days on a runaway train. Taking time to view the bigger picture, asking ourselves if we are happy with the course we are on and making adjustments, puts us back in the driver’s seat where we belong. When we take responsibility for charting our own course in life, we may well go in an entirely different direction from the one laid out for us by society and familial expectations. This can be uncomfortable in the short term, but in the long term it is much worse to imagine living this precious life without ever taking the wheel and navigating our own course.

    Of course, time spent examining the big picture could lead us to see that we are happy with the road we are on, but we would like more time with family or more free time to do whatever we want at the moment. Even if we want more extreme changes, the way to begin is to get off the road for long enough to catch our breath and remember who we are and what we truly want. Once we do that, we can take the wheel with confidence, driving the speed we want to go in the direction that is right for us.

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    THE IMPORTANCE OF BUILDING RESILIENCE IN OUR KIDS & TEENAGERS

    We want our kids to be happy, successful, healthy and safe – this is a natural wish for every parent. But the reality is ‘there are no guarantees – except for those we wish were not there’.
    Despite our hopes, prayers, and best endeavours the only guarantees we have are;
    no matter what we do, our children will experience pain and loss, they will be disappointed in life, they will make mistakes, they will be let down, they will get sick, they will miss out, they will be lied to, they will get sad………

    Even though we want to give our children a life without hardship, we know it is impossible. What we can do though, is make them resilient, teach them how to deal with life’s ups and downs. We do our kids no favours making their lives too easy – we cannot protect them from ‘life’ and the many challenges they will face growing up.

    By making our kids resilient we can tilt the balance in our child’s favour. We have to teach them to take responsibility for their actions, teach them the importance of sticking up for their values, show by example how to cope with the many difficult situations we all face on a daily basis. Show them you believe in them and support them, even if you may not agree with their choices all the time. Our children are not ‘us’, they are a separate identity, with original thoughts and ideas. A person with their own dreams and goals to achieve, this can be very hard for some parents to accept. Try not making the mistake of wanting your children to live your dreams, allow them to find their own so they can make their own mark in life – this is the true road to happiness and success. I see so many teenagers and young adults trying to ‘please’ their parents but at a very big cost – allow them to find their own way in life, support them, trust them and believe in them and you will not go wrong.

    Parenting is the hardest, most frustrating, infuriating, emotional job in the world but can also be be the most rewarding, wonderful and heartfelt job too, that gives our life extra meaning and purpose.

     

    “Behind every young child who believes in himself is a parent who believed first.”

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    Parenting Adolescents – Tips That May Help Your Parenting Experience To Be A More Positive One.

    Having worked with 8yr-18yr for the past 8 years, I have put together a few tips that may help your parenting skills. Learning what is going on in the heads of tweens and teens over the past number of years helps me to stay up to date on the many issues and problems they may face on a daily basis.

    I am also the mum of 4 daughters (12yr – 20 yr), there have been plenty of ups and downs along the way but I have learnt what battles to pick, what is most important to them, what may add fuel to the fire during the many disagreements along the way, and how important it is to keep communication open and to have mutual trust at any cost.
    Adolescents need to establish themselves as their own person – separate to, but yet part of, the family, connected to – but independent from their parents. I have learnt many lessons from my own mistakes – after all this is how we all learn!
    PICK YOUR BATTLES
    Parenting a tween/teen means facing many issues that can either result in all our war or maybe with a little less ‘reaction’ and a little more understanding, the result may be a more peaceful one. Try to remember what was important to you at their age, fitting in, feeling grown up and responsible, thinking you knew it all, believing your parents could not possibly understand what you are going through (they rarely believe we were ever teenagers). Try to pick the battles that really matter – take a breath before you launch in with your words of wisdom. I understand this is not easy but it really does make a huge difference.
    EVENT + REACTION = OUTCOME

    TRUST THEM UNTIL THEY GIVE YOU A REASON NOT TO.

    Without trust the relationship between parent and tween/teen is very tricky. Trust is the bond that keeps the relationship strong. I would suggest you trust your own child (regardless of other peoples opinions) until they give you a reason not to. Talk to them about the importance of trust within your family. When tweens/teens believe you do not trust them, they feel they have nothing to break, when they believe you do trust them they are less likely to break that trust. I see this over and over again – setting boundaries (realistic to their age group) and sticking to them, helps the child to understand their boundaries. You know your child better than anyone else, if they have never given you a reason not to trust them – why would you question their trust.

    COMMUNICATION
    Communication is vital to any relationship – this is the same for the parent-child relationship, try to keep communication open at all costs. When you cannot speak to them, text them, write to them – it does not matter how you communicate with them – once you do communicate. They are at a stage when they want to feel independent, capable of making decisions on their own, testing their boundaries – this is all ‘normal’ behaviour for a tween/teen. Their behaviour and the person they are is not the same thing. Try to separate the behaviour (typical to their age group) and the person. They are going through so many changes, physically, emotionally and psychologically, they are very often on emotional overload. This may cause the irrational
    behaviour, silly decisions – try to separate the two, let a lot of the irrational behaviour go over your head and try to understand what might really be going on;
    did they have a tough day at school
    did they have an argument with a friend
    has their skin broken out (big deal to them)
    are they over tired
    are they stressed over exams
    are they lonely/not fitting in with they peer group
    It is so important that you try to see beyond the behaviour and cut them a bit of slack. Im not saying accept rudeness or lack of respect but the general moodiness, lack of chat – try to ignore.

    EXPLAIN THE IMPORTANCE OF YOUR FAMILY VALUES
    What are your family values? Explain the need for values and what they mean. This is an area that I work on a lot when working with teenagers – it explains a lot of issues they face when it comes to;
    peer pressure
    family issues
    friendship issues
    Think of your relationship within your home like a tree:
    the roots are the things that hold you together;
    communication – love – trust – responsibility – traditions — whatever is important to your family, the branches are the many changes that will occur
    during your parenting years but whatever happens if you stick to your values, the roots will remain strong and in tact and will hold you together.
    Parenting is the most important job anyone will ever have and yet the only job that comes without any training – ask for help and support, it does make a difference.
    “The sign of great parenting is not the child’s behaviour.
    The sign of truly great parenting is the parent’s behaviour.”

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    PEER PRESSURE – HOW CAN WE HELP AND TEACH OUR TEENAGERS THE IMPORTANCE OF MAKING GOOD CHOICES FOR THEMSELVES AND NOT FOR THEIR PEERS. (Teens aged between 13-16 years of age)

    I have run a number of workshops in schools over the past 12 months. The issues I see coming up over and over again that really concern me are:

    peer pressure,
    social media addiction,
    exam pressures,
    friendship issues,
    family expectations,
    sexual expectations,
    lack of communication at home,
    being judged by family (because of peers behaviour not their own) – this was a big one.

    Yes, peer pressure and many of these issues have been around since we were growing up but there are a few changes:
    Social Media
    Expectations (family and friends)
    Family communication
    Sexual expectations (a lot of this I blame on our boys learning from porn sites)
    and everything starts younger – much younger than our day.

    I am going to go through a few of the Q & A here to try to support parents, to help them to understand what the teens are thinking and what their main concerns are.

    15/16 year olds (starting 3rd year and 4th year)

    Q Do you control your phone or does your phone control you?

    A 70% said they controlled their phone/30% phone controlled them

    By the end of the workshop this changed to 50/50 – we discussed in length how their phones effect
    Friendship
    Family relationships
    Study
    Image concerns
    Confidence
    Mindset and so much more

    In my opinion we need these lessons as part of our curriculum, kids are crying out for support. How are they supposed to know how to live safely and healthily in this world run by technology if they are not shown?

    Q Do you think it is harder being a teenager now than in your parents time?

    ( I am going to write a few of their exact answers so ignore some grammar etc)

    A Yes, because things such as drinking, smoking are happening at much younger age and there is so much pressure to do it.

    Yes, more pressure.

    Because not everything was on social media so you are judged by social media accounts.

    Yes, because there is so much more pressure because of school exams.

    Yes they had no worries ( I had to smile at this one!)

    Yes because of the internet/social media being available to us an an early age.

    Yes, their life was not on social media.(over 50% of answers)

    Our kids are battling daily with so many pressures, we need to get them the support the need and deserve.
    Q Do you have any regrets over the past year or two?

    A Yes not doing as well as I would like in school and doing some stupid things I didn’t realise were wrong.

    Yes making stupid mistakes – e.g.. drinking.

    Not working as hard as I could in school – caring too much about boys.

    Yes embarrassing myself in front of people – trying to keep others happy

    Yes spending too much time on my phone

    Yes not doing the best for me always – trying to please my friends
    There is a lot of confusion around boys, drinking, smoking, friends, but I do find when we talk about these issues they do tend to see reason. They are very clever and open to advice, in fact I would go so far as to say they are crying out for it. (Again our curriculum fails them)

    As a mum of four I realise parents are not always the best people to talk to them about these issues. Although we have their best interests at heart, it doesn’t always come out the way we intend. Hence the reason why I set up these workshops.

    If anyone has any queries about any of the above or would be interested in organising a workshop for a group of teens, please contact me by email eileenkeanehaly@gmail.com or 08.8112110.

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    “Don’t try so hard to fit in and certainly don’t try so hard to be different, just try to be you.”

    I recently ran a workshop ‘Have a Positive Transition from Primary to Secondary School’ with a 6th class mixed group. I wanted to share this with you as it can be a big worry for many kids. The things the kids were looking forward to about starting 1st year and they things they were worried about.

    Things they were looking forward to:

    Different teachers
    Lots of new friends
    Different subjects
    New uniform
    Having a canteen
    Discos

    Things they were worried about; (some overlapped!)

    Different teachers – having a teacher who didn’t like them
    Finding it hard to make friends
    Homework – nervous of not being able to cope
    Lockers – nervous about getting books from lockers on time
    Getting lost in a big school
    Exams (this came up a lot)
    Discos
    If you have an older child, try to get them to go through some of these points. They may seem trivial to an older sibling or parent but they are important to the 12/13 year old starting into a new school.

    Help them to understand the importance of doing ‘their’ best and whether that ‘best’ is a D, C, B or A is irrelevant – once it is their best. Academia is important but so is friendship, family, past-times, mental and physical health. President of UCD recently commented on the number of 11 A students finishing school who cannot cope with life, cannot communicate, have no interests and few friends – this is not the ideal scenario for any of our kids. Balance is so important – try to remember academia is only one aspect of your child’s life.

    Help them to understand that many kids don’t make friends straight away – that is normal. When I work with 5th year students and ask them when do they think students make their ‘real’ friends in secondary school, the answer is always the same – 3rd or 4th year. This is really important as kids feel there is something ‘wrong’ with them if they haven’t found their ‘group’ in 1st year.

    Your 1st year student may be totally stressed out in the mornings because their hair is not right or their uniform is dirty or something else we, the parent, may think is not important but PLEASE remember, to them it IS important or else they would not be upset about it. Try to remember when you were starting secondary school;
    what were you nervous about
    what was important to you
    it is very easy to forget what it is like to be a 13 year old starting into a new phase of life.
    For some kids this will happen without a hitch, for others there may be a few pitfalls along the way. This is an age group I work with a lot so feel free to email me with any concerns you may have and I will do my best to support you.

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    HOW DO WE RAISE BRAVE, CONFIDENT KIDS?

    What did we do for fun when we were kids?

    Did we come home from school, spend 1/2 hours on homework and then take to the screen (phone, tablet, laptop)?
    Did we spend hours during our holidays chatting with our friends online, playing games online,
    relying on internet to communicate and entertain ourselves?
    Did we lean much of our behaviour and language from online games and shows?

    Little did we know the hours we spent building tree houses (not necessarily in trees), making up imaginary games with our friends or at times on our own, climbing trees, cycling our, walking half a mile to our friends house, baking cakes with mum (dad!!) or playing house for hours, truly believing those dolls were real babies – all of these activities taught us something.

    The benefits to this type of play;
    we learnt how to use our imagination
    we played how to play with our friends by using our imaginations
    we learnt how to beat our fears and eventually succeed in climbing that tree
    to entertain ourselves without the help of technology
    to be kids, to have fun, to be ourselves, to take chances and to be brave.

    What has happened over the past 15/20 years. Kids need to have freedom to develop
    emotionally and psychologically, they need to play with each other to learn the meaning of winning and losing and taking chances, they need freedom to learn how to be brave and to cope when things might not work out, kids need time without parents, to learn who they really are. We have become so obsessed with safety, work, academia and money and sometimes
    over parenting that many of our kids are losing out. Kids need to be allowed to feel independent (age relative), to stretch their limits and be allowed to fall occasionally but they will always pick themselves up – they are very resilient little people – if they are allowed to be.

    Try to encourage you daughter to climb that tree, to play on that new swing in the playground – without automatically warning her of the dangers. We tend to be more careful with girls, why is that? – some of the strongest, bravest people I know are women. If we want to raise brave
    confident, successful, happy kids, we need to teach them and allow them to be brave, to try new things, to make mistakes and more importantly to teach them how to deal with those mistakes and to learn from them. We must allow them to be themselves even if that may be someone we did not expect (the singer rather than the gaa player, the artist rather than the accountant!). Try to help them to get to know who they really are. Teach them about life without technology and social media. They do need reminding as this is the world they are growing up in – what seems normal to them is not necessarily right. Help them to understand the reality of that online world to be able to balance their online world and their real world. Set age appropriate boundaries in your home, that suit your family, you know your kids better than anyone. But, most importantly, try to ensure that they have ‘time’ to be kids, to play, to explore, to use their imagination, to learn from their mistakes, and to appreciate life.
    Our kids need to be brave and confident to survive this ever changing technologically run world. Try to give them the freedom they need to grow, show them how to enjoy life, to laugh out loud, to beat their fears, to be honest, loyal and trustworthy, show them by example – you will always be your child’s number 1 role model.

    10 Things I Want My Kids To Know – findingjoy.net
    1. Be Yourself
    2. Don’t Waste Time Worrying
    3. Appreciate the Little Things
    4. Stand Up For Your Friends & Family
    5. Don’t Whisper About Others
    6. You Are Not Your Emotion
    7. Always Be Willing To Learn
    8. Pick Your Battles
    9. Surround Yourself With Those Who Respect You
    10. Be Brave

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    WHO CARES ENOUGH ABOUT WHAT OUR KIDS ARE LEARNING – TO LOOK FOR CHANGE? The Politicians? I think not.

    I recently asked my daughter (Leaving Cert student) to show me her Irish prose/short stories – to say I was horrified was an understatement. The depressing tone was just insane. She has been very frustrated this past year telling me she is tired of learning off ‘stuff’ just to regurgitate it for an exam. This is not just in Irish.

    The world has changed so much over the past 10 years yet our curriculum has not. The recent changes made to the English exam this year are another example of no one caring! My Junior Cert daughter (yes 2 exam students in our house this year) came out of her pre-english exam really not understanding what it was all about. No one could finish the exam as it was not timed out correctly and the questions did not help our kids to open their imaginations and think for themselves.
    My 6th class daughter spends hours each week ‘learning off’ Irish essays (sometimes understanding what she is learning, sometimes not) and the pressure to regurgitate these essays on Fridays is ridiculous. What happened to learning vocabulary and putting together an essay using their minds.
    LEARN OFF AND REGURGITATE is the message I am seeing.
    I see many kids aged between 8-18 years of age, male and female and the common thread for many of them is that they are creative. This creativity can have its setbacks as our curriculum is not open to much creativity. Academia is the ‘in phrase’.

    I ask you…….
    What good is academia to the student who cannot communicate with others?
    What good is academia to the student who cannot speak up for himself?
    What good is academia to the student who is inherently unhappy in that world?
    What good is academia to the student who wonders why she is not fitting in as there is no balance between academia and creativity?

    We have to fight for change. Our kids are growing up with a constant influence in the form of technology.
    Recent workshops I held with a group of 6th year students (mixed school) showed me the need for a balance. Kids are crying out to be supported on how to live in this world happily, confidently and safely.
    Over 90% of these students said their biggest regret over the past 5 years was using their phone too much.
    It effected their studies, their relationships, their sports, their mindset and so much more, and not in a positive way. There are many positives to technology but unfortunately there are also many negatives.

    I am fully aware that schools find it very hard to fit anything else into the curriculum as it is. The good teachers are amazing and need to be reminded of the impact they have on each and every student they teach.
    School is the only place where we can reach all kids – of all backgrounds – with all types of parenting. To ensure our younger generation get the support they need we HAVE to seek change in the curriculum so it does include ‘self-development’, ‘communication skills’, ‘self-esteem building’ and so much more – if only to counteract what they are believing and seeing daily on social media.

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