Watch for Warning Signs of Stress
Shalom Christian Academy’s Secondary Principal Dr. Patty Flood shares how parents can monitor their children for stress.
A recent research study* showed that the number of children and adolescents admitted to children’s hospitals for thoughts of suicide or self-harm has more than doubled during the last decade. Shalom is not immune to these concerning trends—over the past few years, I have seen more students experiencing these issues. Students sit in our classrooms and walk the halls and we often have no idea what is going through their minds. Sometimes parents aren’t aware either as their child becomes more isolated and displays behaviors that are outside of his or her character.
As we have become more aware of this crisis, the administrative team – along with our guidance counselor and school chaplain – have been working with the Franklin County Mental Health Agency. In May many on our staff were trained in suicide prevention and given various resources on referring students and their parents for help. Additionally, I was asked to serve with the Mental Health Task Force to be part of the Child & Adolescent Depression Workgroup to increase community awareness about this important issue.
Statistics show there has been an increase in depression, stress, and anxiety in teens. Why are today’s teens more depressed than ever? There are a variety of opinions:
- teens are raised with unrealistic expectations that they should always feel good and aren’t taught coping mechanisms or how to handle the consequences of their actions
- they are more stressed with lack of community and family support, less exercise, no unstructured, casual play/free time, and less outdoor activities
- our culture focuses more on material things and less on relationships
What are some signs that your teen might be stressed or depressed? Some possibilities include:
- sadness or hopelessness
- changes in appetite
- isolating behavior
- loss of interest in activities
- changes in school performance
So what can parents do? Start by reading Age of Opportunity: A Biblical Guide to Parenting Teens by Paul David Tripp. This valuable resource is one that will help you navigate these important years. One of the ideas that stood out to me was to walk with your child through this time in their life. Go to their bedroom and ask them what’s going on. Sometimes you both need a cooling off period, but it’s important to have a conversation without accusations, yelling, and hurtful comments. Let your child know that you want to hear what they think and feel, let them know you are standing with them and for them, let them know you enjoy who they are and who they are becoming.
This article was poignant to me as a parent and also as a principal. The main idea of the article is to be a wall for your child—a wall that does not abandon them or withdraw or react to their moods. They need to know that you are a steady part of their lives. Do our children say things that hurt us and can cut to our core? Of course, but we are the adults. We are their wall. God’s grace, lots of prayer and time with Him builds us to raise our children. We are their wall, they aren’t ours.
If you are concerned about your child and their stress level, I advocate counseling. We have many qualified counselors in our area as well as youth pastors and pastors. And, as always, please let me know if there is anything I can do.
* “Trends in Suicidality and Serious Self-Harm for Children 5-17 Years at 32 U.S. Children’s Hospitals, 2008-2015,” Study by the 2017 Pediatric Academic Societies Meeting.