Teen Mum

Local Mum Pascale Lane, founder of Teenmindset London, blogs for us on issues affecting parents of teenagers.

frustrated-teen



A negative teenage mindset

Parents usually know that adolescence has begun when, in addition to being more disorganised than usual, they identify a more negative mindset in their tween or teen, or what is often called a ‘bad attitude’. At this point, parents wonder what has happened to the child who was once full of joy and enthusiasm and is now someone who has had the all that positive energy for fun and constructive activity drained away from them.

Often, parents complain that all their children want to do is lay around being miserable, complaining that they have nothing to do because they no longer enjoy … well, anything. The old childhood interests, activities and entertainments no longer interest them because they don’t want to be defined and treated as a child. They want something different, something older, something more, but they don’t know what, and they are bored.

Feeling bored for an adolescent is not a trivial emotion. It is really a painful expression of loneliness; an inability to connect with themselves, with others, with the world in any positive way. There is the sense of being disengaged, undirected, and at a loose end, hence the complaint, “there’s nothing to do!” And yet, when you suggest options that they may be able to do, they reply in frustration that you don’t understand or that they are tired.

The root of the negative mindset is the young person’s rejection of themself as a child. The problem is, although they know how they don’t want to be, they haven’t yet developed an alternative. This self-rejection is tough because they are temporarily losing their sense of identity until they are able to re-define themselves as young adults.

One way they manage this transition is by turning it into criticism of those around them; in particular loved ones who are a ‘safe-base’ as well as towards themselves. It is often easier to be negative to self and others as the verbalisation of emotions is extremely complex and tricky. Usually parents and loved ones can get easily caught up in the negativity which ends up compounding the emotional whirlpool that ensues.

Rather than parents acting offended by the negative mindset, they actually need to be sensitive to it and empathise with how bad their child is actually feeling about themselves. For a minority of young people, there is a risk of self-harm during adolescence, when extreme negativity about themselves leads to a painful sense of inadequacy, inferiority, or worthlessness. Parents need to be mindful of behaviours such as scratching or cutting, or falling into despondency or anxiety and socially withdrawing, developing an eating disorder, self-medicating with early substance use, engaging in dangerous risk taking behaviours.

For parents and carers this is an extremely challenging time. Their ‘baby’ doesn’t want to accept parental affection, but at the same time misses the connection. Extended family may still treat them as a child, so they pull away from them too, further feeling isolated from the family unit.

What additionally feeds adolescent negativity during this time is frustration of boundaries and limits that now stand in the way of new freedom that they want, even though they don’t actually know what they want to do with it. A sense of grievance and hardship develops. As a child, these boundaries aren’t much of a problem, but as an adolescent who wants to break out of the barriers of childhood to create more room to grow, they resent the demands and limits they impose.

Whilst this is an extremely difficult and challenging time for all involved, parents and carers must remember that this is a normal and necessary part of growing up. Transition into adulthood is rife with complex issues, not to mention the raging hormones. As people, we do not grow when we are comfortable. Great change happens to us when we are met with difficult and challenging situations. Therefore it is important to recognise that this has to be a difficult time, in order for growth to happen.

Hang in there – it won’t last forever!!



What causes teenage depression?

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Depression can affect anyone, regardless of social background, gender or culture. Teenage depression may often be confused with troublesome adolescence, hormones or being a phase. Depression is at best, a period of feeling low, or down, that lasts for a long period of time. It takes away the motivation to get-on and makes everything feel like a much bigger effort than it should be. It can lead to feelings of low self-worth, despondency and at its worst, like life isn’t worth living.

There are many reasons why one might feel depressed and life for teenagers is complex and difficult. As well as the barrage of hormones and changes to one’s physical appearance, there are also additional stresses which make life tough. School issues that include not only huge academic pressure but also peer relationships and anxiety, are a huge factor for young people to navigate. What all the others are getting up to can add a very heavy load to someone who is already feeling the squeeze of social development. This can include friendships, relationships and bullying and can have an overwhelming impact on someone who is already feeling either socially awkward or to the need to be accepted. On top of this you can add the huge impact of social media, general media, pressures of smoking, drinking, experimenting with drugs, sex, self-harming and even eating disorders.

Now add into that the family environment. Now it’s really important to recognise here that depression at any level is not connected with how nice your house is or what car your parents drive. Depression is a real thing that can get a hold of anyone at any time. But there may be some obvious, or not-so obvious triggers. What is going on at home at the moment? Are there any changes that may be contributing (not necessarily causing) to a young person being affected? Identifying domestic issues could key in finding the route of the problems. This is always quite tricky and I am so mindful to say here that this is not about naming and shaming parents or carers. It’s simply about identifying a difficulty, naming it, acknowledging it and finding a way to work it out. Pretending that it is either not happening or that it is not important enough to matter is not addressing the issue at hand. Now this could be something big; a family breakdown/divorce, a change in circumstances, finances or work pattern, or an issue about relationships within the home. Could this be a contributing factor?†

What about other relationships; friends, school peers, the kids down the road, or even someone online? Are you talking openly about friendship groups and if so, do you feel your young teen is able to keep themselves safe or come to you or someone else if there’s an issue? Who can they talk to? Maybe they don’t feel comfortable talking to you. Is there anyone else they can talk to? A relative or friend of yours? It’s so important that young people have someone they can talk to openly without fear of reprimand. We are trying to teach them to learn and navigate their way around a world that is filled with majorly complex issues. I know I really struggle with some of these issues even now; I also know there is a whole new load of pressure on teenagers that I didn’t have to deal with when I was growing up.

Communication is vital – always! But if you feel like you are struggling to know how to get your teen to open up or you are concerned for their emotional well-being, get advice now and stop it becoming a bigger problem. And of course, if you have serious concerns about their mental health and are worried about a greater level of depression or anxiety, go to the doctor and seek medical advice.

Pascale Lane is the founder of Teenmindset London

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