Video Games are Taking on Mental Health

Desmond Brown pic
By Desmond Brown

The Electronic Software Association considers video games a stress reliever for all ages, though some are still skeptical. Many who are not immersed in the gaming world only hear about the violent, shoot-‘em-up type of games.  But recent years new games and new game character type have emerged. And studies are showing that these innovative games can be a new way to treat mental disorders. In fact, later in this article I’ll introduce the first game to be approved by the FDA to help with ADAD. Fur first, let’s talk about the new character types that are representing real life, including mental health issues, in a new way.

New Mental Health Characters

It’s true that previous games depicted characters with mental illness as either comedy or horror types (see Outlast or Borderlands). However, the gaming industry has moved past this way of thinking. Allow me to introduce you to Celeste. On the surface, Celeste is a platform-type game. In this game you have to overcome a series of challenging obstacles by jumping and climbing (think Super Mario Brothers). However, in this story there is a young woman named Madeline.

Madeline has an anxiety disorder. Throughout the game, you see her character experience panic attacks. When this happens, the music becomes sinister and the environment gets darker. She also starts to breath heavy and begin to shake. Although this is a 2D animated character, and very much a game, this is an experience many people have had in real life, including myself.

Having a character such as this has given me the sense that others might be able to feel or know what I have experienced. That representation is important for anyone, but I think it’s especially important for kids growing up. I grew up with and still have depression and mild anxiety. Certain things can trigger panic attacks for me, in addition to the depressive episodes I have where it feels like the weight of the ocean is on my body. Seeing a character in this game who is overcoming a mental barrier just as much as a physical one is very rewarding and comforting to me.

Seeing Someone Like Me

One outcome of this is I think it helped me understand that I needed to be the one to make the changes in my life if I wanted to feel better. I think these games can help children and teenagers figure out things about themselves. Maybe it’s easier to see what you are going through once you project your problems onto a character you are playing. But, fortunately, the game is also still fun to play!

Other games are also depicting real life mental health issues. Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice puts you in the shoes of a woman who has a psychosis. Sea of Solitude looks at depression in a metaphorical way as inside a woman’s mind. Arise: A Simple Story is about a man dealing with grief and depression. Auti-Sim places you in the shoes of someone with autism. Each of these games is a way for players, both with and without mental illness, to understand a bit more about others and themselves.

Video Games are Helping with Mental Issues

Recently, games have been built specifically to treat people with mental health problems. For example, EndeavorRX, is the first FDA approved video game that is targeted toward children eight to 12 with ADHD. Studies show that one in three patients who play the game for 25 minutes a day for a week can reduce their attention deficit problems for up to a month (compared to those who did not play). Note, the developers and the doctors who helped with testing both say the game is a supplement to therapy and other medications, not a replacement. But it is widely encouraging that we’ve come this far. You can sign-up for their newsletter to find out when the game will be available at https://www.akiliinteractive.com/get-endeavor

I wanted to write about this topic for parents who may have children with mental illnesses because it is hard to truly understand what someone is going through when they say they have depression or anxiety. Games like these can help everyone understand what your child is going through, or even help treat their symptoms.

Games for Change

If you want to learn more about games like these, I suggest visiting Games for Change. Games for Change is a non-profit that helps bring attention to games like these I’ve mentioned. It also helps produce them by working with developers.

Go to

Home Page

You can also take a look at The Insight Project, a collaboration between Hellblade developer Ninja Theory and Professor Paul Fletcher of the University of Cambridge. The Insight Project’s goal is to create gaming media that helps alleviate mental distress.

The Insight Project

I know many parents are worried about the negative effects of gaming on their kids. But it’s important to recognize that not all games are created equal. Do the research, set some boundaries, and I’m sure you’ll find that gaming can become a healthy part of your kid’s lives.

Other Links:

More on the game that helps with ADHD:

Helping your kids cope with quarantine emotions

pic of Megan D
By Megan Donny

Now that America is beginning to open back up, I find myself feeling upset about everything I missed out on because of the pandemic and anxious about the future. 

Unfortunately, I’m not the only one feeling this way. The outbreak of the Coronavirus has created a lot of anxiety in not only adults but children and teenagers as well. 

This can be a confusing and stressful time, especially for children and teenagers. 

All of the stress and memories of the things they are missing out on can cause them to feel depressed or more aggravated than they usually are. 

As a parent of a child or teenager, you’ve probably experienced some of the backlashes from your kids these emotions are creating. When children are angry or upset, many times they express that anger by yelling, being rude or acting out physically by slamming doors. 

According to clinical psychologist Sherry Kelly, many teenagers who are usually mild-mannered are acting out because they are feeling unusually trapped with no control over their lives anymore. 

While nobody can change what is currently happening with the pandemic, there are ways to help your kids process and control their emotions during this time. 

Four Strategies for Coping During These Times

One way, according to Kelly, is to encourage them to focus on the things they can control, rather than the things they can’t control. She recommends helping kids come up with two lists; one of the things they have control over and one for the things they don’t. You can then help your kids focus on the things on one list, and avoid thoughts about the other. 

Many kids are feeling especially isolated from their friends and other family members they may not live with. I know I personally have felt very lonely during the stay at home order and quarantine. It’s not a surprise that kids are feeling this way. To keep your children engaged with their family and friends, encourage them to Skype or play online games with them as a way to connect. 

Keeping an everyday routine for your kids is another way to help prevent negative emotions associated with the pandemic. By creating a new routine for your kids, it will help them feel less anxious about all of the uncertainty they may be experiencing.  

Make sure you also acknowledge your children’s feelings. Encourage them to talk about their feelings and to express any of their worries they may have. Children are likely to feel secure during times like this if they know their parent has acknowledged their feelings and is there to support them.

We know you’re going through a tough time, parents. Hang in there. And remember what Dr. Lauber always says, “Parenting is the toughest job you’ll ever love!”

Resources:

https://medicalxpress.com/news/2020-03-ways-kids-happy-home-self-quarantine.html

https://www.today.com/health/quarantine-tips-help-your-kids-stay-physically-mentally-fit-t180028

https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/2020/04/23/even-mellowest-teens-are-raging-against-quarantine-heres-how-help-them-cope/

Could Disc Golf Get Your Kid (And You?) Out of the House?

By Seth Woolcock

COVID-19 pressed the pause button on sports at all levels. The professional leagues were interrupted, college athletes were told to go home and youth, your kids, were forced to forgo their spring and summer sports seasons.

However, even as the sports world stands still, discs are still flying and chains are still slapping against poles all across America. I’m referring to recreational disc golf, of course. 

What is Disc Golf?

Disc golf, standardized in the 1970s, is played like regular golf. However, you don’t hit a ball. You throw a disc, much like your regular frisbee disc, into an elevated chain net that catches it. The goal is to get the lowest possible score (least number of throws) through nine holes or 18 holes. 

Via Discraft.com

Like regular golf, there are various “clubs” (discs) that fly in different patterns and different speeds. Therefore, you select your disc for each shot. Disc golf is both an incredibly simple game and easy to start, but also a very complex game as your skill level grows.

Perhaps the most compelling thing about disc golf, especially for teens, is that it is usually free-to-play, as courses are normally built and maintained at public township, county or state parks.

I first started playing the sport when I was 15, right after some of my high school teachers created a course at our neighborhood park. 

Since then, I have played dozens of courses, hit hundreds of trees and improved immensely at the game. I’ve also made great memories and enjoyed a lot of  “hanging with my friends” time.

I think the best part of the game for me has been the places it’s taken me. From the hills in Western Pennsylvania to a small river-town along the Susquehanna River, all the way to an abandoned military base in Maryland – disc golf has shown me beautiful landscapes that I wouldn’t have otherwise come across.

Why Should Your Kid and/or You Try It?

No, I’m not a parent, but I have teen siblings and cousins. And it seems now, more than ever, that it’s harder to keep kids outside a long time. Disc golf is a sport that turns hiking through a park into a total adventure.

I’ve seen it played by people well into their sixties, so I know you can get out there and do it.  It provides a solid upper and lower body workout if you want it to. It also tests your aerobics and concentration when you’re attempting difficult shots. 

In addition to getting your kid doing something productive outside, like I said, disc golf is usually free-to-play. And the discs, unlike real golf clubs, are actually pretty affordable – generally ranging from $5-30.

My personal favorite disc golf brand is Dynamic Discs. You can usually get a great starter pack for less than $25 on Amazon.  

Future Outlook of Disc Golf:

Disc golf could become more popular than regular golf by 2028, says an article written by Joshua Woods, an Associate Professor of Sociology at West Virginian University and founder of “Parked Disc Golf.”

With traditional golf courses declining every year and more disc golf courses continuing to be installed, it might not be too long before disc golf is the new norm. Imagine your kid’s future company having a disc golf outing instead of the traditional golf outing.

Things to Do Before You Go:

I would recommend watching a few YouTube Videos before your first game.  While disc golf is a really easy concept to grasp, having a veteran player to learn from is never a bad thing. There are a few basic terms and ways to throw the discs you may want to learn before you go. It will save your time and frustration in the long run. I think most of the basics can be learned in a short YouTube clip. A video that helped me when I was just beginning was this one.

Second, you may want to download the “UDisc Disc Golf” App.  This handy app, created by the Professional Disc Golf Association (PDGA), is a go-to tool for any disc golfer. In addition to acting as a scorecard, the app shows you just about every disc golf course nationwide. You can also add layouts to help first-time players navigate the course, and leave reviews and ratings of courses.

I want you to remember to have fun out there.  While the game is easier than regular golf to pick up, like any sport, there is a learning curve. Try not to get too frustrated in the time it takes to understand your discs. Also, take in your surroundings and enjoy the time you are going to spend with your kids. Like Dr. Lauber always says, “Parenting is the hardest job you will ever love!”

Useful Links:

Parents: CDC Advice For Dealing with COVID-19

By Katie Mest

I don’t even have to ask at this point about your mental states, as the COVID-19 pandemic has shut down businesses, workplaces, and schools. Families who would normally see each other only a few hours in the mornings and evenings during a workday are now seeing each other 24/7.

Parents, we know you already have enough on your plate as it is. Maybe you’re working from home while also trying to occupy and teach your children. You have to worry about keeping yourself and your families safe, and you’re confronted with the thought of potentially getting sick every time you leave the house to go food shopping. It’s overwhelming and fear-inducing for everyone. Including your children.

Check for changes in your kid during this time, especially since their schedules have been wildly disrupted. They have no school, no daycare, no sports, no friend interaction outside of the internet. They just have you. And while they might be getting on your nerves now more than ever, there may be some underlying issues stemming from this whole experience.

The CDC suggests that some of what your child may be feeling could come from how you are reacting to the situation. Being “calm and confident” is the key here. (We know that’s far easier said than done.) Before checking in on your kids, ask yourself honestly how you’re doing.

Here are some signs the CDC says to look out for in children and teens:

  • Excessive crying or irritation in younger children
  • Returning to behaviors they have outgrown (for example, toileting accidents or bedwetting)
  • Excessive worry or sadness
  • Unhealthy eating or sleeping habits
  • Irritability and “acting out” behaviors in teens
  • Poor school performance or avoiding school
  • Difficulty with attention and concentration
  • Avoidance of activities enjoyed in the past
  • Unexplained headaches or body pain
  • Use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs

You might even be experiencing some of these yourself. I know I am.

Returning to my classes in an all-online format has not been easy. There are days each week when I struggle to find the motivation to accomplish even simple tasks. My brain is more scattered than ever. I rarely know what day of the week it is, let alone the date. And wine is a tempting treat to counteract the negativity and bad news around me. I get it.

We’re all in this together. Use this time of isolation to support and take care of those you’re now “stuck” with.

What can you do?

  1. Keep routines. The Child Mind Institute says this is the key. The biggest parts of your kids’ schedules have vanished completely. You can help your child through this transition by keeping certain routines in place. Create for them (or if they’re older, help them create) a schedule to follow each day that tells them when they can play, do schoolwork, exercise, etc. Make sure they’re realistic for what your kids can actually accomplish in a day, and factor in breaks from doing work.
  2. Make time for nonelectronic activities (like exercise). Let’s be real, we’re all spending our free time on our devices. Make sure your kids spend some time away from the screen every once in a while and engage in another activity. Try planning a family activity time where you can go for a walk, work on a puzzle, or do a craft together. That way you can get quality family time while also breaking up your days.
  3. Practice good media literacy with them. Especially now, make sure you’re consuming truthful, meaningful media. Certainly, stay up to date with the COVID-19 situation, but don’t let the news add to the anxiety you’re feeling. Similarly, reinforce that your kid (particularly older ones) can tell the difference between fake news and real news. And make sure they don’t spend their days worrying themselves by reading article after article about the coronavirus.
  4. Check-in with your kid. They may come out and tell you the different ways they feel negatively impacted by the pandemic. The Child Mind Institute says that kids throwing tantrums or being more defiant than usual may be experiencing anxiety, and they don’t know how to manage it. Talk through emotions, and you might be able to get to the root of the problem.  
  5. Keep them connected. They miss their friends as much as you miss yours. Allow them to message or video chat their friends because at this point in their lives (teens especially), their friends are one of the most important things in their lives. Remember that there are some issues in a kid’s life that require friends’ input, not necessarily parents’.

The most helpful thing you can do to help your child through this pandemic is to validate their feelings. I don’t know how to manage all the feelings I have about the coronavirus and its impact on the world, but it means a lot to have trusted adults in your life tell you that you’re not silly or childish for feeling this way.

We all feel a little helpless right now. Support your kids, and don’t forget to lean on others for support, too, if you need it.

Read More:

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/managing-stress-anxiety.html

Shocking Vaping Stats to Know Going into 2020

By Katie Mest

As we head into 2020, vapes are everywhere.

Your family members and friends might have already substituted their cigarettes for the latest in smoking technology. Instead of walking down the sidewalk and being hit in the face with a cloud of tobacco smell, you’re now greeted with scents like cotton candy or bubblegum.

Kids certainly seem to find vaping to be a preferred form of smoking. JUUL proved that. I’m sure you’ve encountered plenty of JUUL pods on the ground in lieu of cigarette butts.

And vaping is still on the rise. Here’s what you need to know about vaping as we head into a new year.

Vapes Make It Easier Than Ever For Your Kid To Smoke Marijuana

Picture this: A kid is sitting in the park with his friends smoking a cigarette. You and many others would pass by without giving it a second thought. It’s not necessarily an unusual occurrence.

Now, consider this: A kid and his friends are sitting in the park passing a joint between them. It’s far more obvious they’re smoking marijuana because of their behavior and the distinct smell. They’re more likely to get in trouble for this scenario either with their parents, the law, or both.

There’s a thin line between these two circumstances. Vapes can completely erase that line.

Regardless of the substance in the vape, odds are you’re going to smell something delightful, not tobacco or marijuana. Unless you get up close and personal with the cartridge in the vape, you’re not going to be able to tell what’s in it unless you’re super familiar with the substances and cartridge brands.

Not shockingly, kids are taking advantage of this.

Kids Are Vaping Marijuana (THC)

A survey from the University of Michigan (posted in the Journal of the American Medicine Association) found that 1 in 5 high school students have vaped marijuana in the past year.

While more kids are still vaping nicotine (1 in 4 said they had done it in the past year), the number of kids vaping marijuana has taken a huge leap from the previous year.

The survey showed that 1 in 7 kids are considered to be current users of marijuana vaping (meaning that they had vaped it sometime in the month before the survey), while the previous year showed only 1 in 13 were current users. Almost double the amount of kids are taking up marijuana (THC) vaping.

Vaping is making it easier than ever before to take up smoking marijuana. It’s convenient. It takes away some of the paranoia that you’re going to get caught since people near you can’t tell what substance is in the vape.

But black market THC cartridges aren’t just causing your kids to get high. They’re posing some serious health risks for users.

With Vaping-Related Hospitalizations Going Up, Officials Are Cracking Down

More than 2,400 people have been hospitalized for vaping-related lung illnesses since the beginning of the summer, and vitamin E acetate is to blame in most cases, according to the CDC.

Vitamin E acetate is used as a thickening agent in illicit THC vape cartridges. You can read more about it in this blog post.

The FDA and the DEA have since shut down 44 sites claiming to sell illegal cartridges. This Associated Press article names Stoners Marketplace and Anonymous Meds as two now-shutdown sites. Investigators were led to some of these sites through interviews with patients. Other websites were shut down because they were scam sites that took money without delivering products.

While studies show that high school kids are decreasing their average usage of alcohol and cigarettes, there has been a slight increase in daily marijuana usage overall and a concerningly large increase in marijuana vaping.

Public health officials are worried about this, and you should be, too.

Links:

https://apnews.com/fc4d6d53d0e722de5cb7be850743d138

https://apnews.com/91b897691ec0b201b912247fd573ff02

Are food advertisements targeting your kids?

By: Megan Donny

pic of Megan D

Every day, children access a wide variety of media platforms that are filled with advertisements through their phones, tablets and laptops. 

Food and beverage advertisements have been found to be the most viewed on apps such as YouTube and Snapchat. 

A Canadian study found that children view over 100 advertisements for food each week on apps such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter and YouTube. 

These advertisements are specifically targeting younger viewers who have low impulse control and low healthy dieting behaviors. 

Social media has made it so much easier for marketers to target consumers. They can use digital tools like location settings, preferences and past purchasing data to more accurately grab the consumer’s attention. 

According to a study done at the University of Michigan, when children view these frequent, and sometimes persistent food advertisements, it makes them desire the reward of food. 

In the study, it shows that when adolescents see unhealthy food commercials, it activates the reward centers of the brain. This then causes the child to want to seek out any type of food related to what they saw in the advertisement. 

How you can limit your child’s advertisement exposure: 

While it’s practically impossible to completely remove all types of advertisements from your child’s life, there are ways to prevent food advertisements from appearing on their screens. 

Streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime don’t rely on advertisements for revenue and your kids will not be exposed to any type of advertisements on these apps. 

Also through the settings section in apps like Instagram, you can see the advertisements that have been shown to your children as well as learn about what to do if you see an ad you wish to hide. Many of these also have parental control options.

Websites like Common Sense Media can help parents learn about the different apps and streaming services their children use as well. 

Helpful Links:

https://www.ctvnews.ca/health/canadian-kids-see-thousands-of-ads-for-unhealthy-foods-on-social-media-study-1.4154607

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/fast-food-marketing_l_5c890150e4b038892f493653

Teasing your kids at home might turn them into bullies says this study

By Katie Mest

The problem of bullying in schools stretches across generations, and though there are new media through which kids can now bully their peers, bullying itself is nothing new.

A study from Florida Atlantic University suggests that how parents interact with their child at home might have a lot to do with the way their child then treats their classmates. You probably know that mean parents lead to mean kids, but just how mean do they have to be to make an impact?

This study says it can be as small as just belittling or not praising your kid.

We know parenting isn’t easy. That’s why we’ve built this blog about how your kid’s world is different from the one you grew up in. But this study says to take a hard look at how you’re interacting with your child. Are you telling them you’re proud of them even for small accomplishments? Do you zone out when they’re talking about their interests, or are you actively listening?

If they feel frustrated by some of their interactions at home, they might go to school and take it out on other students since they can’t say anything to you. How bad is bullying in today’s schools?

National Statistics on Bullying

  • About 20% percent of kids aged 12-18 report that they have experienced bullying, according to the 2017 School Crime Supplement from the National Center for Education Statistics and Bureau of Justice (https://nces.ed.gov/programs/crimeindicators/ind_10.asp).
  • 70.6% of kids say they’ve seen bullying in their schools, and 70.4% of school staff say they’ve witnessed bullying. Note, 62% of school staff say they witnessed bullying two or more times in the month prior to the survey, and 41% say they witnessed bullying every week.
  • Middle school students report they’ve been bullied a variety of ways, including name-calling (44.2 %), teasing (43.3 %), spreading rumors or lies (36.3%), pushing or shoving (32.4%), hitting, slapping, or kicking (29.2%), being left out (28.5%), threatened (27.4%), stolen belongings (27.3%), sexual comments or gestures (23.7%), targeted in e-mail or blog (9.9%).

Name-calling and teasing are the most common. Maybe not surprising, these are also two of the types of bullying that can occur at home.

Unfortunately, it’s all too easy to tease your own kid. Maybe it feels like you’re teasing yourself. You probably share characteristics. Do you feel like you’re too short, have big ears, or can’t do math? Maybe you’re just repeating what you’ve heard before.

Or maybe you think your comments are harmless, but your kid sees them as serious: “You missed a couple goals today in the game. Maybe we should be paying more attention at practice instead of talking with our friends the whole time.” Or “You spend a lot of time in your room. Try socializing with the rest of the family every once in a while.”

Each kid is different, and just because they came from you doesn’t mean they think exactly like you. Heck, they’re not even your age. If you’re going to poke fun at them (every great once in a while), make sure it’s lighthearted and not hurtful. Watch their reaction. Make it obvious you don’t mind if they tease you back. There is a fine line between mutual teasing and one-sided, being-picked-on.

Regrettably, the study suggests if kids are teased daily, they transfer that behavior into other areas of their lives. If it’s acceptable at home, then it’s acceptable at school or practice, right?

And I have to point out: kids can’t lash out at their parents every time they feel they’ve been insulted or belittled.  It’s obviously easier to take it out on kids their own age.

I don’t know a clear path to stopping bullying but understanding some of the risk factors that go into it must help. If parents are name-calling and teasing their kids, and these are the number one and number two most frequent ways kids are getting bullied at school…?  There has to be a connection.  

I suggest talking to your kids the same way you want them talking to their peers. Ask yourself: Is what I’m about to say going to make the other person feel bad? If my parent said this to me when I was a kid, would I be hurt?

And ask them for feedback. Let them know that they can tell you if you’ve gone too far. Did they take that as the joke you intended, or did you offend them. Meanwhile, tell them if they’ve gone too far. You’re training them in conversation and human relations. Make sure they know how to communicate effectively – and nicely.  

Links:

https://nces.ed.gov/programs/crimeindicators/ind_10.asp

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/07/190709110230.htm

Does your daughter access birth control online?

By Megan Donny

pic of Megan D

“Easy” and “affordable.” 

Those are the two words you see when you open any of the multiple websites that offer online birth control prescriptions. 

While this method of obtaining birth control may be helpful for women trying to renew their previous prescriptions, it’s also an easy way for young tweens to bypass a doctor’s trip to obtain a prescription. 

Websites like “The Pill Club” and “Nurx” offer first-time birth control prescriptions to women as young as 13 years old. Girls under 18 do not need parental approval to get a birth control prescription.  

These websites offer birth control options such as the pill, the ring and the patch. They also offer emergency contraception pills and at home HIV and HPV screening tests. 

The process for obtaining a prescription is simple: you provide information about yourself, select the kind of medication you want, a doctor reviews your request, fills the prescription, and your new medication gets mailed right to you. 

It is very easy to bypass questions in the process that are important, like if you’ve had your blood pressure measured in the last 6 months and the current medications you may be on. However, if you don’t answer the questions as accurately as possible, you may be prescribed a medication that negativily affects your health.  

Insurance information is not required to obtain a prescription from these websites. Nurx, one of the most popular online contraceptive websites, says that you will pay as little as $15 without insurance. 

Many young women dread telling their parents when they have become sexually active. The process can be awkward for both the child and parent. But it is necessary for the child to know the dangers that come with sexual activity. 

Online birth control websites give young women the opportunity to skip the awkward talk and get a prescription without their parent’s knowledge. 

The problem with getting birth control online for a first-time prescription is that many young women do not get informed about different methods of birth control and the side effects that may occur. 

Some medications can affect young women suffering from mental and physical health problems. It is very important for anyone considering filling an online prescription for birth control to get well-informed. 

Useful Links:

https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/birth-control-methods

https://www.caringforkids.cps.ca/handouts/birth-control-for-teens

Helping Your Kids with Negative Emotions

By Katie Mest

Parents, I’ll be honest with you. There have been quite a few times I’ve had to lock myself away in my room or run to the bathroom at school to cry out a problem.

Most of the time, the problem itself wasn’t a big deal. But small issues pile up until sometimes you feel an overwhelming wave of emotions crashing down on you.

Often I’ll have a week in which this seems to happen every other day.

And that worries me.

I’m aware of the current statistics of mental health-related issues in people my age. It’s not uncommon to come across a friend who’s in therapy (or should be) for depression or anxiety.

Every time I get to a place where I feel I might be getting into the “I need more help than just myself” territory, I take a step back and evaluate where I am, the severity of my problems, and how I can stop the panic mode.

I know I’m not the only one with that self-awareness. So that leads me to the latest news regarding your teen and their mental health.

Examine negative emotions

A new study from the University of Rochester (June 2019) shows that kids who are able to describe their negative emotions have a better chance of warding off depression than those who struggle with verbalizing their feelings. (Depression in this case can mean depression-like symptoms after a stressful event or actual clinical depression later in life.)

Science Daily interviewed the lead author of the study, who said that thinking through your emotions can help you develop a plan to then overcome those emotions.

What this means is that communicating with your teen is key to their mental health. Not only will you have a better understanding of what’s going on in your child’s head, but you can actually help them be more mindful of their own thoughts and feelings.

Find the source of stress

Midterm exams. A big game. A rocky relationship. Friend drama. The list can go on and on.

The trick is finding the source of the negative emotions and dissecting how and why it made your kid feel bad.

Is she upset that her friend ignored her one text, or does she think that she and her friend are drifting apart? Is your son angry that he missed a goal that could’ve won the game, or is he feeling a lot of pressure to perform well on the field because his grades are slipping?

Is it overthinking? Are the negative emotions valid? Do they have too much on their plate?

Make “talking it out” a normal part of the process

 Think of how much time you could save yourself if you analyzed every situation that stressed you out. You’d be golden.

It’s not an easily attainable goal, but it’s one we should all strive to have.

I’ve designated my mom as my go-to person for emotional issues. Sometimes she gets a very detailed text listing all the bad things that happened in my day that led to the bad mood I was in while writing the text. Sometimes I just share with her that I decided to skip coffee that morning because I knew I would have a busy morning and caffeine would only heighten my anxiety.

She sits on the phone with me when I need to talk out my problems out loud. She gives me advice to lessen my stress factors. And sometimes all I need is validation that the emotions I’m feeling about a situation aren’t completely moronic and childish.

What if you and your teen don’t have the kind of relationship in which you have heart-to-hearts every other day?

Offer anyway. It will always be in the back of their mind that mom or dad is there if they really need help.

Also, share your own experiences. It makes you relatable. Your kid can think of you more as a peer instead of an authority figure and in turn might be more open to opening up.

Encourage them to find their go-to person. If you know in your heart that there’s no way your teen is going to come to you with something like this, suggest that they consult with a good friend whenever they get stressed or overwhelmed.

Useful Links:

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/06/190628120447.htm

https://psycnet.apa.org/buy/2019-35689-001

Is Social Media Influencing Your Child’s Body Image?

pic of Morgan Rihn
By Morgan Rihn

Picture-perfect food, beaches, boats, vacation photos, selfies…  All of these flood social media. They portray a perfect life – that no one possesses!

The pressure to look and feel perfect is higher than ever before. Everyone can fake their lives. And shove it in everybody else’s faces. You know all of this isn’t the real truth. But does your adolescent?

Most Influential: Social Media

There’s your child, scrolling through Instagram, Twitter, Facebook or any other social media platform. They find numerous accounts and pictures of people with perfect bodies at perfect places posing perfectly. Celebrities and influencers getting paid to post picture-perfect content.

But do you compare yourself to these images? Doesn’t it make it easier to see the flaws you have?  Young girls and boys are extremely susceptible to this. Phys.org reports “teens who reported posting more pictures on social media, had a heightened awareness of their appearance, which was related to feeling more negative about their body.” The more time a teen spends online, the more likely they are to have a negative body image.

But you and I know the pictures that flood social media are unnatural in pose and quality. No one has perfect skin or a perfect figure. “Fitspiration” accounts, designed to promote one fitness expert over another, can influence adolescences to create unhealthy eating habits and extreme exercise regimes. Fashion models post about their “everyday” life and young minds tend to wonder why their life is not like that. The standard that is being held up to your child is unrealistic. One natural outcome is bad feelings about their body, and shame.

How to Help

There is help out there. Psychologytoday.com offers an acronym to help teach your child about this aspect of the media.

F.A.C.E.

F – Filter out content that makes them feel negative in anyway.

A – Avoid letting them spend all their time on social media.

C – Careful of comparing others lives to how their life is going.

E – Evaluate what the differences are between real and fake photos.

It is important to teach your children that real life is not supposed to look perfect. Real life is beautiful in its own, unique way. It is different for everyone. Being comfortable with the way you look with today’s Internet is hard. However, for your child’s sake, teach them that everyone is perfect in their own way, on both the inside and outside.

Links:

https://phys.org/news/2018-05-reveals-selfies-teenage-body-image.html

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/smart-people-don-t-diet/201902/teens-body-image-and-social-media

http://www.decodingtodaysyouth.com/is-your-tween-spending-too-much-time-on-youtube/