Help your teen get happier
A recent report shows that 18 per cent of Grade 6 boys ranked their life satisfaction as a 10 (on a scale of one to 10), but by Grade 10, only seven per cent rated life a 10.
The Health Canada report titled Young People in Canada: Their Health and Well-Being notes that by Grade 10, girls rated their satisfaction even lower: only four per cent of them gave it a 10, down from 15 per cent in Grade 6. Why aren't our teens happier? "When children are in Grade 6, they're usually the oldest in their school; they feel safe and competent. By Grade 10 they're in transition between being a child and an adult," says Dr. Mel Borins, a family physician in Toronto. He gives these tips to help your teen.
• Schedule regular activities together, such as playing sports or a movie night.
• Be in contact with his friends' parents to stay on top of what other kids his age are facing.
• Keep lines of communication open.
• Take vacations together so you can spend quality time with each other.
Why is she worried?
Stress is a given for teens. Howard Saslove, director of student counselling services at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, gives tips on dealing with teen stressors.
SCHOOL: Your teen may feel overwhelmed about her workload, making the grade or juggling school with a job and family responsibilities. Assess her schedule regularly to make sure she has enough time for homework.
RELATIONSHIPS: Relationships are high priority and come with first-time experiences and insecurities. Acknowledge your teen's anxieties, but give her space to deal with friendship dramas and romantic traumas.
FAMILY CONFLICTS: Watching and hearing parents fight can be stressful for a teen. Don't fight in front of her, don't force her to choose sides and don't turn her into your counsellor.
Don't stress the mess
If you want a stress-free environment for your teen, let him create it. But don't worry if the space looks disorganized.
A cluttered room doesn't always translate into a cluttered mind, especially with teens, says Nina Woulff, a psychologist in Halifax. "Stress-free for him might mean piles of paper, loud music and walls covered in posters or painted black." But don't take his word that his space is relaxing. See if he's able to focus and do his schoolwork, or if he seems unfocused and unengaged in his homework.
Your teen is prone to mood swings; is he simply stressed or clinically depressed? Use these questions as a gauge, says Colleen Gray, a social worker with the Canadian Mental Health Association in Toronto. If you suspect depression, consult your family doctor.
1. Are there changes in your teen's regular sleep patterns? If he's sleeping more than usual and not being more physically active, and this behaviour continues over a few months, be on the alert.
2. Has he been overly emotional (expressing extreme sadness/irritability) over a few months rather than a week?
3. Has his appetite changed?
4. Has he lost interest in activities he once loved?
5. Have his friends stopped calling, or has he stopped calling them? (This may be another sign of withdrawal from the world.)