I Don’t Know Why

The recent media coverage of Bobbi Kristian Brown and the unknown circustmances of her recovery warrants addressing depression in adolescents.  Often discussion of depression often leads to children and teenagers, even some adults, to describe feelings in the context of “I don’t know why I feel this way…” and the sad reality confirms this truth. Struggling with depression doesn’t warrant a cause or explanation, just understanding.  Here are some guidelines that will hopefully help you and/or your adolescent understand.

Low Mood.  Depression in children and adolescents often rears its sad head in the form of irritation that is not usual for your child.  In addition, the teen can be viewed as “copping an attitude,” reports of feeling sad, or quick to cry.  These expression of low mood can be reported by your child or witness by you, as a change in your child.

Losing Interest.  Children and adolescents, suffering from depression, often discontinue engaging in activities that are pleasurable, such as listening to music, an extra-curricular activity, hanging out with friends.  The child may react lethargically when presented with an activity (such as going to the movie) when normally he/she would be excited about it.

Appetite Change.  Loss of appetite can be an indication that your teen is struggling with depressed feelings, while an increase in appetite could warrant the same struggle.  Notice whether your teen is not eating or eating in excess more days than not, where his/her decrease/increase in appetite is not better explained by other medical conditions or concerns.

Trouble Sleeping.  Normal sleep patterns for teens are sometimes difficult to navigate in general, due to working, hanging with friends, or homework.  Having difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep for nearly every day could be a warning sign.  Opposite of that would be observing your child sleeping too much, as if he/she can’t get enough to sleep.

Too Tired.  Is your teen reporting feelings of fatigue or loss of energy every day?  Are you seeing a change in his/her motivation?  This could be indication of depression.

Low Self-Esteem.  Witnessing or hearing your child report feeling worthless or guilty about something in particular nearly every day could be a symptom of depression.

Difficulty Focusing.  Watching your teen’s ability to concentrate, make decisions, or think straight can be a challenge for parents, especially when the teen feels he/she can’t explain the recent diminishment.

Death & Suicide.   Ongoing thoughts of death and dying are scary, and teens have difficulty explaining why he/she has those in the mind.  Suicidal thoughts, whether with or without intent, are immediate cause for alarm and should always be taken seriously.

Feeling sad and unmotivated one day isn’t reason to immediately consider depression. So how will you know if your adolescent is experiencing depression?  Consider what and how many of the symptoms your teen displays and reports.  How long do those symptoms last (an hour, days, weeks)?  Are they severe enough to cause a significant change in his/her personality?  While adults who feel depressed can confidentially go to a counselor, your teen doesn’t always have that option.  A child/adolescent relies on his/her parent, caregiver, teacher, school counselor to notice these changes and take action to address the symptoms, ask questions, and make him/her feel validated.  Ask and offer suggestions of help, including seeking out a mental health professional who can further inform you and the adolescent if his/her behavior should warrant a concern.

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iPad: Quiet Distraction or Toxic Consequence?

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Sitting in church, pushing the buggy at the grocery store, flipping through the magazines in the doctor’s office, family reunions…. The list goes on. Increasingly I see children, as young as two operating (effectively) handheld devices (cellphone, ipad, notebook and the like). I have to be honest; my first impression aligns with relief I do not have to hear a screaming or misbehaving child. Now, as I have (future) stepsons, who often engage in iPads, iPhones, DS, Wii, and other various media technology, I find my opinion molding into more educational and psychological standpoint. Then, I ran across an article that founded, supported, and further guided the direction my opinion was molded.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/cris-rowan/10-reasons-why-handheld-devices-should-be-banned_b_4899218.html

While the article lists 10 (YES TEN) reasons why handheld devices should be banned, I will only touch on four.

Brain Growth. No denying that iPads appear to stimulate the child who is directly interacting with the device. However, overexposure to that iPad can actually decrease your child’s ability to pay attention, focus solely on a topic, and increase impulsivity, which leads to aggressiveness later in years. Because a child’s brain is rapidly growing at a substantial rate, technology limits and delays the growth instead of fostering healthy development.

Delayed Development. How does a child utilize, use and engage with an iPad? Sitting on a church pew, sitting on the floor, sitting in the car, sitting, sitting, sitting. Immobility produces children who have delayed development, which negatively impacts literacy and educational learning in school. Allowing a child to engage in “educational apps” has the potential to set that child back, instead of giving him/her an advantage.

Sleep Deprivation. Who functions well on less than normal amount of sleep? Study after study, and my own experience, proves that children require even more sleep than adults. Because most parents do not supervise the use of technology, and allow that same technology in the their child’s bedroom, sleep deprivation is inevitable. Which leads to the unrealistic expectation that the child should still maintain good grades when he/she is lacking the demanded rest.

Mental Illness. Aside from fostering aggression and impulse control behaviors, handheld devices has been determined to be a casual factor in many other mental illnesses among children. Some of which, from a counselor’s standpoint, are predictable: depression, anxiety, attachment disorder, and attention deficits. Other mental illnesses stemming from technology use are more disturbing and appalling: autism, bipolar disorder, and psychosis.

Our world runs on technology; I myself have several devices I use to function personally and professionally every day. Children should not be subjected to technology at the risk of causing more harm. This article, as well as, many other professionals have agreed upon a standard of allowance for children with handheld devices (because we all realize that we cannot completely eliminate technology).

0-2 years old = no exposure / 3-5 years old = one hour per day / 6-18 years old = two hours per day

I believe as a parent, a counselor, and as an advocate for the well-being of all children, we, as a society, are paving the road for our future leaders to have a laundry list of potential stumbling blocks in an otherwise successful and productive life. As part of my belief, I am now deleting all children-related apps off my devices now. I want to be instrumental in fostering a healthy lifestyle physically and emotionally for all children.