Over the past few weeks I’ve tried to highlight some of the more relevant statistics for my families regarding the state of our adolescent population. There is so much information out there stressing the vulnerability of our teens.
We’ve seen the statistics on rates of in-school bullying, illicit drug use, sexual violence and teen pregnancy all GO DOWN. Yet our teens have never been unhappier!
Mental health resources are scant. Many providers don’t have the time to navigate convoluted health insurance systems. And qualified professionals aren’t inclined to tolerate frustratingly low reimbursement rates. Top mental health providers rarely accept insurance. And for those who do, a waitlist of more than six weeks seems to be the norm. Which leaves adolescent mental health resources expensive, at best. And inaccessible, at worst. (By the way, I am working on changing this for my families. But it is going to take time.)
As a society, our teens are in crisis! The STATISTICS show we are facing a crisis. TEENS recognize we are facing a crisis. Yet we, as parents, are not equipped to understand or navigate this crisis. We spend YEARS equipping our children for SAT’s and ACT’s; college applications; summer internships, with career and financial status as the ultimate end goal. And with too little regard to their coping strategies and overall emotional wellness.
But perhaps we need to shift that end goal. Starting now. And starting from a young age, we need to focus on our children’s mental and emotional health – with well-adjusted individuals as our ultimate end goal.
For some of us, that will involve understanding our genetic predispositions and how they might affect our children. For others, it will involve identifying and treating neurodevelopmental conditions.
But for ALL of us, it will involve educating and evaluating ourselves and our families: how we communicate with each other and our children; our levels of activity, our approach to technology, our sugar consumption, our information consumption, our nutrient intake, our self-care and wellness strategies; our family bonding activities; our values and how we demonstrate them; and even our schools and our communities.
There are certainly factors outside of our control. But there are many that we can try to understand and utilize to our benefit. So let’s journey together to understand these influences, and how we can use them to help lay a healthy and hopefully happy foundation for our youth.