From Dr. Jane's Notebook

How Do Your Kids Spell Relief?

It has been said that teenagers in contemporary American society are exposed to more powerful stresses than were ever faced by previous generations of adolescents. A profile of teens from communities across America suggest that teens experience (1) considerable emotional stress, (2) lack knowledge about the consequences of risky behavior, (3) lack knowledge of alternatives to risky behaviors, (4) exercise poor judgment, and (5) in the face of stress, lack appropriate coping strategies.

Examples of risky behaviors include binge drinking (defined as drinking until drunk), driving while intoxicated, riding with drivers who are intoxicated, drug use, use of tobacco, having unprotected sex, and not wearing seatbelts. Teens report significant levels of depression, suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts, sexual activity, many report being sexually abused, physically abused, and the pregnancy rate in unmarried teenage girls remains high. When compared with the rest of the population, rates of death have decreased among every age group except those in the 10-19 year old age category.

Experts, such as Earl Hipp, describe the stresses our young people face. The teen years are known to be enormous years of growth and change. During these years, teens experience the physical changes of puberty; they learn about love, romance, and sex; they begin to search for meaning in life; and they begin to identify who and what they are.

Friendships help the teen to define who they are and where they stand in their community of peers. When they spend a lot of time on the phone, they are developing, maintaining, and testing out their friendships. This is how they establish and maintain their place in the social network, and learn how to relate to their peer group. Later on, these social skills will be essential for survival in the grown up world.

Experts agree that adolescence is a hazardous time of life. In response to the stress, some teens do extremely well in spite of difficult circumstances. Some thrive, but for others life is very painful. As we search for the keys to raising our children, three variables consistently make a difference for teens: (1) having a good connection with one’s family, (2) having a predictable structure in their lives, and (3) having adults in their lives who genuinely care for them. If you’ll notice, none of these three things are based on money!

ęCopyright, 1998, 1999, Jane R. Rosen-Grandon. All rights reserved.

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Last Updated February 27, 1999 by Gary M. Grandon, Ph.D.