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Parents Receive Tips for ‘Navigating the Teen Years in a Society that Never Sleeps’

April 30, 2016 Community, Schools No Comments
Geoff Genser talks to local parents about teens. Photo by John Fitts

Geoff Genser talks to local parents about teens.
Photo by John Fitts

By John Fitts

CANTON – Parents are all too well aware that their children’s school and academic lives are drastically different from their own experiences.

But while there are a multitude of modern stresses to compound age-old challenges, there are some techniques parents can use to help their teens cope.

Some seemingly simple, but not always easy, ideas include asking adolescents to share a positive experience from their day, inquiring about 7th grade dating life and even tougher issues, easing the pressures about getting into the right college and getting them to take a break from smartphones and social media.

Facilitators at a recent teen parenting forum had these suggestions and a wealth of others to help teens reduce their level of stress, a huge factor in many of today’s social and emotional issues.

The forum, “Navigating the Teen Years in a Society that Never Sleeps,” co-sponsored by the Canton Schools, Canton Youth Services Bureau and the League of Women Voters of Canton, was recently held at Canton Middle School. Professionals from the Family Resource and Development Center of West Hartford, along with Student Services Personnel for Canton Middle and High Schools, presented the program.

“What we’re all seeing in our homes, and resonating at school, is a heightened level of stress,” Canton High School principal Drew DiPippo said at the beginning of the evening. The challenge, he added, is how to deal with that.

Presenters discussed some of the common issues parents see, why they occur, brain development and finally some suggestions.

Many kids struggle with stress and the idea is to demystify it and get people talking.

‘That the community we want to create because we know how difficult it is to raise children,” said Geoff Genser of Family Resource and Development Center. He presented the program with colleagues Marc Lehman and Dan Weiner.

The three said that parents should first understand that many behaviors their teens exhibit, such as rigid thinking, swinging emotions, fear of mistakes, defiance, withdrawal, fatigue, and appetite changes, are quite normal.

The key, they said, it to try and prevent and watch for signs that those factors are lead to more serious issues such as depression, anxiety disorders, self-injury, substance abuse or eating disorders.

One way to do that is to look for the “duration, frequency and intensity” of factors such as withdrawal, fatigue, defiance and up and down emotions. Increased frequency and intensity can lead to larger problems.

The presenters said there are many reasons for issues including school demands, family challenges, social media and technology, social and peer pressures, self-driven expectations, college planning, testing and more.

It’s a lot for a teen with a developing prefrontal cortex to handle.

“It makes sense why kids are walking around stressed out,” Lehman said.

Like anyone, kids look for ways to cope. Too often they turn to destructive measures such as marijuana, pills, eating disorders and even self harm.

Some very intelligent students even resort to pills and other drugs to enhance their focus, he said.

It’s also an age group used to instant gratification.

“Kids don’t have a sizeable amount of patience,” Lehman said.

Presenters also talked about how the continuing development of the prefrontal cortex can explain some teen behavior. For example, the rigid thinking and short-sightedness of teens is due to that factor, presenters said. Teens can even be prone to temper tantrums.

“Unfortunately, because it’s under construction, things don’t always go smoothly,” Weiner said.

Presenters shared many tips to help combat the challenges – such a creating a culture of caring, re-assessing expectations of adolescents, focusing on the little things, recognizing apathy and opposition as symptoms not flaws, validating feelings, communicating concerns, praising positive efforts, creating open dialogue, supporting interests and getting comfortable discussing uncomfortable topics.

More specifically, presenters told parents to work on things such as those social media down times, getting their students to exercise, asking students to share one positive experience from their day, easing off the pressure to attend the “right” college and asking them if they’ve been offered drugs.

De-stressing measures such as reading, meditation and social media breaks can also help immensely.

Of course, to a teen that can sound a little crazy.

‘’We have plenty of kids we work with that would rather text their therapy session, believe me” Genser said.

School staff present at the forum also told parents they are not on their own and encouraged them to contact a teacher or school counselors whenever they have a concern.

Parents are also welcome to continue the conversation at the Youth Service Bureau’s “Parent-to Parent: It Takes a Village” Series. The next free parent support group takes place at 7 p.m. on Sunday, May 1.

It takes place behind the Collinsville Congregational Church at “The Cave” Teen Center

7 South Street, Collinsville – Look for the red door! Please RSVP to Laurie Meheran,

Co-Chair (860)965-7020 voice/text, or email lmeheran@sbcglobal.net

For further sessions and programs, people can also visit the Youth Services Bureau online at https://sites.google.com/a/cantonschools.org/cantonysb/

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