For Parents

Iron Guardians

It's tough raising kids these days. It is up to you to provide the guidance for your children. If you say you are going to do something- DO IT! And remember be firm, fair and consistent.

Teen Mental Health – Look for the Warning Signs
by Amy Williams on November 25, 2010

We all know that teens have their own world filled with their own worries. They worry about school, worry about their friends and their relationships, and they worry about upcoming life decisions which involve themselves and their family. These are all normal things for a teenager and they can’t be avoided, but in some cases teens don’t know how to cope with these issues and that may lead to depression, sadness, extreme hopelessness or a feeling of low self worth and other mental health issues.
Mental health issues can be as painful as a punch or physical wound, some of them can leave far greater side effects than any wound can. They can lead to your teen failing in school, losing his friends and to conflicts with the family members. Each of these issues has warning signs, mental health warning signs that we can look out for. It is our jobs as parents to protect our children and to help them, so it is our job to look for these teen mental health warning signs.
There are many things to look for, the most important thing to remember that each of these signs individually probably means nothing, they can be normal, but if combined with several others of these warning signs it is time for you to step up and offer help. It is normal for our teens to be angry or to overreact, that is what teens do, but when you notice that they are feeling depressed, worthless, overly guilty, anxious that is where you need to start worrying.
We all feel grief when someone dies, but if that grief lasts for a long time we should pay attention. Also with things like unexplained fears and irrational thoughts it is time to talk to our children and maybe offer our help or even professional help.
These are all teen mental health problem warning signs, but it is not only important to know what they are, but when to look for these signs. Certain changes in teen’s life may lead to these situations like a drop in academic performance, losing interest in things once loved, changes in sleeping patterns and eating habits as well as avoiding his old friends.
Other warning signs and situations to watch out for include:
- Lack of concentration
- Poor judgment
- Lack of focus and attention
- Irrational fears
- Compulsive behavior
- Constant nightmares
- Alcohol and drug abuse
- Eats too much, or nothing at all
- Forces him or herself to vomit
- Extreme workouts and diets
- Destroying things and other people’s property
- Breaks the law
- Or engages in life threatening activities
If these teen mental health warning signs appear you should consult with your family members, teachers, school counselor or even your family doctor, a professional psychologist or a social worker. In some cases parent’s attention and help is all that is needed, but in some cases professional help may be necessary.

Taken from
10 Ways to Improve Communication Skills for Parents and Children

From birth, listening is the most used activity of daily living. Listening is a learned skill, and through focused and directed efforts, parents can teach their children and themselves better listening and speaking habits.

There are reasons why children ranging from toddlers to teens don't appear to listen to their parents. Specifically, they are:

- Many children have poor attention spans.
- They complain that parents talk over their heads.
- They say that parents don't understand children's thoughts, feelings and views.
- They regard their parents' communication as critical, judgmental and nagging.
- They associate their parents with constantly being told what to do.
- They believe parents harp on things they don't want to hear.
- They expect to be bored.
- They assume they know what their parents will say, so they don't bother to listen.

There are several things you can do to improve your children's listening habits and get them to listen to you. Here are 10 suggestions:

1. Start teaching listening skills early. It's never too late to start teaching these skills, since there's always room for improvement. But try to begin as early as possible. As children grow older, have "listening times" when you block out distractions. Bedtime and evening snack time in the kitchen are ideal chances for this. Reading is an excellent way to promote good listening, and while you read and talk to young children, prompt them to ask questions and comment on what you say.

2. Listen to your children in the way you like to be listened to. Be a good role model by hearing things in their words and making them feel important while they are talking to you. Since they sense when you're not listening, they're much more apt to listen to you when you listen to them.

3. Let your child complete what he is saying. "It's a waste of time to talk to my parents," a teenager pointed out. "They stop me while I'm speaking to say 'don't talk like that' or they break in and change the subject to something on their minds."

4. Set a good example by establishing eye contact with your child. Children feel you're not listening when you're glancing out the window or peering across the room. Eye contact is of value from the earliest age, so teach your children to give and receive it by meeting them at their own eye level when you are saying something to them and when they are speaking to you.

5. Watch your tone of voice and facial expression. Too often your voice and expression speak as loudly as your words, and if you are bored while your children are talking, they're likely to react the same way to you while you are speaking to them.

6. Teach your children to indicate by their actions that they are listening. Along with showing by your expression that you're paying attention to them, guide your children into showing by their expressions that they are listening to you. The child who looks up from a coloring book with a blank expression may very well hear what you're saying and still not be listening. Actually when people say, "If only you would listen," they really mean "If only you'd listen and show that you're listening."

7. Talk to your child about common interests. To facilitate communication, talk to your child about areas of common interest.

8. See things from your children's viewpoint. A teenager who lives in a world of his own and refuses to listen to his parents may state he started tuning them out when they never listened to his ideas or respected what he wanted to do.

9. Know when to talk and when not to talk. There are times to keep quiet, so develop a sensitivity to both. Wait until a teenager demonstrates a readiness to talk before you expect him to listen to your well-intentioned words. When a child comes home after a bad day in school, don't get on his back immediately with something you want him to hear.

10. Reward your children occasionally when they display good listening habits. If children show they are good listeners, they should have an occasional reward. Giving them positive, specific feedback, attention and praise are very effective. In this way, if their attention span is short or they're easily distracted they see that if they listen and follow through on what you say, there may be an external reward at the end. Pretty soon, there is also an internal reward, as they learn that listening to you helps them to accomplish their goals.


Olsen Huff Child Development Center
Dr. Adrian Sandler - Medical Director
Mission Children's Hospital, Asheville, NC