May 22,2021 / Jeff Long, Co-founder of Teens4Teens Help, author of "A Parent's Guide to Anorexia"
Teens, they’re great aren’t they?
Your beautiful child has a birthday and is suddenly a teen. Your compliant darling child is starting to change. They can be more emotional, sarcastic, hungry, horny, and well, just difficult invaders in our households, right? They’re bouncing off us and boundaries to find their identity, just like we did.
How many of us were teens? Oh, yeah, all of us.
Do you remember how stupid you thought your parents were and that only other teens really knew what was going on?
Teens are in a life stage of rejecting their parents and authority figures and discovering their own identity by testing it with their peers and the world.
All the while their brains are under construction, that’s right, from tween to 25 it's under construction, super powered with new hormones and uncontrolled by the lack of a fully developed frontal lobe - where impulse control resides.
Have you ever lived in a house where your kitchen was being remodeled? It’s like that, only it’s in your head, during the time you are having the most intense feelings you’ll experience in your life.
When we were teens we were told things like, “just suck it up,” “just tough it out,” “that’s how life is.” Can you think of another golden oldie you were told?
So why are teens experiencing mental health issues at rates never seen before in our country’s history? Well, our teens today are really growing up in a very different world than we did.
Why? It’s TMI, times 5!
It’s Too Much information, Too Much isolation, Too much internet, Too Much indoors, and Too Much intensity. Let’s break this down a little further.
TMI - Too Much isolation, lack of tribe & community, not just because of the pandemic, we humans are tribes people, you’ve heard - “it takes a village”, it does, but now families are transient for work and education and most often not with extended families and tight knit communities. All our screens further isolate us, teens interact less in person and more on screens which actually reduces learning social skills and recognizing facial and emotional cues and thus increases anxiety.
TMI - Too much internet, again with the too much screen time, news, information, the addiction of social media and its many negative outcomes, cyber bullying, too much sitting/lack of movement which can lead to depression, the blue screen light disrupts sleep, causing lack of sleep, and teens need 9-11 hours of sleep for their brains to refresh and develop.
TMI - Too Much indoors, lack of nature, connection to the natural world, sunshine, vitamin-d, literal grounding, get your feet in the sand and your eyes in the sky, exercise, outdoor activity helps you get better sleep. The lack of whole foods, too many processed foods (snacks foods) that have been established to have many negative physical and emotional effects. It has been shown that treatment with nutrition can be as effective as prescription meds for many mental health issues.
TMI - Too Much intensity, stress for college acceptance, job competition, the future, climate change and all the implications, the Texas size island of plastics floating in the pacific ocean, the political, racial, and economic divides. This generation was born after 911, with terrorist’s killing citizens on US soil, mass and school shootings, the greatest depression since the great depression – the economic mortgage meltdown, and now the pandemic! It's just too much.
So is it any wonder our teens are experiencing a mental health crisis, and that some of the most sensitive among them will end up being our creative innovators, our artists, our empathetic leaders, teachers, and healers.
They need your support, become a force of hope, help, inspiration, and recovery.
Go to www.teens4teenshelp.org
Jeff is a mental health advocate and founded Teens4Teenshelp.org with his wife and daughter. He co-authored, A Parent’s Guide to Anorexia. Jeff has a background in video and film production as a Director and Producer.