Ensuring your child is transitioning well into the new school year

PHOENIX - Sixteen percent of Arizona adolescents ages 14-17 have seriously considered suicide in the last year, 8% have attempted suicide. That comes out to 110 adolescents attempting suicide per day in Arizona. That's according the National Youth Risk Behavioral Survey . It's shocking and should be a wake up call to parents that while our days are stressful as adults, a child's day can be even more overwhelming.

Sarah VanHolland, Licensed Professional Counselor at Doorways, LLC , specializes in working with adolescents with depression, anxiety, and parent-child relationships problems. She says transitioning to a new school, class, or set of friends as the year starts is tough.

"If your teen has a hard time adjusting, gets frustrated, has anxiety about going to school, and even cries… these are normal emotions for adjusting to new classes, teachers, and students," she said. "However, if you teen's anxiety about going to school doesn't get better within a few weeks, there may be a problem. Do they sleep a lot? Cry all the time? Do they claim to be sick, just to get out of school? GET HELP… Don't wait!"

Waiting for a child to solve their weighty issues themselves can have disasterous results. Nationally suicide is the fourth leading cause of death for 10-14 year olds, but in Arizona it's second.

Bullying is a huge stress factor for kids today. So are the most common types. So what can we do about it?

VanHolland says "The most common types of bullying are verbal abuse, and teasing, threats and intimidation and cyberbulling. Bullies are a very common thing in high school, especially cyber bullying. It happens in front of a much larger audience, which can cause stress and anxiety in teens. Pay attention to your teen's activities online, and especially on Facebook. Parents are usually the LAST to know if their child is being bullied. Being bullied can cause damage to a child's self-esteem, sleep habits, and general well being."

Here are some signs your child might be a victim, and need help:

  • If your teen seems to be stressed about being online, and tries to avoid use of it.
  • Is your teenager afraid to answer phone calls or text messages?
  • Are their grades dropping? Is there a lack of interest in their favorite subjects?
  • A child that is being bullied will sometimes withdraw from family and friends.
  • They will also sometimes develop physical symptoms such as sleep disruption, headaches, stomachaches, and anxiety attacks.

What about the social scene? Pressures of dating, partying, and drugs are very common in high school as well. How can we support our children and yet protect them?

VanHolland says, "Your teen might feel the typical peer pressures of going to parties, dating, and even drugs… all of which distract them from their studies. Anxiety from this pressure is normal, but try to keep the lines of communication open with your child, and listen to THEIR perspective to try to understand how they feel. If your teenager is doing any of the above, invite your teen to express their feelings of why they are doing this behavior. Also, don't be so quick to punish. Instead, find out the source of why they are acting out and maybe it can be resolved."

  • If you feel your teen is OUT OF CONTROL and might be addicted to drugs or alcohol… SEEK HELP IMMEDIATELY!

Signs that your teen is addicted to drugs or alcohol:

  • Changes in friends, clothing, or conversation
  • Your teen may become more secretive about conversations, and possessions.
  • Your child might ask for more money, or steal it from you.
  • Missing prescription drugs, inhalants, and finding drug paraphernalia-Increased use in incense, perfume, mouthwash, and mints to mask odor from drugs or alcohol.
  • Acting strangely, not sleeping or sleeping all the time.
  • You can smell drugs on them.

Most importantly, if you feel you need help with your child, seek out the experts. Here are VanHolland's recommendations.

1. School psychologist
2. School Counselor
3. Youth Leader, pastor or minister at church
4. Pediatrician or family doctor
5. Employer EAP (Employee Assistance Programs)
6. Private counselors specializing in teen issues
7. Parent Support Groups - Resources in Phoenix
a. Arizona Parenting Alliance
b. Child Crisis Center
c. Love and Logic Parenting (classes)

Doorways provides outpatient adolescent and young adult mental health care in the Phoenix area. They specialize in the treatment of adolescents and young adults with mood disorders such as depression, trauma issues and self harm, anxiety disorders, suicide prevention, eating disorders and family issues.

Doorways LLC ., 1825 E. Northern, Suite 200, Phoenix, AZ 85020,  602-997-2880

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