Parents, do you ever wonder what's going in your children's minds? Teens, do you ever wish you could tell your parents how you really feel about their parenting style? And are your parents like everyone else's? One East Valley teacher is helping bridge this gap with a unique survey.
Scott Reed, an AP Psychology teacher from Hamilton High School in Chandler says, no doubt, it is very different being a teenager today than it was when their parents were teens.
Social media has played a big role in that evolution by putting a spotlight on our lives 24 hours a day.
"I think social media puts a significant amount of pressure on our generation," said Vedant Thareja, a senior at Hamilton High School. He added that he had female friends who felt pressured to look a certain way, due to images they saw of celebrities on social media and were disappointed when they could not achieve that look.
Lexi Lamond, a 16-year-old Hamilton High School student agreed.
"Everybody is comparing themselves to everyone these days," said Lamond.
Both students are part of Reed's AP Psychology class and participated in a survey involving parenting styles. Reed said his survey has been gaining nationwide attention by other teachers who are eager to implement it in their classrooms as well.
"I kind of said like, what would you like your parents to know? What should parents know about raising teens?" said Reed. A simple question, but the responses he received have been eye-opening.
"One of the things I keep hearing from students is to stop comparing me to my friends or siblings," said Reed.
The survey revealed teenagers feel their parents are constantly wanting them to compete with another teen who is doing better than them, or a sibling who outshines them. Teens also revealed that they wanted parents to stop trying to solve all of their problems for them. Sometimes they just needed the space to talk and figure things out for themselves. Teens said they felt parents were trying too hard to insert themselves in every aspect of their lives.
One point that mom and educational consultant Katey McPherson found insightful was teens saying they could not meet their parents' expectations to "be perfect" all the time.
"They're saying, hey look I have a 4.2. I am a good kid so if I want to play video games for 6-hours on one Saturday of my life, I am still going to be a good kid and an academic rock star," said McPherson.
One reason a survey like this is insightful is because of the role a parent plays in their child's mental health and wellbeing. "Parental discord" was listed as a leading contributor of teen suicides in Arizona, according to an analysis done by the state's Child Fatality Review team.
The report cites a list of risk factors that had led to teen suicides in Arizona. According to the report, 41% of children who completed suicide had a 'history of family discord'. 36% had issues at school, and 31% had acted impulsively after an argument with a parent.
State officials said every single of these teen suicides was preventable.
Parents/guardians could take action by getting their child outside professional help at the first red flag, or sign of trouble. Mental health experts recommend removing all lethal firearms from your home if your child or anyone else in the family is depressed, struggling with substance abuse disorders, or has suicidal ideations. Experts also recommended building strong family and support connections in your child's life.
Experts say often a teen may want to open up to another adult, other than a parent, and that should be okay as long as they are able to talk to someone who can guide them to get help if they are having suicidal thoughts or struggling with depression.
The purpose of Reed's survey was not to discuss teen suicide, simply to look at styles of parenting and ask students what they wanted their parents to know, but it offered great insight into the mind of a teen and the role they wanted to see parents playing in their lives.
McPherson said it also highlighted that measuring your child's success simply by looking at their grades was not the way to go. There were many other factors that contributed to a child's happiness and parents should consider those as well.
Mental health experts also recommend parents teach their children the skills of solving problems, resolving conflicts with others in a healthy way, and ways to manage stress so they would be prepared to handle any disappointments, failures, and rejections that could come their way as they grew into young adults.
If you would like more information or help in dealing with a child who is struggling with depression there are many resources available in the community. One of them is Teen Lifeline. You can reach out to them and learn more about the support services they offer by visiting Home | Teen Lifeline.