Thursday, January 21, 2010
Sue Scheff: Teen stress to keep up with their peers
By Connect with Kids
“They are looking at materialism in an effort to demonstrate and to illustrate self-worth. And, when you are not able to buy enough, when you are not able to have the iPod, the iPod phone and the BMW... when you're not able to have all those things at one time, there tends to be a diminished sense of self-worth.”
– David Wall Rice, Ph.D., Personality Psychologist
A new study from San Diego State University finds that five times more teens suffer from depression and anxiety than teens who grew up during the Great Depression. Experts say the reasons are many, including school stress, intense competition, instability at home and the need for more.
Instead of "peace, love and happiness," teens today say they want designer labels, fancy cars and the latest technology.
"I kinda felt left out when I didn't have a camera phone," explains 17-year-old Ebonee.
"Like, I'll save up all my money and buy purses," adds 14-year-old Marisa.
"I have a couple jeans that are more than $200, maybe $300," admits 18-year-old Joey.
And that need for the newest and latest, experts say, is one of the reasons behind much of today's anxiety and depression. In fact, according to a new study by San Diego State University, five times more teens suffer from depression now than they did in 1938.
Experts say it's sad, but often teens confuse what they have, with who they are.
"They are looking at materialism in an effort to demonstrate and to illustrate self-worth," says Dr. David Wall Rice, a personality psychologist with Morehouse College. "And, when you are not able to buy enough, when you are not able to have the iPod, the iPod phone and the BMW... when you're not able to have all those things at one time, there tends to be a diminished sense of self-worth."
Experts call the obsession "Affluenza" – and even during the recession, many teens still suffer from it.
We gave a group of high school cheerleaders a test to see whether or not they have it.
They were asked: "Have you ever lied to a family member about the amount you spent for a product?" "Do you ever use shopping as a therapy?" "Has one of your credit cards ever been rejected by a sales person because you were over the limit?"
Several kids in the group answered 'yes' to all three questions.
Experts say one of the easiest ways for parents to counteract "Affluenza" is by setting limits. If kids ask for items they don't need, parents should refuse without feeling guilty.
"There are some boundaries that you need to set," he says, "and you need to be able to say 'no'. 'No, you can't have those.' Or, 'no, you can work towards that. Maybe in about four to six weeks you might be able to get them on your own, if it's that important to you.'"
Numerous studies show that kids who regularly eat dinner with their families are better students, happier, healthier people and less likely to smoke, drink or use drugs. For example, a University of Michigan study of children between the ages of 3 and 12 found that more meal time with the family was the single strongest predictor of better achievement scores and fewer behavioral problems. In fact, time spent eating with one's family proved even more beneficial than time spent studying or in church.
■In 2003, 61 percent of youths 12 to 17 said they ate dinner with their families at least five nights a week, an increase from 47 percent in 1998.
■In general, children who eat with their families have better nutrition, abuse fewer substances, are less suicidal and have less sex.
■Researchers found that the more frequently kids ate with their parents, the less likely they were to smoke, drink, use marijuana or show signs of depression.
■On September 27, 2004, 400 communities and 42 states proclaimed the date a day to eat dinner with your children. Companies from General Mills to Bristol-Myers Squibb offered employees incentives – in some cases leaving work early – to do so.
Tips for Parents
For many, family dinners are often far from the ideal bonding experience. Considering the time necessary to prepare a meal, the logistical challenges of getting everyone to the table and the potential for squabbles between siblings and spouses, many parents secretly dread the family dinner. Some parents place kids at opposite ends of the table in an attempt to avoid bickering.
Families should view dinnertime as an opportunity to reconnect, share daily events and strengthen relationships. Thirty-eight percent of family cooks say their children influence food purchases and preparation, so involve your kids in shopping and cooking processes. Some ideas to reap the most benefit from table-time include:
■Stimulate conversation and reduce arguments by making dinnertime special. Distinguish between routine and ritual. Transforming your household with lit candles, music, a tablecloth and one simple, cooked meal for everyone can work wonders.
■Ask yourself, "What am I doing that aggravates dinnertime?" Often, the answer is unnecessary reprimanding. Dinner should not be a control struggle. If kids don't eat their vegetables, let it go.
■Don't allow conversation to be an interrogation regarding school or activities. Ask kids conversation starters like: If you could meet someone from history, who would it be?
■Be creative, especially when kids are young. Try a one-color meal or an alphabet dinner, with every dish beginning with the same letter. Picnic in the living room or even try dining under the table.
■If dinner is too much to handle, try breakfast, or start with just Sunday night.
■American Dietetic Association
■U.S. News & World Report
■University of Rochester
■The Wall Street Journal