Last week a study into the Journal of Adolescent Health suggested the number of schoolgirls at risk of emotional problems has risen sharply. Scientists from the study analysed questionnaires completed by 1,600 pupils aged 11-13 in 2009, comparing them with similar surveys conducted five years later.
A surprising 7% spike in girls reporting emotional issues was noted, while boys' answers remained fairly stable.
Charities are concerned pressures are particularly affecting girls and here at Laughology we have noticed a rise in requests from schools for us to talk to young women on coping skills . Particularly all girls schools have been contacting us to chat to their teenage students on coping mechanisms for stress and anxiety.The schools recognise the pressures the students face, especially running up to exam time.
At Laughology we recognise the importance of addressing emotional intelligence alongside academic subjects and feel passionate about ensuring young people have the right skills to develop in a world which moves very fast. Teenagers have changes going on all the time and change is challenging at the best of times, throw into the mix hormones, working out where you fit in socially and trying to fit in with the added pressure of exams and no wonder we have seen a rise in emotional challenges. Teenagers can learn to develop and control their emotions and develop emotional intelligence. As parents, teachers and mentors there is lot you can do to help your teen in this regard.
- Encouraging teens to talk about their feelings, describing emotions and what happens when they feel a certain way can help teens improve awareness of what is happening. Build a common language between you and your teen to describe feelings out loud will help normalise and contextualise what they feel, when and what causes them to feel in a certain way.
- Promote the use of "I statements" within the family. Instead of accusing or labeling other people, model and promote language that take ownership of personal feelings. Try using expressions like "I get really frustrated when she.." . instead of "She is always mean to me."
- Use personal stories, current events, discussions of movies or web sites to help educate about feelings. Recognize and discuss the types of emotions from what you see on the TV and most importantly open up the channels for conversation.
- Teaching your teens how to feel better and shake off a bad moods will be beneficial for everyone. Letting them know that anger is a normal part of life and it is okay to be angry but also it's important not to make things worse through behaviours when expressing anger is important.
- Helping them manage anger by creating norms in your house such as having 'cool off periods' or 'timeouts' is okay if people feel their anger getting on top of them and they are worried about saying or doing something unhelpful. Let them know about how feelings can cause us to say and do things we don't mean so giving them simple techniques like counting to ten before they react is useful.
- Helping teenagers understand the importance of self-motivation and giving them gaols to work towards will be one of the greatest skills you can teach. Teaching simple techniques such as goal setting and developing a list or a plan of things that is needed to get to that goal can help a teenager understand what they need to do.
- You can nurture a teen's inner drive by helping them understand and focus on strengths and interests and actively encouraging them when they show enthusiasm for a particular subject or pursuit. Furthermore helping them to understand how to take personal responsibility for themselves will give them a sense of self efficiency and pride. Simple things like buying them an alarm clock, showing them how to make their own packed lunch, sending them on tasks and celebrating and rewarding then for completing them by themselves.
- Helping them to focus on the most immediate aspect of the plan, challenge or task and work their way through a problem one step at a time and make a plan or list as above will encourage self motivation.
- Promoting optimism with your teenager will encourage them to think of opportunities and creative ways to solve problems. This is especially important when they are confronted with setbacks or disappointments.
- Helping teens focus on positive ways forward instead of the negatives of the past can make a big difference in how they tackle the challenges of life.
- Nurturing empathy in your teenagers provides an important foundation for forming and maintaining strong inter personal relationships. The most obvious way to teach empathy is to demonstrate it. Try putting yourself in your teenager's shoes before responding to whatever it is they have said or done, take examples from the media or with real life situations in their school and work through feelings with them, inviting them to step into another person's shoes. Developing empathy for their situations is also the secret to responding effectively to many aspects of teenage behaviour, even when the problem or challenge they're facing seems to you like a small issue.
Management of relationships
- Positive social relationships are an integral part of succeeding in all walks of life. The most fundamental way teens learn about managing relationships is in the context family and watching how adults get one with their friends.
- Having good impulse control has been shown to be a key ingredient in a teenager's ability to manage personal relationships. Helping your teen to learn the difference between feelings and actions is the key. When teens learn that they are not victims of their feelings, but can choose how to act or express their emotions, they are able to nurture their personal relationships more successfully.
- Being attentive to the social and emotional development of your teens will give you the opportunity to affirm and applaud the positive steps they take in developing their emotional intelligence.
Ways to encourage your teen's emotional development include:
- Reward them when they complete a challenging assignment
- Recognise when they demonstrate empathy for others
- Praise them when they choose not to lash out when angry
- Support their passions and interests
- Create a positive space for family decisions and discussions where appropriate
- Spend time with your teen doing things you know they like to do.