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Sollten wir uns um unsere Teenager Sorgen machen?

von NFI Redaktion

On a quiet January evening, David noticed the signs. His son Ethan, a high school sophomore, sat at the kitchen table, staring at the light of his phone screen. The light flickered across his face, casting long shadows that seemed to reflect the dark emotions hiding beneath his calm facade. David’s concern grew as he noticed Ethan’s furrowed brow and the slight trembling of his fingers as he scrolled.

Similar scenes were playing out across America, unnoticed by those not directly affected. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an alarming trend was emerging: 57% of teenage girls and 29% of teenage boys in the U.S. were experiencing deep feelings of violence, sadness, and hopelessness.

Ethan had become a living testament to this crisis, suffering in the digital shadows.

The Awakening

David, a 45-year-old project manager, had grown up in a time when personal experiences, some tough but mostly harmless, dominated over online interactions. He had been unaware of cyberbullying until he noticed subtle changes in Ethan. His once talkative and energetic son had withdrawn, his moments of joy diminishing over the school year.

The turning point came one evening when David, trying to maintain a semblance of normalcy, asked Ethan about his day at school. Instead of the usual grunt or casual „good,“ Ethan responded with silence, tears filling his eyes that just wouldn’t fall. It was a quiet cry for help that David could no longer ignore.

Determined to help his son, David revisited Dr. John Gottman’s research on emotions coaching. He realized it was time to transition from a dismissive attitude – a common but harmful reaction that downplays so-called negative emotions – to a more supportive parenting style.

Transformation to Emotions Coach

David learned about emotions coaching, which involves understanding and assessing a child’s feelings before involving them in problem-solving and setting appropriate boundaries. He adjusted his parenting approach. Their familiar kitchen table became the site for weekly emotional check-ins. These sessions focused on listening, guiding Ethan in problem-solving, and setting clear boundaries when necessary.

One evening, during one of their sessions, Ethan confessed something that deeply shook David. He had thoughts of self-harm, a desperate escape from relentless cyberbullying. This revelation was a chilling echo of the statistics that now included his son: Nearly one in three teenage girls and a significant portion of boys like Ethan had seriously contemplated suicide.

This was a pivotal moment. David intensified his efforts, studying youth psychology, brain development, and social dynamics to reconnect with Ethan. The table talks evolved into discussions about everyone’s emotional highs and lows, not just Ethan’s, making vulnerability and support a family affair.

Turning the Tide

Over the months, the significant changes became visible. Ethan began engaging more with his family, showing signs of healing his emotional wounds. He laughed more, his dark moments became less frequent and intense. David’s commitment to understanding and acknowledging his son’s feelings transformed their relationship and, importantly, Ethan’s outlook on life.

The story of Ethan and David, based on true events but with anonymized characters, is a microcosm of the larger challenges facing American families today. It underscores a painful truth: Our youth are grappling with an unprecedented mental health crisis exacerbated by societal pressures and the online environment we are just beginning to understand.

But it also shows a path to resilience and recovery. Through genuine emotional engagement and a willingness to learn and adapt, parents can become powerful allies in their children’s mental health struggles.

In the digital age, where shadows lurk behind glowing screens, understanding and empathy can be the light guiding our youth. David’s journey from ignorance to engagement is more than a personal triumph; it is a wake-up call to all parents. Our children’s emotional well-being demands our attention, and our commitment can start right at our own kitchen table.

Parents feeling overwhelmed by their teenagers‘ challenges should remember: Just start. Weekly check-ins, open dialogues about emotions, and acknowledging your child’s feelings are small steps that can lead to profound changes. Take time each week to openly discuss feelings and experiences, and utilize resources like Dr. John Gottman’s emotion coaching or Gottman Parenting Teen products to guide your interactions. Your role as an emotions coach could be the most important one you’ll ever play.


Factbox: Mental Health Crisis in Adolescents

Surgeon General Note: On May 23, 2023, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy issued a warning highlighting the harmful effects of social media on the mental health of American adolescents. The warning stated that cyberbullying on social media platforms has reached epidemic proportions.

CDC Report: In 2023, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported alarming statistics on the mental health of U.S. teenagers:

Teenage Girls: 57% experience high levels of violence, sadness, and hopelessness, significantly increasing their risk of suicide.

Almost 1 in 3 (30%) of teenage girls seriously considered attempting suicide, a 60% increase compared to the previous year.

1 in 5 (20%) experienced sexual violence in the past year, 20% more than in 2017.

More than 1 in 10 (14%) were coerced into sex, a 27% increase since 2019.

Teenagers: 29% reported extreme sadness and hopelessness, marking a concerning rise compared to 2011 statistics.

LGBTQ+ Youth: They continue to face an extremely high level of violence and mental health problems surpassing other demographic groups.

Implications for Parents:

Data from the U.S. Department of Health and CDC show that mental health issues among American teenagers are becoming increasingly common. Parents are encouraged to become „emotion coaches“ and help adolescents better navigate their emotional landscape. This includes turning away from emotionless cultural norms and adopting a more empathetic and understanding parenting approach.

Recommended Actions for Parents:

Conduct regular emotional check-ins with teenagers.

Make family dinners a daily routine where each member shares their emotional experiences of the day.

Discuss and explore emotions openly to create a supportive environment that fosters emotional growth and resilience.

Understanding Teenagers:

Adolescence is characterized by heightened emotional intensity and rapid mood swings.

Healthy teenage development includes exploring identity, relationships, and emotional boundaries.

By understanding these facts and implementing supportive strategies, parents can significantly reduce the mental health risks faced by their growing children.

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