In this new monthly column in Blank Slate Media’s The Island Now newspapers, therapists from North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center answer your questions on issues related to parenting, mental health and children’s well-being. To submit a question, email NSCFGCexperts@gmail.com.
Question: We’ve recently been concerned that our teen daughter seems to be feeling more blue than usual. Her grades have been going down, and she wants to sleep all the time. When we ask her how she’s doing, she gets very emotional. Should we be worried?
Dear Panicked Parents: The pandemic has created an enormous amount of stress, anxiety and sadness for all of us, including our kids. We’ve been dealing with this strange, new reality for eight months now, and there’s no clear answer as to when we will turn the corner and be back to our routines.
The fact that your daughter is feeling stressed and sad isn’t surprising; in fact, studies indicate that these feelings are on the rise all over the country. Changes in sleep and eating patterns are common, as are struggles with the unusual school schedule. Kids are also worried that their loved ones may become ill.
It’s crucial that you always keep the lines of communication open. As parents, we tend to jump in to try to “fix” what’s wrong, instead of realizing that sometimes, your child just needs you to listen and be empathetic, acknowledging their feelings and assuring them you are there for them.
There are some things you can do to help your daughter, and yourselves, during this challenging time. Basics like eating healthy foods, exercising regularly, spending time outside in the fresh air and setting up a regular school and sleep routine can make a big difference.
Of course, it’s important to look out for signs that your daughter’s issues might be more significant and require therapeutic intervention. Some warning signs: a continued drop in grades or refusal to go to school; withdrawing from friends and family; significant changes in weight, either losing or gaining; the inability to feel joy; increased anger; physical complaints like headaches or stomachaches; use of drugs or alcohol; and expressing thoughts of suicide or preoccupation with death.
North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center is seeing children and teens via remote therapy during this time, or in person when the situation calls for it. Our Douglas S. Feldman Suicide Prevention Project offers a host of services to help children and teens experiencing suicidal thoughts. Don’t hesitate to call us at (516) 626-1971 for an evaluation.