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November 29, 2017

Did you know that suicide is the leading cause of death for kids ages 10-14?  That is a very scary statistic! That statistic should make you ask, "WHY?," followed by "What can I do to help lower that stat?"

Middle school is a very difficult time, but as adults, we tend to put those middle school years behind us and may even ignore what teenagers today are facing, but let’s open Pandora’s box.

As you know, some things will never change.  Kids these days are still dealing with “hormone soup": bodies are changing, brains are continuing to develop, and students are trying to figure out where they fit in.  Just like you remember it, right?  And I’m sure you also realize some people thought Junior High (as it was called back then) was great while others had a horrible experience.

Although some aspects are the same as when you were in Junior High, some very important things have changed. Now let’s fast forward, I want you to think about what has changed. 

The number one thing that comes to mind is technology.  I’m sure you weren’t exactly surprised by that answer.  And whether Junior High was difficult or easy for you, add technology into the mix and it definitely makes things more complex.  While we were lucky to have a computer in the household, a lot of kids nowadays have a tablet of some sort, game console, computer, or at the very least a cell phone with internet connection.  Many of these same youngsters have Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, or Snapchat accounts too.  So it is easy to see how something as simple as the likes and dislikes on social media can be taken very personally by these young kids.  These great tools can also be used in negative ways. In particular kids can easily be cyber bullied.  It may feel as if they can never escape it.  What seemed like such a positive advancement has now turned into a nightmare for some.  

So what can we do to help our adolescent kids?  To be honest, there are several things we should be doing.  For one, we need to be actively supervising kids devices and social media accounts.  We also need to monitor their perceptions, in particular self-perceptions.  When they are thinking emotionally instead of logically, anxiety runs high making it difficult to think rationally.  This is especially hard when it comes to technology because it is much easier to just react by firing something right back when they are feeling defensive.  Our job is to calm them down, help them see things more clearly, and then guide them to the proper response to the situation.  Teach your son or daughter the appropriate uses for social media.  I also feel that it is important to continue modeling empathy in front of our kids. Instead of being so quick to judge, we need to understand more often than not people are under a large amount of stress for one reason or another.

I will leave you with the following quote from Dr. Brenda Petersen.  She said, “We don’t get to pick what someone else’s crisis is.”  Something that seems so minor to one can be a mountain for others.  Remember, often times we only see a snippet of individuals lives.