So how, parents ask me all the time, do I know if my teen is doing well? Surprisingly, the question is not necessarily easily answered by simply reviewing your kids' grades. While good grades certainly show that your teen may be studying, able to concentrate and has good priorities they do not necessarily indicate that your teen is feeling good emotionally. Believe me when I tell you that I have seen many,many straight A students in my practice who are very unhappy. Yes, they may be proud of their grades and pleased that they are making their parents happy. On the other hand, they are equally likely to be feeling anxious and overwhelmed by the pressure that they feel to maintain these grades. Many of them are also riddled with anxiety about disappointing you and worried that anything lower than an A will prevent them from getting into a "good" college. So, how can you tell if your kids' are doing well emotionally if the grades barometer is not the best barometer with which to measure their emotional well-being? Let me help you with that before the school year begins.
Measures of Your Teens' Well-Being
1. Is your teen sleeping and eating well? If your teen is having difficulty with sleep and there has been an appetite change then that is cause for concern. Teens who are stressed often have difficulty with falling asleep and staying asleep. They may also have trouble getting up in the morning. Keep in mind though that many teens who are feeling fine have trouble getting up in the morning because they are required to get up too early. If your teens appear to be eating very little or eating more than usual then that too is a cause for concern. You are looking for change in eating and sleeping habits here. If your teens' eating and sleeping habits have recently changed then that is a cause for concern. On the other hand, if your kids are eating and sleeping well then this is an excellent sign that your kids are relaxed and managing stress well.
2. Ask yourself about your teens' social life. Has he or she been staying in contact with friends? Has your teen been a social isolate of late? If so,this is concerning. Happy kids stay in touch with their friends. I am not suggesting that your child needs to have many friends. A few good friends are that all most of us really need.
3. Is your teen taking care of his or her hygiene? Have hygiene habits recently changed? Is your formerly neat and tidy son suddenly starting to take showers less frequently? If so then the problem may be worse than simple body odor. Has your daughter who used to take great pride in her hair started to wash it significantly less frequently? These changes are potential red flags and may indicate that your teen is feeling distressed.
4. Has your teen recently lost interest in his/her usual activities? Are they suddenly significantly less eager to go to softball/run/ draw? You fill in the blank. A happy teen does not lose interest in most activities in an abrupt manner.
5. Does your teen look like he or she is bored, stressed and/or depleted? Has he or she stopped smiling or laughing recently? Perhaps your teen is temporarily upset but if a gloomy presentation persists for 2 weeks or more then there is reason for concern.
I care about your teens. I work with them almost every single day. Keep an eye on them and keep in mind that even stressed,anxious and/or depressed teens may be able to maintain their good grades. Don't be fooled into thinking that grades are the best barometer of good mental health. They are not. Look to the above 5 measures of mental health to assess how your teens are faring. If you are concerned then talk to your teen and even consider having him/her speak to a trusted adult or even a therapist.