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Part of going through adolescence is the confusion of emotions from time to time. Parents concerned about their teens’ emotional state may find a clue in comparing their teens’ behavior with the way their friends are behaving or reacting to a common situation.
- Kendal writes, in Depression in Children and Adolescents, Assessment Issues and Recommendations [Journal of Cognitive Theory and Research [Springer Netherlands, 1989] , that parents should compare the way their teens react to a given situation with the way their peers react. When all peers reactions are considered, parents will have a baseline to compare their teens’ behavior.
An Example of Comparing Depression Symptoms With Peers
Jane is a 15-year-old who has been very moody at home lately. She spends much of her time in her room and does not take place in activities. Her parents are worried about her. Here are some things Jane’s parents should consider doing:
- Talk to her friends’ parents to see if they are exhibiting similar behavior.
- See if an event affecting her school or class has recently happened.
- Talk to her teacher to see if the behavior seems unusual.
If the parents receive feedback indicating Jane’s behavior is indeed not being exhibited by the other teens or no event or pressure can explain her mood, her parents may want to schedule time with a therapist.
The more likely outcome from the parents’ investigations will be to find some common theme in the peer group’s behavior. Teens act out their emotions in different ways, but there are common elements. Because development is tied to progressive stages, most teens express certain behaviors at about the same age.
What is Happening in Your Teenager’s World?
Another common element is to look for an event or a situation which has effected all of the teen’s friends. This would include an event such as a death of a classmate or the illness of a beloved teacher. Events such as these greatly affects the moods of adolescents. However, because there is a common cause for the affected mood, a serious case of clinical depression is unlikely.
It is much more likely all of the teen’s friends are dealing with the precipitating event in a common way. The way the teens express this temporary sadness will have common themes and should resolve in time without leading into serious depression.
Remember Teachers as a Resource
Parents gain a great deal of insight from teachers and should never overlook this resource when concerned about their teenagers. If a teenager’s mood seems depressed to the teacher as well, then there is reason for ongoing intervention. However, if the teacher has not noticed the behavior or has noted normal behavior compared to the rest of the class, parents may not have a problem at all.
Teenagers definitely express different moods while developing. When clinical depression is a concern because of a teen’s actions, parents should compare his or her behavior with the peer group. This review should include other teens’ parents, a review of major events affecting their teen and speaking with a teacher to find out what behavior is being expressed by his or her friends.