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New Northwestern Medicine Support Group Helps Parents Navigate Tough Topics Affecting Teens

For generations, parenting a teen has had its challenges. However, with the rise of social media, smart phones and cyber-bulling, parents today are facing new difficulties and an alarming rise in teen depression and suicide. To assist parents in navigating the modern challenges of parenting teens, Northwestern Medicine Behavioral Health in St. Charles is launching a complementary weekly Parenting Connection group.

Under the guidance of a licensed behavioral health therapist, Parenting Connection will offer education and a forum for parents to discuss and normalize their challenges along with other parents. Topics include social media, cell phone use, substance abuse, teen anxiety, peer pressure, boundaries and helicopter parenting.

“Adolescence can be a tricky time to navigate as teens work to develop a sense of autonomy and independence from parents,” said Eric Nolan, MD, medical director of psychiatry at Northwestern Medicine Delnor Hospital and Northwestern Medicine Behavioral Health, St Charles. “Along with this comes conflict. The irritability and moodiness can be overwhelming for parents to tolerate and understand.”

Today’s parents are dealing with the added stressors of the digital age. Research reveals a startling increase in teen depression and suicide over the past decade. A report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found the suicide rate among teen girls reached a 40-year high in 2015 and the suicide rate among teen boys increased by 30 percent from 2007 to 2015. This period of time coincides with the significant increase in access to hand-held media--phones, tablets, streaming anything-and-everything at your fingertips.

“This over-connectedness has complicated social relationships--sometimes people are too connected digitally, which leads to some being too disconnected interpersonally,” said Dr. Nolan. “The digital age can lead to an almost-paradoxical sense of isolation and loneliness, which can increase the likelihood of emergence of depression.”

Additionally, Dr. Nolan notes that overall expectations for teens have skyrocketed. The often-unrealistic academic, social, and parental expectations that exist more and more intensely are a likely huge contributing factor to the rise in teen depression as well.

“We want to help parents guide their children through the increasingly challenging teen culture and also take care of themselves too,” said Allison Johnsen, a licensed clinical professional counselor and manager of Behavioral Health at Northwestern Medicine Delnor Hospital and Northwestern Medical Central DuPage Hospital. “Self-care is essential to helping parents be who they need to be for their children.”

Parenting Connection will meet every Thursday starting November 16 from 6:45 p.m. – 8:15 p.m. at Northwestern Medicine Behavioral Health, 964 N. Fifth Avenue in St. Charles. Parents of teenagers are welcome to drop in. There is no charge and no registration necessary.

For more information, please call Lisa Bloom, Community Liaison at 773.895.9442 or lisa.bloom@nm.org.