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Clinical psychologist gives advice on how to talk to your teen as depression cases rise

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Posted at 11:10 AM, May 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-18 17:00:33-04

TAMPA, Fla. — A clinical psychologist is sharing some advice on how to talk to your child after the CDC reported depression, self-harm and suicide are on the rise among adolescents, and more than 40% of teenagers said they feel persistently sad or hopeless.

"It's really important that parents do set limits. That they let the child know what their expectations are. That helps the child in terms of forming its own boundaries,'' said clinical psychologist and professor of psychology, Dr. Glenn Albright.

Albright said the rising level of mental illness in teens and the severe shortage of therapists makes it more important than ever to know how to talk effectively to your child.

Albright said he recommends something called 'Motivational Interviewing' or MI.

''Number one, asking open-ended questions. So these are questions that are not answered by a 'yes' or 'no,''' Albright explained.

And because many teens shut down if they're feeling judged, Albright said it's vital to not interrupt.

"While you're listening, you got to refrain yourself from being judgmental, or critical, you know, of trying to fix it. You just want them to be able to open up and reveal who they really are," Albright said.

Another strategy is to use reflections and repeat what you hear.

"You're listening to your son or daughter, and then you reflect back to them what they have said. 'So let me see if I understand this right. You're saying that there's going to be alcohol or beer at the party, and there's going to be some friends of yours drinking? And you don't know quite what to do? Do I have that right?''' he said, as an example.

And then the last part to make the communication successful? He said to use affirmations.

"Affirmations is like rewarding or praise. Like, 'I really appreciate you coming and talking to me about this, you know, that was hard. I'm glad you're sharing.' And we know that any behavior you reward, is more likely to be repeated,'' Albright explained.

Albright is also the co-founder and director of research at Kognito.com, a health simulation company that can help you practice those difficult conversations.

"Parents can practice talking with a virtual son or daughter in learning these skills. So these virtual humans, if you will, are programmed with emotions and memory and intelligence, and will respond like a real child, who's struggling with the idea of vaping or taking alcohol," he added.

And practicing can improve your skill and help you become more confident to speak to your teen in real life.

"You're practicing in a risk-free environment. You're talking to an intelligent avatar,'' Albright said.

Recent studies also show a rise in loneliness for teens, and psychologists believe that's because they're hanging out with friends online and not in person.

And it’s not the same social connectedness they need that prevents loneliness.

Kognito.com also offers simulations to train teachers on how to better talk to students or identify a student in distress.

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