Adolescent stress the focus of talk at Vashon High School

To help Island families navigate the roller coaster years of adolescence, the director of the Youth Suicide Prevention Program of Washington State will offer a presentation on adolescent stress and depression on Feb. 26.

“This will not be a sad talk,” said Sue Eastgard, noting that she will offer useful tools, humor and plenty of opportunity for questions. The topics of her talk — stress and depression — can be difficult ones to talk about, she added, but they are vitally important.

“We view it as a continuum,” she said. “Stress can lead to depression, and depression can lead to suicide.”

The moods of the adolescent years are often erratic, she said — a child crying one minute and angry the next, for example. Parents can feel isolated and at a loss for dealing with the rapidly changing situations and can have the sense, she said, that “an alien has taken over my child’s body.” Her talk will speak to that sense of isolation as well.

“Part of this talk is to get support and validation as parents,” she said. “There can be a sense that we must be the only family dealing with these kinds of problems.”

McMurray Middle School counselor Carolyn Zike is familiar with the erratic moods of the age group and the many questions parents have.

Sometimes it is hard for parents to determine when a child’s mood is like a wind blowing through and the child may be fine the next day and when the situation is more serious and parents may have to offer more support, Zike said. Eastgard will speak to this difficulty and provide information on what is normal behavior and when parents should be more concerned, Zike added.

At McMurray, Zike said students having a hard time cover the range from those who have a bad day to those who struggle for a period of time to those dealing with major depression.

“It is good for parents to be informed,” she said.

Eastgard welcomes parents of children of all ages to her talk, noting that kids are maturing physically and emotionally earlier and earlier.

“We don’t have to wait until kids are in high school to talk about stress,” she said. “We have kids in fourth grade stressed out about WASL (Washington Assessment of Student Learning) and making and keeping friendships.”

People do not need to be parents to attend the upcoming talk, Eastgard said. She would welcome those who “parent” in other ways, such as scout leaders, coaches, youth group leaders and people who employ teens, noting that in the teen years, sometimes it is those adults who become more important in young people’s lives.

“I see this talk as a community safety net for our children,” she said.

The invitation to Eastgard was extended by two people, counselor Zike and Yvonne Zick, who last fall led the parenting program “Guiding Good Choices,” which provides parents of teenagers with tools to deal with those years when everything changes, Zick said.

Many parents from that five-week course wanted to continue meeting so that they could deal with the adolescent years proactively, according to Zick, who is an active participant in that group, called Proactive Parenting Group 13 (PPG13).

They use one another as resources, Zick said, and will host other speakers in the future.

For more information

Learning About Adolescent Stress and Depression will meet from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 26, at the Vashon High School theater. Contact Carolyn Zike at 463-9168 ext. 211 for more information.

PPG13 meets from 7 to 8:30 p.m. the second and fourth Tuesdays of each month at McMurray. Between 15 and 20 parents typically participate; all parents of junior high-age kids are welcome. Call Yvonne Zick for more information at 408-7888.

A new Guiding Good Choices group will meet from 6:45 to 8:45 p.m. Tuesday, March 4, at McMurray. The group meets for five consecutive weeks and is free. A donation of $15 to cover the cost of the text is requested but not necessary. For more information, call Carolyn Zike at 463-9168 ext. 211.