Feb 092012

For many parents and teachers, a gifted child can be so exhilarating and exciting and at the same time frightening and frustrating. The parents and teachers who deal with these wonderful children can often be described in a single word: Exhausted. One moment a child is simply a child, the next moment the may be quoting Shakespeare’s Sonnets and trying to redefine Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. They can have you in awe of her theories on accelerated space travel, or pulling your hair out in frustration over her argumentative refusal to do her part in everyday chores.

Whether your child is already in school or about to start, you will want to evaluate what your child’s school has to offer. When parents have a child that is very talented at a young age, it may be difficult to know how to provide a quality education. Some parents feel that a basic public school education is not sophisticated enough for a child who is exceptionally bright and other parents feel that a specialized school for gifted children is an absolute necessary, they want only the best for their children. Often wanting the best for their children can come with a hefty price tag but the good news is that financial resources are available.

mother and son reading


A scholarships is defined as “a grant or payment made to support a student’s education, awarded on the basis of academic or other achievement.” A scholarship is a financial aid or a grant given to a student for various reasons so that he/she can continue his/her schooling. It has different forms and is awarded depending on different criteria. Scholarships are typically awarded to students who excel academically, athletically, and less often, artistically. Usually, this type of scholarship is conditional, meaning the scholarship is offered as long as the scholar meets the condition set by the school. Need based scholarships are based upon financial need and typically given to students who would otherwise be unable to afford the school’s tuition.

Student Loans

Student Loans also known as Private Educational Loans are designed to help students pay for educational expenses including tuition, books, and other living expenses. Private Educational Loans will pay for everything ranging from private schooling, music lessons, football camp and art classes. They also cover tuition, room and board, transportation, musical instruments, athletic equipment and uniforms. Student Loans are not typically not a parent’s first choice for paying for the child’s education, sometimes no other choices are offered except student loans. Student Loans tend to be low to mid interest that offer long-term payments that can be deferred up to three years. Student loans tend to come in three three major categories: student loans such as Stafford and Perkins Loans, parental loans such as PLUS loans and private student loans from lenders which usually tend to be private banks or other financial institutions.

This is a guest post by jian, who is active blogger and a member in Kumon. She writes various articles on technology and on personality development. Her last read article is “how to become a tutor” on Kumon.

Feb 092012

Teaching is one of the most important job positions out there.  The government is always offering federal school grants as an incentive to educate young minds and make the public education system what it used to be.  The U.S. Department of Education is particularly interested in placing teachers in high need areas.  It has recently distributed almost ten million dollars to twenty different grant programs as part of the Transition to Teaching Program.  These twenty grants have been awarded to not for profit, as well as for profit educational institutions.  The money is designed to persuade student teachers (future teachers who are halfway through their degree program), along with students in other degree programs, to become teachers in high-need rural and urban areas.  In return for school grants for their education, students agree to teach in a high-need area for a certain period of time.  It is also good to check with one’s state for school grants since nearly every state has set aside money for this fund.

Student Collaboration
Creative Commons License photo credit: uwbedtech

The American Federation of Teachers is another good source for teacher grant and scholarship money.  Its Federal Loan Forgiveness Programs provides students with the means to have their federal school grants cancelled.  This often includes agreeing to teach in a high-need area for a specific period of time.  The American Federation of Teachers also maintains a sizable database of student teacher grants and scholarships.

Private options are also available.  The Fellowships for Aspiring Teachers of Color is a school grant awarded by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund to minority student teachers who wish to pursue a Masters degree I the field.  To qualify, one must be enrolled in a teaching program of high-quality as well as agree to teach within the public school system upon completion of the degree.  The National Education Association provides grants to teachers who wish to pursue advanced training for professional growth. The Annenberg Foundation is also a good place to look as they are focused on funding all sorts of community and civic activities, which include teacher training.  One can also look to universities with large and/or renowned teaching programs for help, since they often provide school grants to their students.  On the unlikely chance that they don’t, they will at least be able to tell you which organizations you should be contacting.

Note from guest author:

Are you an advocate for continuing to learn well after you’re officially done with school? Me too! In fact I’m on a mission to write as many “how-to” articles as possible to learn as much as possible. In fact, the most recent project is a website dedicated to learning how to become a lawyer.

Feb 052012

**Update: Since I originally wrote this post, I have received many comments and done some research on what is required to become a teacher. As you can tell from many of the comments below, becoming a teacher is a very rewarding, yet at times frustrating, job. From my own research, I’ve discovered there are many steps to becoming a teacher. I encourage you to find out all you can so you can do the best job possible. Your education will only get you so far, however. A good dose of the qualities below help as well.**

One of my biggest goals is to become a teacher. In fact, it’s part of my personal mission statement: “My mission is to experience life through…teaching others.” I don’t want to be a run-of-the-mill boring teacher, though. Not like the “substitute teachers” of my school days. But what makes a good teacher?

We all know good teachers when we see them, and bad teachers too. I thought back over the teachers I’d loved and why I loved them. There were only a few, but they all had the following qualities in common.

1. Confidence. Belief in ourselves despite setbacks. Teachers encounter situations all the time that could be considered setbacks. Kids can be cruel, to each other and to teachers. They can have attitudes, especially teenagers. I’ve had teachers to were obviously nervous when they taught. Others were shy and only half committed to their subject. But the best teachers laughed off their mistakes: chalk breaking, books dropped, TVs not working. Where some teachers were flustered, the good teachers shrugged and went on about the lesson, sometimes even joking about the mess up. These teachers knew they were human and knew mistakes happen. They didn’t take things personally and let problems get them upset.

2. Patience. Some of my best teachers could have helped students through a mental breakdown. Not that they had to, but that they were so patient, they could have gone the distance. Many a time I, or classmate, would just not be “getting” a particular concept. My best teachers were those who were willing to keep explaining, knowing that eventually it would make sense. They were willing to wait until a distraction calmed students down, or abandon a lesson entirely if it was clear material needed to be revisited. The best teachers just stuck with it, willing to do what it took, no matter how long it took.

3. True compassion for their students. I’m sure we’ve all encountered a bad teacher who didn’t care what our excuse was. Certainly, some excuses weren’t valid, but many were. The best teachers cared about their students as individuals and wanted to help them. They had a sixth sense when a student needed extra attention and gave it gladly. They didn’t expect students to leave thoughts of the outside world at the door to the classroom. They took the time to discuss subjects outside their teaching, knowing that sometimes lessons can still be taught without following the textbook. Good teachers were willing to speak up for us to other teachers, if need be. They cared about us beyond the walls of their classroom.

4. Understanding. Good teachers had understanding – not only the sixth sense mentioned above, but true understanding of how to teach. They didn’t have a rigid technique that they insisted on using even if it didn’t help us learn. They were flexible in their teaching style, adapting daily if need be. They understood the little things that affected our ability to learn; the weather, the temperature in the classroom, the time of day. They had an understanding of human nature and the maturity (or lack thereof) of teenagers. Good teachers knew that we hated to be called “young” and therefore pre-judged. They treated us as real people, not just “students.”

5. The ability to look at life in a different way and to explain a topic in a different way. There are many different learning styles. Not everyone gets a subject as taught by every teacher. I’ve taken subjects (chemistry for instance) many times, at many different levels, by many different teachers. I took College Organic Chemistry three times from three different teachers. I can tell you from experience that it was more the skill of the third teacher than the third time taking the class that allowed me to pass. Bad teachers only look a subject matter one way. They teach based on how they learn. This works for some people, but fails for others. The good teachers are ones that are able to teach to different learning styles. If students don’t understand a subject, they teach it a different way. Instead of looking at abstract formulas, they explain with images what the formulas represent. This requires a through understand of their subject, as well as the ability to consider that subject in different ways, which not all teachers are able to do.

6. Dedication to excellence. Good teachers want the best from their students and themselves. They don’t settle for poor grades, knowing it reflects upon their ability to teach just as much upon a student’s ability to excel. The best teachers encourage the sharing of ideas and offer incentives (like not having to do homework for a day) to get students to think outside the box. They don’t tolerate students’ badmouthing other teachers, doing their best to point out that other teachers are human too. They encourage students to be good people, not just good memorizers of text. They want students to learn and be able to apply what they learned, not just be able to pass tests.

7. Unwavering support. The best teachers know that everyone is able to do well if they have the right teacher. They don’t accept that a student is a lost cause. They encourage if you are frustrated and provide true belief that you can get the material. They stand up for individuals against other students, not allowing for in class taunting. Sometimes, they even extend this outside the classroom, although taunts in the hallways are very hard for teachers to combat. The best teachers are there if you need extra help and even encourage it.

8. Willingness to help student achieve. The best teachers are those that don’t stop teaching when the bell rings. They hold extra sessions for SAT prep, they reach out to students after class. They know that some need extra attention or assistance, and they don’t act like it’s not their job. They take that job seriously and know they aren’t just employed to get students to be able to do higher math, but do well in life. They realize that achievement isn’t just a good grade on a test, but a feeling of accomplishment with mastering a subject; they are willing to work with a student for that feeling.

A teacher observes her students, waiting to help them if needed.
Creative Commons License photo credit: peruisay

9. Pride in student’s accomplishments. The best teachers let you know they are glad you got a good grade or made the honor’s society. They smile and tell you that you did a good job. They tell other teachers about how you did as well. Outside you may feel embarrassed, but inside you are glowing. The best teachers don’t single out the best students either. They celebrate the accomplishments of everyone, knowing that everyone is capable to doing well. They are upbeat and positive, focusing on how a student did well, not how well they taught. They may know that it was the strength of their teaching that helped a student to achieve, but they act as if the student is completely responsible.

10. Passion for life. The best teachers aren’t just interested in their subject, they are passionate about it. They are also passionate about many other things. They praise good weather and smile when they take a few minutes to discuss last night’s episode of a popular TV show. They have an energy that almost makes them glow and that you want to emulate as much as possible. They approach tasks with a sense of challenge rather than routine. They take the universe’s curve balls and turn them into fun (if possible). They are human, certainly, but they make you feel that there is always a reason to keep going. Things will get better no matter how much they appear to suck at that moment.

As may be clear from the above, the best teacher I ever had was a math teacher. She was all the more exceptional because math is the one subject I hate the most. She told us to call her “Aunt Jackie,” but I had way too much respect to call her anything but “Mrs. Lamp.” She is now a principal of a different High School than she taught at when I was her student, and I suspect she is as good a principal as she was a math teacher.

Jan 232012

A. Getting a gift for a favorite teacher can sometimes seem overwhelming. Do you go with the classic apple themed desk accessories, or do you go with a more personal gift with something engraved with the teacher’s name? The first thing you need to consider is what you think the teacher will like.

Does you teacher have a need for desk accessories or an embroidered tote bag? Most students see their teacher’s desk and have a general idea of what they carry their things in. If your teacher could use one of these, then great, go ahead and get them that.

If your teacher doesn’t need those items, there are other personalized teacher gifts available.

One of the best gifts I gave a teacher one year was a copy of a piece of artwork I had done in her class. She had remarked on how good it was and thought I should show it to others. She was very touched when I gave her an autographed copy. Who knows, maybe someday she will be able to say she has an original.

Sometimes, the best gift for a teacher is a class gift. In this way, the whole class can pool together and get something more expensive for the teacher. Perhaps a gift certificate to a really nice restaurant, or a craft made and added to by all the students. My mother still has a blackboard that all of her students signed for her one year.

No matter what you decide to get your teacher, remember that the more personal you can make it, the better.

Creative Commons License photo credit: peruisay
Jan 222012

There are many time throughout the year when you may want to get a personalized gift for a teacher in your life. Teacher Appreciation Day, the teacher’s birthday, Christmas, and the end of the school year are all times when it makes sense to buy a gift.

If you are going to the trouble to get a gift for a particular teacher, then take the time to make sure that you get that teacher a gift that they will appreciate. Remember that a personalized gift doesn’t necessarily mean that the gift will have the teacher’s name on it. A personalized gift could refer to one that your child has helped to make, or one that was picked special for that individual teacher.

There are two basic approaches to getting a personalized gift:

1. Look for a place that personalizes and see what gifts they have


2. Pick and gift then see how you can personalize it

Look For A Place That Personalizes And See What Gifts They Have

There a lots of companies that specialize in gifts that are either engraved or embroidered with initials, or names. Many of these companies have teacher specific gifts, such as engraved classroom passes. Many teacher specific gifts have an apple theme, either in shape or with apple images.

But, don’t think just of gifts that traditionally say “teacher”. There are lots of other gifts that would be good for a teacher. Mugs, key chains, and tote bags are easy to personalize but aren’t strictly for teachers. A magnet, recipe box, or picture frame could also be a good gift.

A quick look at what is available online for personalized gifts should give you plenty of ideas. Here’s a couple more:

1. A wine bottle collar, a decoration for around a bottle of wine – give as a gift on a bottle of sparkling cider

2. A glass vase – give as gift with tulips, daffodils, or carnations

Pick A Gift Then See How You Can Personalize It

There are tons on things that can be found on a website or in a store specifically designed to be personalized. But sometimes you want something different – not the same old Christmas ornament, engraved glass sculpture, or tee shirt. What if you want to give something a little more unique?

Then you have a couple of choices. This is where your child, depending on their age, could help you to personalize it. A flowerpot could be hand painted for instance. If you, or someone you know, is good with calligraphy, you may be able to personalize a gift yourself.

Another choice is to see if you can add professional personalization to the gift. A small metal plaque can be engraved and put on just about anything – from a basket to a photo frame, to a set of drafting tools. A name, a date, anything can be put on the plaque. For instance, for a class gift, the personalization could have the year the gift was given.

In the end, the idea for teacher appreciation gift ideas is finding something that is unique and special for the teacher. You may not find a ready made gift or you may not see something that strikes you. If so, then remember that the best personalized gift of all is personal. Heartfelt and honest – every teacher would love a letter thanking them for everything they have done and explaining why you want to recognize them. A follow up to the principal isn’t a bad idea either. Knick knacks come and go, but letters can be treasured for years.



Jan 212012

When Teacher Appreciation Day comes around, students and their parents start looking for great teacher appreciation gift ideas. There are lot of options out there and many sites that sell small personalized items. But, sometimes you don’t have a ton of money. How do you still show appreciation for a teacher, but save money? A great way is with a gift card combined with a handwritten note.

Gift Card Options for Teacher Appreciation Day

Everyone appreciates gift cards. Whether it’s for a local restaurant, the movies, or a place like Walmart or Target. When it comes to gift card amounts, it can depend on the place. A gift card a restaurant may be the same situation. A nice gift amount is enough for two people to get a meal with an appetizer or dessert. You don’t want to save money by giving a gift certificate to a cheap restaurant – that could look insulting. So, if you have the money for this, then certainly consider it. However, there are other, less expensive options as well.

A gift card for the movies would probably be less than a gift card for a local restaurant. You do want to give at least enough for two adults for an evening show. That way a teacher can take someone with them, whether a spouse, or friend. Throw in enough for popcorn and a soda and that makes a great gift. While this is usually cheaper than a restaurant, it may still be more than you would like to spend.

Gift cards to Target, Walmart or similar can be purchased in amounts that may fit with a small budget better. Still, $10-$15 is a good range. This gives the teacher enough to get a few items, whether for the classroom, or for themselves. It would cover the cost of a DVD, or a picture frame, certainly. Yet, if you have a lot of teachers to get gifts for, even this will add up quickly.

The lowest gift card denomination that you should probably get is $5. This is enough to get a latte or cup of coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts, Panera Bread, or Starbucks. This is also a great amount to go with a handwritten letter to the teacher.

Handwritten Teacher Appreciation Day Letters

Of course the first option for a letter is from your child. While older children may roll their eyes at this suggestion, younger children usually like to write. Even though their writing may not be the smallest, or neatest, they can really enjoy the project.

Another option is if you write a letter to the teacher. Make sure to include why you appreciate the work that they do. Highlight a particular instance if you can. You want to be sure that the teacher sees it as personal, not like a general note that could be for any teacher. An especially nice touch is if you copy the principal on the letter, or write a separate letter directly to the principal.

As you can see, personalized teacher gifts don’t have to be complicated or even expensive. If you have the money, then certainly a gift card can be a good choice. On the other hand, if you don’t have a lot of money, then a small denomination card for a cup of coffee will be appreciated. But, perhaps the best part of the gift is if you include a handwritten letter to the teacher. Whether from your child or from you, this is a gift that will last a lot longer than a cup of coffee.

Sep 192011

While depression is characterized by a depressed or sad mood, that doesn’t always manifest as feelings. It often comes out in terms of physical complaints. And, even if the mood is there, physical symptoms are present as well. 

There is an antidepressant commercial that says “Depression can hurt…” and it is very true. Whether or not their medication works for the symptoms, or works for everyone, there is no denying that there is definite bodily hurt that goes along with the emotional hurt of depression. These physical depression symptoms are detailed below:

Headaches: These may feel simply like tension headaches, but tension and stress feel worse when depressed. The headaches may persist, or go away to come back frequently. If you have migraines, they may seem much worse.

Stomachaches: It may feel like you have to get yourself to eat because your stomach feels upset. It can also feel like the stomach fluttering you get when nervous, but it doesn’t seem to be linked to a particular incident, and it doesn’t go away easily.

Digestive problems: in addition to the stomachaches, you may have constipation or diarrhea. You may also have nausea or increased heartburn or other indigestion symptoms.

Appetite changes: You may lose your appetite, which goes along with the stomachaches and nausea. Alternatively, you may find your appetite increases, and you crave carbohydrates – sweets or salty and fried food. This is especially common in Seasonal Affective Disorder, one form of depression.

Backaches and other muscular aches: This may be because of the tendency to hunch up when upset. Our postures get stooped a bit, and we don’t sit up in our chairs. This can put undue stress on our backs, shoulders, and neck. This can also happen with prolonged time in front of the computer, but it may feel more severe when depressed.

Overall bodily aches: There may be an overall feeling of achiness, as if you are coming down with the flu. In fact, you may notice your bad mood because of the pain and attribute it to the pain instead of attributing the pain to the bad mood.

Other chronic pain.

Sleeping problems: Insomnia is common with depression. Trouble getting to sleep, trouble staying asleep goes with the insomnia. On the flip side, you may find you want to sleep all the time. You may sleep more than 10 hours a day and still not feel completely rested.

Loss of energy: You may feel tired all the time, whether or not your sleep is affected. You may notice a feeling of being slowed down, and that it takes extra effort to do things that you once found easy.

Sexual problems: Lack or arousal, or inability to orgasm can be signs of depression. These are also common side effects of antidepressants.

Restlessness: You may feel agitated like you need to move around or can’t sit still.

Dizziness or lightheadedness.

Sometimes chest pain can also be part of depression, or at least made worse when you have depression.

Behavioral Symptoms

These aren’t strictly physical, but they aren’t purely emotional either. They are also symptoms that can be recognized by others and prompt them to ask if you are ok.

Reckless behavior: driving too fast, making poor money decisions.

Escapist behavior: spending more time, which can be perceived by others as too much, at work, on sports, or absorbed in a hobby, while pushing others away.

Infidelity or promiscuity: This may be especially true in men.

Uncharacteristic displays of anger or aggressiveness.

Substance abuse, including alcohol, recreational drugs, or even prescription medications.

Difficulty concentrating and getting work done.

Relationship problems or trouble in school for teens and children.

There are many other diseases that cause these symptoms. Some of those diseases, such as diabetes and chronic fatigue syndrome happen along with depression. It can be difficult to tease them apart at times. Also, chronic and/or severe health problems can not only cause physical symptoms, they can cause depression.

Only a doctor can listen and do tests to figure out where you symptoms come from. They will work to eliminate any other diseases that could be causing these symptoms. They will also be able to tell if you are suffering from more than one at the same time.

The diagnosis is just the first step. However, it is important because it steers treatment. And, there is treatment for depression, in many forms. The above symptoms, as well as the emotional symptoms of depression are serious and shouldn’t be dismissed. Help is available, seek it out if you need it.

If you have any questions, please leave me a comment below.

Sep 192011

The symptoms of depression are similar in men, women, children, and teens. In fact, the DSM IV, the official psychiatric book on the subject, only makes the following notes about depression in teens as being different from depression in adults:

  1. The essential feature of a Major Depressive Episode is a period of at least 2 weeks during which there is either depressed mood or the loss of interest or pleasure in nearly all activities. In children and adolescents, the mood may be irritable rather than sad.
  2. There may be marital problems (e.g., divorce), occupational problems (e.g., loss of job), academic problems (e.g., truancy, school failure)…
  3. The core symptoms of a Major Depressive Episode are the same for children and adolescents, although there are data that suggest that the prominence of characteristic symptoms may change with age.
  4. In children and adolescents, an irritable or cranky mood may develop rather than a sad or dejected mood. This presentation should be differentiated from a “spoiled child” pattern of irritability when frustrated.
  5. In adolescents, Major Depressive Episodes are frequently associated with Disruptive Behavior Disorders, Attention-Deficit Disorders, Anxiety Disorders, Substance-Related Disorders, and Eating Disorders.

So, where does that leave us? Not really much help in determining if a teen is depressed or simply going through the normal adjustments of growing up.

To parents: The best way to tell is to know your teen. Know who their friends are, know the symptoms of depression, and look for those symptoms in your teen. Not easy, I know, because teens can be pretty closed about their feelings.

However, take special note on: academic problems (e.g., truancy, school failure)…

Looking back at my teens, I know that I had a major depressive episode at the end of high school into my first semester of college.

I was an overachiever: almost 400 hours of volunteer work, tons of Girl Scout Badges, the two highest awards in Girl Scouts, Honor Society, class government, got into the college of my choice on early admission, honor roll every quarter…

…until I didn’t. Until I failed Physics one quarter. And didn’t do so well in Calculus either.

Now, let me stop and say that I don’t blame my parents at all for not noticing this and thinking only that my grades were an anomaly. Because, from their perspective, it was. They didn’t know the turmoil that was going on underneath.

Which is why the next part is for teens: If you find yourself feeling like everyone is smarter than you, people are picking on you, that all the achievements you’ve done don’t mean a thing – reach out for help. I’m not going to tell you to go to your guidance counselor, although you can. I remember that was dorky and no one went, even though that’s what they are there for.

Your friends may not be the best help either. They don’t know techniques to really help depression. And, if your experience was like mine, those friends can have a way of sticking up for you one minute, then cutting you down the next minute.

Your parents can help. But, that depends on how comfortable you feel with them.

A favorite teacher may be able to help. Tell them you’ve been feeling down lately and you’re not sure your parents would understand. Ask them if they have any suggestions.

If you are close to a religious leader, or the leader of a club or organization (such as the Girl or Boy Scouts), talk to them.

Don’t suffer alone.

To parents and teens: here’s a bit more of my story.

When crap happened at school, I kept it to myself. I didn’t talk to my parents about it. I remember many a night listening to sad songs and crying.

I wrote things like the following in my journal:

  • “The wonderful feeling I had of being included and wanted is turning to a horrible one of dread.”
  • “We then went on to Algebra where we took a test that I will be happy to get a C on. 70% will make me happy.”
  • “I went for a walk after dark and I feel so empty.”
  • “Why is my life the way it is? Is it me or others around me?…I need to talk to someone, but I don’t know who.”
  • “I hardly have the will to put pen to paper, but I know I must…I hurt so much.”

Looking back, I see these as clear signs of the depression I now know I had. Although, I didn’t recognize it as depression until years later when, as an adult, I sought treatment for another major depressive episode.

Fortunately, I didn’t contemplate suicide, but unfortunately, many teens do. And often, parents and others don’t even realize the teen was depressed until they have ended their lives.

Checklist of things to look for as possible signs of depression in teens

  1. A down mood. This may present as irritability not sadness. This could be passing, but if it persists for 2 weeks or more, it’s a cause for concern.
  2. Changes in the usual behavior. This may not be just an irritability mood, but could also include lack of interest in things, or sudden problems in school. 
  3. Withdraw from some people. They may still maintain a core group of friends, but not seem as outgoing as they used to.
  4. Increased complaints of physical complaints such as aches and pains, headaches, or stomachaches. These could have other medical causes, but could also be a sign of depression.
  5. Sensitivity to criticism. No one likes to be criticized, but depression makes you much more sensitive to these things. It can also make you feel like everyone is ganging up on you. Therefore, a teen that appears to get mad at a gentle joke or other comment that wouldn’t have upset them in the past may be hypersensitive due to depression.
  6. Increased negative comments and criticism of others. True, puberty and “growing up” involve a period of differentiating yourself from others. However, if this behavior continues, with the teen putting down others regularly, calling them names, or refusing to hang around them when they did before, this could be a sign of depression. The could also manifest in the teen calling themselves names. Perhaps mentioning that they are stupid, or scoffing at once enjoyed activities.

The important thing to remember when it comes to recognizing teen depression is that these symptoms persist for more than two weeks. It may seem like a “phase” the teen is going through, but it very well may not be. Teens may also feel like it’s something they just have to endure, but it’s not.

Children and teens respect their parents, even if they don’t show it. If you think that something is amiss with your teen, let them know that you are there to help. Or, they don’t feel like talking with you, ask them if they would like an appointment with a doctor. Emphasize the physical problems over the emotional ones.

two young girls laughing behind another girls back
Creative Commons License photo credit: studiostoer

Teens don’t want to let their parents in on their emotional life because they think they won’t understand. But, they may respond to an opportunity to see a doctor for the physical symptoms.

You can make a note to the nurse when the appointment is made that you suspect depression, but your teen isn’t talking about it with you.

Then, stay in the waiting room. Do not go into the examining room with your teen. They didn’t want to talk to you before, they won’t suddenly open up to the doctor if you are in the room. Respect that they are no longer your “little” boy or girl and give them the room to speak with the doctor confidentially.

If your teen isn’t willing to talk about the discussion with the doctor, you do have the right to ask the doctor if there is anything that you need to do to help your teen. Depending on where you live, the law may say that parents have the right to know exactly what was said, but don’t violate your teen’s trust.

And don’t put the doctor in the position of violating that trust either. What’s important is that you support your teen, not that you know every minute detail.

If you have suffered from depression as an adult, and that is quite possible since teens are more likely to get depression of they have family members who have suffered, then you know how horrible it can be. Try to imagine suffering from depression while also trying to get along in school, fit in with a bunch of people, and please your parents all at the same time. That is what depression during your teens feels like. And, if you suffered from depression in school yourself, then you know how difficult it is.

No one needs to suffer from depression. It is treatable and life is so much better without that dark cloud hanging over you. Look for the symptoms of depression in your teen, or teens you interact with regularly and help them get relief.

If you have any questions or comments, please leave me a comment below.

Sep 042011

In general, we women are emotionally expressive creatures. This remains true when looking at depression. While men will most often complain of more physical symptoms of depression than women, depression symptoms in women are more likely to be emotional ones.

It’s important to remember that it is normal to feel down – to have off days. It’s normal to be sad when something ends, be it the life of a loved one, a job, a relationship. But feeling down and sad by themselves aren’t depression. It’s when those feelings are more lasting. And, if those feelings come up for no reason at all. Sometimes, it can be as simple as things feel off and you suspect that what you are feeling isn’t normal.

At that point, it’s important to consider that you may be suffering from depression. Read through the symptoms below and if you find yourself nodding your head with any of them, then see a doctor, therapist, or other trusted counselor. 

1. Depressed mood; persistent feeling of sadness, or even emotional numbness. There are always times when crying doesn’t seem out of place. But, when you are depressed, you may find yourself wanting to cry a lot, and cry over things that others don’t see as particularly sad. This can also manifest as an emptiness. It feels a little as if you are looking through a plate of glass at the rest of the world. You are there, but cut off from them. And, for the most part, you don’t care. It can be hard to feel happy for other people when you should, or even feel appropriate sadness. In an effort not to loose control, and cry in front of people, you let yourself go numb. Because numbness is easier to deal with than the oppressive feeling of sadness.

2. Feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, and/or guilt. When the numbness lifts and you can feel some of your feelings, it feels as if the whole world is out to get you. Everything seems to go wrong. You are sure that everyone is looking at you and laughing about you behind your back. You take everything personally. And, you start thinking in always and never terms:

  • I never get ahead at work.
  • My partner never appreciates me.
  • I’m always screwing up.
  • Those times when I was “happy” were just a lie.

You feel broken, like you have a blackness inside of you that others don’t. You may even accept that everyone makes mistakes, but feel that others’ mistakes aren’t as bad as yours. You may feel like you have to be at 100% all the time, and resent that others can have a bad day without being criticized.

3. Loss of interest in doing things you used to like – including sex. Nothing seems to feel good anymore and it’s more trouble than it’s worth. You just don’t feel up to it. If you decide to do something you used to enjoy, it’s not enjoyable anymore. A night out with friends? Too loud, too many people, too hot, too stuffy, the jokes aren’t funny, the food tastes bad. Any number of things can put you off of feeling good, even if you felt a little better when you decided to go out. When you are depressed it’s very easy for your mood to drop. So, not only do things just not seem fun anymore, you avoid doing them because you don’t want that drop in mood to come when you least expect it.

4. Irritability or restlessness. The fog of depression makes everything get on your nerves. Your boss seems hyper critical and you can’t stand the sound of his voice. You get mad at yourself easily and may even find yourself being snarky with others. Little sounds, or uncomfortable temperatures make you want to scream. You get impatient with people and get tired of listening to their stories. You wonder why you even liked that person to begin with. The hyper critical lens you turn on yourself you can turn on others as well and see faults you hadn’t seen before – and every one feels like it’s aimed directly at all your buttons, constantly pushing them.

You may feel like you can’t sit still. This may be because you physically feel like you have to move, or because you want to get away from everyone. You may feel that if you were just a little bit faster you could get away from the feelings and start to feel like you accomplished something.

5. Difficulty concentrating. On the flip side of feeling restless, you find yourself forgetting things and your mind wanders from the task at hand. Often, it wanders to other thoughts that race through your mind, critical voices pointing out that you aren’t doing a good job as well as berating you for losing concentration.

6. Sleeping problems. You may feel tired all the time. This feeling of being tired is deeper than just not getting a good night’s sleep, though. It feels like you can never get enough sleep. You want to stay in bed all day because you feel so tired. You can sleep more than 10 hours a day and still feel tired.

On the flip side, the restlessness may mean that you can’t sleep very well. You may have a difficult time getting to sleep because your mind keeps racing. Then, once you get to sleep, you may not stay asleep long, or have bad dreams.  You may feel like you have to keep moving, even in the middle of the night.

7. Lack of energy. This comes not just from not being able to sleep. You feel like you are weighed down and moving slowly. It may feel like you are walking through water, with a lot of resistance to your every move. You may even feel drugged, like you are a little out of touch with reality.

8. Weight and appetite changes. Sugar and fat lead to changes in the brain that make us feel better. When you are depressed, you may continue to eat, because that higher feeling wears off so quickly. The thought of healthy food makes you want a cookie, or a cheeseburger. The lack of energy and increased eating of high sugar and high fat foods will often lead to weight gain.

On the flip side, you may feel so upset, that you don’t want to eat. Your stomach hurts like you ate something that didn’t agree with you. Even if you stomach growls, you feel like gagging at the thought of eating.  You have to force yourself to eat because you know your body needs some food. Yet, you look for food that is quick and easy – goodness knows you don’t have the energy or the desire to prepare something. This can lead to weight loss.

9. Suicidal thoughts, including attempts, and thoughts of death. In the lowest points of depression, you hurt so much, you don’t feel like you can continue. You hurt physically and mentally. It doesn’t feel like it’s going to get better, and ending your life can feel like the only answer. You may think about those you’ll leave behind and how they will cope. Yet, you figure that they might do better than if they had you dragging them down. The sense of worthlessness and guilt reaches a crescendo and you wonder why you should go on. And, even if you don’t feel like ending your life, you may feel like running away and hiding somewhere would help.

Creative Commons License photo credit: dno1967b

When it comes to symptoms of depression in women, many of those above aren’t distinct. They blend together and the lines between them blur. You can’t sleep, so you have no energy. You feel bad so you sleep all the time. Things irritate you, so you lose interest in doing things.

Everyone has days when it feels like nothing is going your way. But depression feels like every day is that way. And, not only are things not going your way, but it can feel like people are deliberately out to get you.

Some days will be better than others, even with depression. If you feel that you may have the disease, seek help. There are treatments and support available. You aren’t alone, even though it feels like you are.

If you have any questions, please leave me a comment below.

Sep 032011

I am a woman, and therefore don’t know the experience of depression in men from the inside. However, I do have several men close to me who have experienced depression and therefore do have some experience with it.

That said, depression carries a lot of stigma in today’s modern society. While women may be more likely to be treated for depression, they can still be looked down upon. At one point I had to tell my boss that I would need to see a therapist on my lunch break every week and therefore would consistently be taking longer lunches. I didn’t want to, but it was the only way to attend therapy.

He remarked a few weeks later that I didn’t need to be so stressed and anxious at my job, indicating that he thought I was suffering from an anxiety disorder. While some of my symptoms were related to anxiety, the look on his face was one of shock when I said that I had been diagnosed with depression. Looking back, I wish I had not told him, after all, it was my business and not his. However, the thought of any of the men at that man dominated office admitting to the same gives me a headache. I just cannot see it at all.

Men in this society have many more privileges than women. Yet those privileges come at a price – that of not being able to show any “weakness” or perceived “weakness.” And, as my story above indicates, depression is certainly seen as weakness. Signs of emotion are the realm of women. Men need to be strong and supportive – the proverbial rock that others lean on.

Yet, even Vulcans from Star Trek, who were the masters at being emotionless, admitted to having emotions. Human men have emotions too. So, when those emotions are decidedly negative, they dismiss them, or work to hide them.

My husband is one of those men who are more likely to show their emotions. He will admit when something has gotten him down, or is stressing him out. But, even men who have “embraced their feminine side” don’t weep, or act from those emotions like women do. They, too, will put forth a tough exterior and work to be the rock.

So, when a man suffers from depression – what does he do? First, symptoms of depression in men are more likely to be physical ones. He may complain of being tired, or stressed out. He will probably deny that there is anything more wrong than just a hard day at work. The danger in this is that he may convince himself that this is true.

Yet, with men and depression, those feelings will persist even if the project is over, or things lighten up at work.

Depression brings with it a lowered sense of self worth. This may mean a man pushes himself to work harder, yet still feel like he is getting less done. He may show signs of irritation more frequently, or show increased signs of anger.

Men with depression are more likely to turn to drugs or alcohol to “drown their sorrows.” Even if that “helps” short term – say a few hours or less – it won’t stick long term. It will impact their job performance, compounding the effects of the depression.

Depression often leads to great difficulty doing those things that you used to have no problems with. This can frustrate men more than women and can therefore lead to a stronger feeling of worthlessness than in women. Men may feel that they don’t have anywhere to turn, that they can’t talk to anyone because that would show the weakness. Men are more likely to commit suicide than women.

Depression comes with a loss of pleasure in activities you used to like. This could be displayed in an expression of tiredness and “not feeling up to it.”

Men may also have sexual problems that can lead to tensions in their relationships, again, further enhancing the feeling of worthlessness.

On the flip side, they may turn to promiscuity, perhaps looking for the pleasure they are missing.

Because men tend to display their depression in physical ways, the depression could be missed as simply what he purports it to be – stress or lack of sleep.

This can be especially true if digestive problems, chronic pain, or even frequent headaches are the complaint. These can be signs of other illnesses, but they can also be signs of depression.

An important part of diagnosing depression is persistence of symptoms; officially 2 weeks or more. If these symptoms seem recent, they may simply be a sign of overwork or stress. Yet, if they continue for weeks, or even months, it is quite possible that depression could be the cause and help should be sought.

To recap, signs of depression in men:

  • Complaints of feeling stressed
  • Feeling tired and run down
  • Escapist behavior such as spending more time at work, or on sports
  • Reckless behavior such as driving too fast
  • Lack of enjoyment in activities
  • Sexual dysfunction or promiscuity and infidelity
  • Increased irritability and uncharacteristic shows of anger or aggressiveness
  • Digestive problems
  • Chronic pain
  • Increased substance abuse
  • Restlessness and difficulty sleeping
  • Difficulty concentrating or getting work done
  • Increased feeling of worthlessness or irritation at ones self

Depression can be debilitating, for both men and women. While treatment is similar in both, perhaps including medication and psychotherapy, men are usually more reluctant to seek help.

If you, or a man you love, has the above symptoms, I encourage you to get help.

It is important to realize that those closest to you won’t judge you for having a mental illness – because it is an illness. And, you don’t have to tell anyone else.

Medication doesn’t have to be taken in front of anyone, and therapists have after hours appointments. If anyone questions you, you can simply say that you’re fine – then deflect the conversation. It’s none of their business. There are lots of things in your life that people don’t need to know, put depression in with them.

I don’t mean to sound flip by any means. My goal is to highlight ways that men can seek treatment yet still keep face. With depression symptoms in men being easy to overlook, yet 75 to 80% of those who commit suicide being men, this is a serious matter.

No one should have to suffer with depression – men or women.