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Are You Asking Your Teens the Right Questions?

Hello, my name is Sheri Marcantuono. I am the owner of Lotus Wood Journey. I began working with high school students three years ago, and I found out some interesting details.

There are still social classes.

There are the students that are depressed, anxious, even scared.

There are the students that can't talk to their parents about their feelings, and we think "they have it all," but they feel alone.

There are the students that have thought about or even tried self-harm.

Mental health disorders in teens are on the rise. According to, 41.6% of students have anxiety and 36.4% of students have depression. This is a much higher number than the findings from years prior. Reported by for ages 12-24 in 1987, 10.5% of outpatient visits were for mental health; that number slightly increased in 1997 to 12.5%, and the percentage dramatically increased in 2002 to 51.7%. Not only have the percentages of mental health issues increased, suicide death rates have also increased from 4.3% in 1990 to 6.1% in 2016. In 2016, 5,723 people between the ages of 15 and 24 commented suicide. Suicide is now thought to be the third leading cause of death with the age range of 15-24.

Now, I am not here to give you rates, statistics, or even information you may already know. No, I am here to give you tools: tools for acknowledgement, awareness, respect, responsibility, even success.

Medication is prescribed to help, and symptoms improve, but our teens are suppressing, not finding or learning the tools they need to acknowledge or understand their feelings, let alone deal with them.

We have the ability to help students, and I have proven results.

I was talking to a mom, and she was frustrated, telling me that when her kids come home she asks what they did in school, and she always gets the same answer: "nothing." She went on to say that it turns into an argument because she cannot get anything out of her kids. I replied, "Are you asking them the right questions?" Intrigued, she asked, "What are the right questions?"

Before I go any further, I want you to think about this. When we get home from work, there is nothing we want to do more than take off our shoes, put our handbag or wallet down, take off those work clothes, and just be for a moment.

Now keep that in mind and think about this.

Students interact with at least 18 or more different students and their personalities in each classroom. They interact with at least 8 different teachers, their different personalities, requests, and requirements. They sit in a lunchroom with over 100 students yelling, laughing, maybe even fighting. They witness or are a part of some type of drama, they rush from one end of the school to another to get to the next class so they would not be marked late, and who can forget the bus ride to and from school.

So, looking at it that way, think about the questions you ask. What did you learn in school? I am already frazzled just thinking about all the different personalities, relationships, drama, and the learning that are part of each day. At least we have the car ride home to be alone.

Throughout my year working with Atlantic City High School, I learned some great tips from them, and I began using them on my daughter. What a difference.

Have a snack ready, let them put their things away, give them a moment to take off their shoes, change clothes, even go to the bathroom. They too, just want a minute. When they are settled, ask the question, "Could you tell me when you are ready to talk about your day? I want to hear all about it."

Setting healthy boundaries with your teens not only helps with communication, it also helps with respect, responsibility, and acknowledgment. Talk to them when you and your teen are in a positive energy, such as a Saturday afternoon. Share with your child that you want to try something new, include them by compromising on a time, and maybe ask for some positive thoughts or feedback for you. By giving them the opportunity to be part of the conversion, relax, come talk to you, and not be forced to tell you about their day, you are more likely to have a straight-forward conversation instead of being trapped in the cycle of keep pulling and be frustrated by one-liners.

Remember, it is all part of the delivery; a positive conversation does not start with, "What are your grades?" or "What did you get on the test?" Most high schools have a parent portal where you can check grades; look there first.

Some great intro questions for your child could be:

What was the best part of your day?

What did you emotionally learn today?

What are you into on YouTube now?

What are your social media posts about these days?

If you could change one thing that happened today what would it be? (follow with) What did you learn from that?

Email me and let me know how it goes. :)

Now please know that if your child is just not having it at all, maybe even shutting down, it is time to contact support, and if you notice these changes are drastic, contact professional help immediately!

Self-harm - cutting, burning, or excessive piercing or tattooing

Irritability or anger Feelings of sadness and hopelessness that don’t get better over time Social withdrawal

Negative drastic social changes - new friend group, new hangout locations, drastic clothing changes, music, games Feeling easily rejected Changes in appetite—either increased or decreased Frequent bouts of yelling or crying Low energy over several weeks

Less attention to personal hygiene or appearance Physical complaints (such as stomachaches or headaches) that don’t get better with treatment Trouble functioning the way they normally do at home or with friends, in school, during extracurricular activities, and in other hobbies or interests Feeling worthless or guilty

Fighting not to go to school

Withdrawal from friends and family

Changes in appetite

Changes in sleep

Irritability or sadness

Change in academic performance

Taking up smoking/drinking/drugs Talking or thinking about death or suicide


2nd Floor Youth Helpline 1-888-222-2228

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

SAMHSA National Helpline – 1-800-662-HELP (4357)

For more information in NJ visit


Thank you for your time. I am a keynote speaker on mindfulness for our high school and college students.

If want me to visit your school to talk to your students, teachers, staff, or even parents, contact me today.

Sheri :)

Thank you for all your support. Please continue to follow us on social media, share this blog, and visit our website for more information.

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©2017 Sheri Marcantuono

Berlin, New Jersey 08009

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