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New Support Group Helps Parents Cope With Modern Challenges Facing Teens

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Starting this week, health experts are offering support to parents in the western suburbs dealing with cyberbullying, depression, and other challenges facing teenagers.

Teens might be exposed to more problems online and offline when mom and dad both are at work, according to Allison Johnsen, a licensed clinical professional counselor and manager of behavioral health at Northwestern Medicine Delnor Hospital and Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital.

"Teens may have some after-school time that they have opportunities, and how do we as parents help our kids stay safe?" she said.

Northwestern Medicine Behavioral Health Services in St. Charles has launched a free weekly Parenting Connection group to help parents deal with the added stressors of the digital age – including discussions on social media, cell phone use, substance abuse, teen anxiety, peer pressure, boundaries, and helicopter parenting.

Johnsen said technology today makes it harder for parents to keep up with what their kids are doing, compared to earlier generations.

With competition for college so intense, sometimes the pressure comes from students themselves.

"Parents can be going, 'It's okay. It's okay if you don't get straight As. It's okay if you go to community college for a couple years,' and the teen is the one who is saying, 'No, it's not okay,'" she said.

Research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found suicide rates for teen girls in 2015 were the highest in 40 years.

Johnsen said sessions with the Parenting Connection group might cover suicide, but she stressed other issues will be discussed.

"If we talk about suicide specifically, a lot of parents wouldn't show. It's like, 'Oh, my kid doesn't have that problem, I'm not going to go,'" she said.

Parenting Connection will meet Thursday nights at Northwestern Medicine Behavioral Health in St. Charles.

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