Make tackling mental health easier for your teenagers. Show them your unconditional love and support.
No matter what generation you’re from, you will surely agree that being a teenager was never easy. With their changing physical appearance, raging hormones doubled down with school stress and peer pressure, there’s a lot they have to go through in their daily lives.
While you might be able to relate to some of the things kids these days go through, the fact is that as the world changes, the problems teenagers face change too.
That’s where you start to feel tested as a parent. When they experience a physical illness, you’ll probably know what to do. The signs are apparent, whether it’s a fever or a fractured bone. But when it comes to their mental health, things can get a little tricky. It’s not easy to identify the signs, and if you do, you might not know what to do next.
Hence, we’ve compiled a list of the top 8 ways you can help your teenagers cope with their mental health. So, let’s get started!
1. Educate yourself.
Before you start your journey of helping your teenagers with their mental well-being, there’s one thing you need to do: educate yourself on mental illnesses in young adults and the signs to look out for.
You can use various reliable sources to get your information, like taking an online course or reading published journals.
2. Seek therapy.
Educating yourself may not be enough when it comes to handling teenagers. In extreme cases, such as if you think they are suffering from depression or anxiety issues, seeking professional help is advised. Experts like a therapist or mental health social worker can guide you and your teen in coping with mental health issues.
Please remember that depression, anxiety, and similar health issues are common among teenagers. In the US, the percentage of children suffering from depression (aged 12 -17) rose by 4% in 2015!
However, you should neither get worried nor neglect these problems. The best way forward is to get professional help to ensure a bright future for your child.
3. Create a safe space.
Teenagers can be tough when it comes to opening up or discussing their feelings with older people, especially their parents. To make it easier for them, create an emotionally and physically safe space that allows them to speak freely without fear of judgment.
To do this, make sure your home environment is predictable and stable. Establish a routine, like family dinnertime, where you can have a discussion around the table and open up to one another. When they talk to you, be an active listener and let them get their points across before you react.
Be sure to validate their emotions and show empathy rather than getting upset. Most importantly, try to be patient and calm, as heightened emotions may trigger them.
4. Support their interests.
Having interests and hobbies can be a game changer when it comes to mental health. This is because people, including teens, are less likely to feel stressed and depressed when they’re engaged in healthy activities they enjoy.
So, as parents, it’s your job to support them. For example, if your teenager shows interest in afterschool sports, offer to drive them to games and show up to them. If they don’t have any hobbies, help them explore some, and don’t hold them back.
5. Promote a healthy lifestyle.
A great way to support your teenager’s mental health would be to promote healthy habits early on in life. This will not only help them mentally, but it’ll do wonders for their overall health.
Regular exercise, for instance, can support the healthy release of endorphins or feel-good hormones. This can instantly reduce stress and anxiety, which teens regularly face in their lives. You could encourage them to engage in physical activities such as dance classes, cycling, or going on walks. You can offer to join them if they’d like, and it could be a chance to bond with your child.
Other healthy habits include a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, protein, and whole grains, which can help them stabilize their energy levels. Also, getting enough sleep helps regulate mood and allows their bodies to recharge, which may improve their mental health.
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6. Teach them coping skills.
If you’ve ever experienced episodes of poor mental health, you might have some coping mechanisms that helped you through them. Passing these skills down to your children, particularly your teenagers, is important as it will help them overcome these strange, new, unpleasant feelings.
Some good coping mechanisms include deep breathing, journaling, and meditation. Deep breathing can lower heart rate and reduce anxiety in times of stress, whereas journaling can be a great way to process emotions and self-reflect. Meditation and other mindfulness exercises are good ways to relax and clear out unpleasant thoughts.
7. Discuss substance abuse.
For teenagers, they may want to explore smoking, alcohol, and other recreational drug use. This could be due to peer pressure or just curiosity, but if your teenager suffers from a mental health disorder, they’re more likely to use them as an escape from their problems. This could be dangerous, especially if they don’t know the risks.
It’s important to have a conversation with them about drug abuse. So, sit them down and discuss the risks and dangers of these substances, making sure to avoid being confrontational or judgmental. If you think your teen is already struggling with substance abuse or addiction, be extra careful to show empathy and concern and seek professional help if and when necessary.
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8. Set an example.
One of the most important ways to help your teenager prioritize their mental health is to set a good example for them from the start.
Show your kids that you take mental health seriously by taking yours seriously too. Share your experiences of mental health issues and how you tackled them. Make self-care a visible part of your everyday life. Start taking time out for yourself and take part in activities you enjoy. Demonstrate what healthy boundaries are like.
In this way, you show your teen that self-care isn’t selfish but necessary to lead a healthy life.
Let’s break the cycle!
To sum it up, tackling mental health in teenagers can be a great challenge. Not only is it hard watching your child suffer, but not knowing what to do about it can be even worse. The sad truth is that most of us didn’t have the kind of support we needed when we were their age, but it’s time to break the cycle.
Be their source of unconditional love and support and be patient. Because even though they might not act like it or even look like it anymore, your teenagers are still kids, and they’re still learning about the world and themselves. So, with the tips above, make tackling mental health easy for your teenagers, and watch them grow up to be healthy and happy adults!