By: Jane Snell
Not scientifically reviewed by Dr. Eeks
Showing your teenager that you care, that you can get them through tough times, and that you’re always there is essential whether your relationship with them is strong or strained as it sometimes will be.
This is particularly important if your teenager is struggling with their mental health. They will need additional support, and they will need you to have a good understanding of what you can do to help. This is not always an easy thing to do, however, especially if you have never had to deal with this kind of issue before. With that in mind, read on for some useful advice when it comes to your teen’s mental health and supporting them as much as possible.
Check In With Them
Set up a time each week to check in with your teen, like when you’re driving to the store or eating dinner. Encourage them to talk about how they feel and offer to talk through their worries with them. This will help you figure out how to help your teen the most directly. They might need more help with school or want to find new ways to connect with their friends in a safe way. Or maybe they just need some space and time on their own. Remember to really listen to your teenager and let them know that you are there for them. Sometimes all it takes is a few words of encouragement to make a big difference.
Teenagers and their parents need to be able to trust each other. As your child gets older and more independent, you need to be able to trust what they tell you and how they act so you can still keep them safe. If you can trust each other, it will make your relationship stronger and give you a better idea of how their mind works.
This mutual trust also means that they will be more comfortable confiding in you if they have a problem, and you may be able to spot the signs and symptoms of a mental health problem before it gets worse.
Create Some Coping Mechanisms
Coping mechanisms are the first step in dealing with emotional problems like feeling disrespected by a best friend, failing an exam, not making the football team, or being treated badly in front of the class by a teacher – or anything else, big or small, that a teenager might be having trouble with. These things can make a teen’s mental health become damaged, but coping skills can help them start to feel better. You could compare it to putting a bandage on a cut.
Teach your child that it’s okay to tell someone how they feel after something scary has happened to them. Writing down your thoughts and feelings in a journal or drawing or sketching them can also help you let go of your feelings.
The important thing is to ensure they don’t keep these feelings bottled up, as this can make them worse and cause many more problems.
Work Through Conflict Together
Listen to what your teen has to say and try to solve problems in a calm way. Remember that everyone gets stressed, but make sure to never talk about a problem when you are mad. Walk away, take a deep breath, and calm down. You can talk to your teenager about it later.
Also, try not to fight for control. Teens might find it hard to be in control right now because the world seems unpredictable, and their choices seem limited. Instead of trying to fight back or get the upper hand, try to understand why they want to be in charge during a scary time, even if it’s hard to do at the time.
Be honest and open with your teen. You can tell them that you’re also feeling stressed out. Showing them how you handle your own hard feelings can help them know that it’s okay for them to feel the way they do. Take some time to think about how you and your teen can solve a problem when it comes up. You can talk to your teen about these thoughts so they can see how you think about things.
Help Them Find Additional Support
If you are concerned about your teen’s mental health despite the fact that you are providing as much assistance as you are capable of, you may want to discuss the possibility of their seeing a therapist with them. When working with adolescents, the best therapists prioritize cultivating a safe space and giving them the sense that they are being heard as they discuss the challenges they are facing in their life.
If this is not possible or you don’t think it would be the right approach to take, why not discuss the matter with your child’s teacher? Teachers are perfectly placed to offer additional support and to understand the mental health challenges young people face today, and they will be able to provide excellent ideas regarding student mental health.
Choosing to talk to someone is far better than talking to no one. As we said earlier, when it comes to mental health, you should not keep it all inside, and that’s as true for you as it is for your teenager. If you don’t know where to turn, ask for help and get the advice and support you need to help you support your child in the best way.
Spend Time With Them
There is a common misconception that because teenagers are learning to become more self-reliant, they don’t need help when they’re struggling. The truth is that even as adults, we often need our parents for support, even if they can’t help us in any other way, and teenagers, even if they might not be able to say so exactly, will feel the same way.
The only difference is that now your child is older, things will require a different approach compared to when they were little, and you could give them instructions they would follow without question. Before interfering unasked, it’s best to sit down and have a conversation with your child about what’s going on in their lives and if they need any aid or support. In this way, they will know you’re there for them when they’re ready to open up.