Teens sometimes find it difficult to express their feelings and their mental health, making it challenging for parents to provide an appropriate level of support.
It’s not easy being a teenager, and it’s not easy being a parent to them. There are strategies that will help you all make it through these often emotionally turbulent years. Use the three tips below to help support your teen’s mental health.
Learn to Recognize the Signs
Teens can be notoriously uncommunicative, but there will be signs or cues you can pick up on if they are struggling on their mental health.
Look for these common signals:
- Your child is quiet for longer than usual.
- They are withdrawn.
- They avoid hanging out with friends.
- They have mood swings; sad and withdrawn one moment and fiery and angry the next.
Keep an eye on your child’s behavior and consider their behavior from the last time they had mental distress.
- How did they behave the last time they were struggling emotionally?
- What did you do that helped?
- How did they react to your attempt at helping?
Teach Your Teen Emotional Self-Care
Just like every home has a medicine cabinet or first aid kit for bumps and bruises, teens can prepare strategies to help them recover emotionally from when things go wrong.
Maybe they didn’t do as well in an exam as they would have liked, failed to make the football team, a teacher has embarrassed them in front of the entire class, or have been poorly treated by a trusted friend.
Teach your child that when the going gets tough, they can:
- Talk to someone about their challenges.
- Go for a walk and soak up some nature.
- Express their emotions through drawing or keeping a journal where they can explore their feelings without judgment.
You can teach your teen how to do emotional self-care by being a good role model.
Family dinners provide an excellent opportunity for parents to talk about a frustrating day and how it made them feel. Take every opportunity to lead by example, but don’t go overboard.
Instill healthy habits in your teen through leading by example; get enough sleep, exercise regularly, eat healthily, and take time out for yourself (reading a book, for example). Your good habits may inspire them to practice the same level of self-care.
Share Your Emotions with Your Teen
When you take the time to share your emotions with your teen, you help them identify the same feelings in themselves. Recognizing and knowing what they are feeling is an excellent first step towards dealing with strong emotions.
Don’t hide your feelings by saying you are fine, or you are okay. Doing this will limit your child’s ability to express what they are feeling.
Expand on your child’s emotional experience using words that aren’t as popular, like horrified, shame, or desperate, during your conversation.
Encourage talking about emotions. For example, ask them to describe what sad or angry means to them and talk about when they felt those emotions.
We’re not advocating you spend all day every day discussing emotions, but talking about them when you have them is perfectly okay and normal.