Mommy's Favorite Things: A Simple Guide To Teen Mental Wellness For Parents

Monday, June 17, 2024

A Simple Guide To Teen Mental Wellness For Parents


It's no secret that the teenage years can be difficult because of all the changes that are happening–from hormonal fluctuations to identity exploration–teens often grapple with challenges that can impact their mental well-being. In the US, almost 20% of kids aged 3 to 17 years old are struggling with issues related to emotional, developmental, cognitive, or behavioral disorders, while close to 15% of adolescents aged 10 to 19 worldwide are suffering from mental health disorders.


Taken together, these statistics underscore the urgency of addressing mental health issues among children and adolescents. At the same time, these serve as reminders of the vital role that you, as a parent, play in your teen's life, serving as his confidante, pillar of strength, and guiding light while he navigates the tricky waters of adolescence.


 Understanding Teen Mental Health


The stages of childhood and adolescence aren't just crucial for physical growth but are also important for mental and emotional development. During these formative years, building a solid foundation for mental health is vital because it lays the groundwork for achieving lifelong well-being and greatly influences a person's quality of life.


But good mental health involves more than just the absence of mental health disorders; it includes possessing positive traits, such as the ability to manage stress, empathize with others, and make sound decisions. These skills are necessary to help your teen navigate life's challenges, maintain strong relationships, and excel in educational and extracurricular activities.


Unfortunately, the teenage years also often bring about the onset of mental health concerns. And as a parent, your ability to recognize early signs is essential in developing effective management strategies that will help prevent problems from becoming more severe. At the same time, you should also reach out to mental health professionals when your teen exhibits critical indicators, like ongoing sadness, noticeable changes in behavior or personality, engaging in risky behaviors, excessive worrying, or thoughts of suicide.


“Teenagers may encounter a variety of mental health challenges, including anxiety, bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, depression, and more. Each of these issues can significantly impact a teen’s life, necessitating a comprehensive understanding to support their mental health effectively,” says Chris Shumow, founder of Visions teen residential program.


Home-based support, combined with professional help, creates a comprehensive approach that ensures your teen does not have to face their challenges alone. Integral to this journey is your unconditional love and support as a parent, which remains the steadfast constant in your teen's life, empowering him to handle his path to adulthood with resilience and confidence.



What You Can Do As A Parent


Navigating the rollercoaster of teenage emotions can often feel like deciphering a complex puzzle, especially for parents striving to ensure their teen's mental wellness in an ever-changing world. The digital age has brought many new challenges, from the pressures of social media to the constant bombardment of information, which can significantly impact a teen's psychological well-being. Moreover, the regular developmental changes and societal pressures of adolescence can further complicate the mental health landscape.


While all this can be overwhelming, rest assured that there are ways that you can help your teen during this critical phase. Here are some of the simple steps you should take note of:


1. Be Observant


Pay close attention to subtle changes in behavior and mood that could indicate mental health struggles, such as poor personal care, weight changes, less socializing, sleep problems, or slipping grades. Catching these signs early is essential for timely support and improved mental health outcomes.


2. Open Lines Of Communication


Communication is one of the most powerful tools at your disposal, which is why you should allow your teen to freely share his feelings without fear of judgment. Start conversations about mental health from a place of curiosity rather than concern and ask open-ended questions that ensure your teen does not feel cornered or defensive. Be sure to listen actively, seeking to understand his emotions behind them, then validate his feelings by acknowledging them and expressing appreciation for his sharing.


3. Educate Yourself And Your Teen


Education is a powerful tool for fighting the stigma surrounding mental health, so teach yourself about the mental health conditions that commonly affect teenagers, then pass on this knowledge to your teen. Depression, anxiety, and eating disorders are among the most common, but they are by no means the only ones. Discussing these topics openly can demystify them and reduce any stigma your teen might feel while also preparing him to recognize signs in himself or his friends and know when to seek help.


4. Develop Healthy Routines


Support your teen by helping them establish routines that promote mental wellness, such as regular sleep patterns, healthy eating, and physical activity. Mindfulness and meditation can also be effective in managing stress and are simple practices that teens can incorporate into daily routines. You should also consider doing these activities together, which can not only improve your teen’s mental health but also strengthen your relationship.


5. Provide Unconditional Support


Perhaps the most crucial role you can play is to provide unconditional love and support. Teen years can often feel chaotic and out of control, and your steady presence offers the reassurance that they are not alone in this journey. So let your teen know you're there for them, no matter what. Celebrate their victories, be a comforting presence in times of trouble, and ensure your home is a safe space where they can express their feelings without fear.