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7 Tips for Addressing Teen Mental Health

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, one in five teens is living with a mental illness. Being a teenager is stressful. Teenagers have stress from areas including classroom, extra-curricular, peers, chores, work, and even parents.

Teens are required to complete assignments from multiple teachers in multiple subjects. Those that participate in athletics, band, cheering or other extra-curricular activities are required to meet their responsibilities. Some teens have part-time jobs to help support their activities or personal needs. Furthermore, the pressure put on teens by other teens to fit in socially can be demanding. On top of those, parents’ expectations of their teens add an additional pressure.

Learning responsibility through the above avenues is great for teens. Being accountable in several different areas of their lives teaches them to be great citizens. However, without the right coping skills, some teens may begin experiencing negative mental health symptoms.

There are things you can do, as a parent, to make sure your teen learns to handle life stressors at an early age. This will equip them for the many obstacles they may face through young adulthood and as they mature.

Teaching them that good physical health leads to good mental health is one of the best ways to help your child.

Connection between physical and mental health

There is a great deal of research proving that a person’s physical health contributes to a person’s mental health. For example, Depression and anxiety are connected to obesity.

People suffering from chronic pain have noted they also feel depressed or have mood swings.

Teaching teens about the connections between physical and mental health will enable them to recognize signs and symptoms within themselves. They can then learn prevention strategies to stop problems from growing bigger than they need to be.

Educate yourself and your teen

Gathering information for you and your teen about mental health increases your chances of being able to fight negative mental health triggers. Your teen may not be interested in gaining even more education. However, if you make it a fun learning experience for them, they may not even recognize you are teaching them something new.

Watching movies where the characters have mental health issues, attend or create an art therapy session, or text each other using emoji faces that represent the emotions you are feeling. Finding a way to incorporate music into an activity can lend an additional way to help your teen express emotions.

Limit Social Media

Social media has its benefits, even for teens. Just like everything else, it is only good when used in moderation. Limiting your teen’s activities on social media will eliminate a lot of the stress that develops among peer relationships.

Social media outlets are the most impersonal forms of communication. Your teen may feel connected to their peers online but in reality, social media creates a disconnection among friends. This may be because the emotional part of a relationship is not being used.

Make sure your teen knows the difference between a social media “like” and a real life “like”.

Build Positive Self-Esteem

There is a thin line between positive self-esteem and negative self-esteem. Teens who have not been taught how to express their feelings appropriately, can exhibit misleading emotions. Some teens who appear cocky or arrogant are often the ones who are suffering from low self-esteem. Some teens who appear withdrawn may be mature and confident. Many teens express themselves in the wrong way because of a fear of rejection.

Positive self-esteem offers teens the ability to live their lives without the fear of being rejected, and with the confidence that they are still good people even if they fail during a task. As a parent, being a significant role model of these qualities is the best way to help your teen build positive self-esteem.

Stress Management

Helping your teen manage stress can be done by teaching them specific actions to take when they begin to feel overwhelmed. Teaching them to recognize stress triggers early can prevent break downs. Prevention is always best but you cannot prevent every stressful situation.

Being equipped with stress management techniques is beneficial for teens. Techniques include journaling, exercising, meditation, deep breathing, and listening to relaxing music are just a few that have shown impressive results.

Support

Teens need help. They are adults in progress. They are not mature enough to know how to handle every negative situation. This is where having a good support system can help a teen.

Not all teens want to confide in their parents. This is okay. Do not take it personally. Find someone they do feel comfortable confiding in. The main goal is to help your teen have positive mental health. If that means adding a school counselor, family friend, or pastor to the list of people they rely on, then it is important to do that.

Don’t Wait to Do Something

Some parents think that if they wait out the problem, it will go away. Some think it is typical teen behavior to be moody. This is not the case with some teenagers, most of the time the problem grows larger.

Help your teen by acting as soon as a problem arises. Your teen may tell you they are “fine” or that “nothing is wrong”, but you know your child. If you suspect something is wrong, investigate further to make sure.

The sooner you address a problem, the less time your teen must spend worrying about it and trying to solve it alone.

You may need help addressing your teen’s mental health issues. Seek a trained mental health professional in your area that specializes in the exact problem your teen is experiencing. Find a child and adolescent psychiatrist or psychologist who can give them an accurate mental health diagnosis. These doctors will also be able to direct you to other mental health professionals who can help your teen overcome their problem using proven psychological methods.

Take the time to conduct regular mental health check-ups with your teen. Communicate with them often about feelings. Be open minded to the problems they may have. Let them know it is okay to ask questions and provide them with honest answers even if it makes you feel uncomfortable.

The mental health of your teenager, whether positive or negative, will influence and shape their adult lives. Do what you can now to teach your teen how to take care of their own mental health. Therefore, when problems do arise, they will be confident in their abilities to succeed despite any obstacles.

 


Chris Massman is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist. Chris' training includes Family Systems Theory along with numerous other theories. She believes therapy is an art and chooses the theory she feels will most benefit the individual sitting in front of her. Her specialty lies is in the field of Chemical Dependency and Addictions. Chris is currently seeing individuals, couples and families. Chris is a Clinical member of the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists as well as the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists. Chris has two locations including Tarzana and Agoura Hills, CA.