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How to Support Your Teen’s Mental Health

As a parent, you can take steps to ensure your teenager feels loved and comfortable discussing issues. Here's how to support your teen's mental health.

According to reports, at least twenty percent of all teenagers have a diagnosable mental illness. That translates to one in five young people suffering from a mental health disorder. Statistics like these are eye-opening.

As a parent, there are steps you can take to support your teen’s mental health, whether it is currently positive or negative. Educating yourself is key in providing support that will benefit your teen and your family.

Supporting your teen’s mental health means you first distinguish healthy and unhealthy characteristics. Or, determining what may be typical teen behavior verses something more serious.

What is Good Mental Health?

A teenager with good mental health exhibits many positive behaviors. They can relax at the end of the day and sleep well throughout the night. They have an overall happy mood, react properly to challenges or upsets, and like to participate in a variety of activities.

Teens with good mental health have positive relationships. Meaning, they treat people well, and they are treated well by friends and family. These are distinct differences between teens with healthy and poor mental stability.

What is Poor Mental Health?

A teenager with poor mental health often wants to isolate themselves and avoids building relationships with others. Or, the relationships they do have are with negative influences. A negative influence is someone who encourages your teen to participate in negative activities.

Negative activities can include using drugs or alcohol, disobeying parents or authority, skipping school or any other behavior that can create adverse consequences.

A negative influence can also be someone in your teen’s life who lowers their self-esteem or harms them in some way. For instance, with verbal or physical abuse within teen relationships. Teen dating violence is gaining recognition today, with many brave teens speaking up about abuse they have endured.

Poor mental health can also show as a constant negative attitude, withdrawing from others, or changes in behaviors. If they were typically kind and calm but now have become aggressive and anxious, there may be a problem.

Any sudden changes in behavior, thoughts, feeling and even appearance can signal an issue.

There are many things you can do as a parent to support your teen in achieving positive mental health.

Counseling

Choosing a licensed mental health professional to work with your teen is a terrific way to get help for not only your teen, but your entire family. If your teen does not want to start with a professional counselor, find someone else to help you reach them.

There are many types of counseling that work for teens.

Some parents choose a pastor, a family friend or a teacher to make an initial contact. The key is to find the right person, one they respect and look up to, to talk to them about getting further help from a counselor.

Be Involved in Your Teen’s Life

Teens need their parents. They need good role models. Your involvement in their lives can make a difference in their mental health.

It is easy to get bogged down with work, family, errands and life in general. However, finding time to really get involved with your teen can do wonders for their mental health. Find time to have fun together.

Showing interest in the activities they enjoy makes a teen feel good. When you praise them for good behaviors, you are encouraging your teen to continue those positive behaviors. Teens usually want to please their parents. It is important for you to let them know when you are pleased.

Allow Your Teen to be Honest

You may not always like what your teen says. You may not agree with them all the time. But it is extremely important to allow your teen the opportunity to speak honestly. If they feel they cannot talk to you truthfully, they may simply avoid conversations with you.

Honesty is just one of many positive strategies in building a relationship with your teen.

Having mature, open and honest communications with your teen makes them feel respected. This allows you the opportunity to teach them. It opens a line of communication between you and your teen that will be beneficial in all types of situations.

Focus on Your Teen’s Physical Health

Physical health is directly connected to mental health. When one is good, the other is usually good too. Too often, teens are involved in activities that do not require a lot of physicality.

Watching too much television, playing video games for hours, or just leading a sedentary lifestyle is not a way to achieve good physical health.

Encourage your teen to get active. There are many clubs and organizations in which they can get involved. If they are old enough, help them find a part-time job that could support positive mental health.

Your teen’s physical health also depends on eating and sleeping well. Teach them how to do both, so they can experience all the benefits of positive mental health.

Teach Your Teen

Your teen needs to learn about behaviors that can harm them and ones that can help them. They need to learn these things from you. It is much better for you to talk to your teen about the dangers of drugs and alcohol before a negative influence tries to teach them.

Your teen can benefit from you teaching them about the many consequences that can come from bad decisions. Embark on learning adventures together that help your teen choose the right paths.

Expose your teen to situations that specifically show them good decisions lead to good consequences and poor decisions lead to negative consequences. Share with them experiences you have had when you made the wrong decisions, and when you made the right decisions.

Let them know everyone makes mistakes, but being equipped with decision making knowledge can reduce the number of mistakes they make. Let them know they can come to you with questions, and that you will not be judgmental or condemn them for having questions.

Supporting your teen’s mental health can help break down the stigmas placed on mental illness. Without stigmas, more people are willing to seek help when they need it.

Finally, support your teen’s mental health by simply loving them. Make them feel loved even if you are struggling with your relationship. Teens need to know that their parents love them in good times and bad.

You love them unconditionally and they need to feel this. This will enable them to express love back to you and the entire family. And most importantly, your teen will be able to express love towards themselves.


Chris Massman is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Agoura Hills, CA. She graduated Phillips Graduate Institute with a Master of Arts in Psychology in 2014 and received her Chemical Dependency Specialty in 2014. Today, she practices Congnitive-behavioral therapy to help individuals, couples, and families identify and overcome a variety of unique challenges.