Sometimes, getting a teenager to do something that’s good for them may seem next to impossible, even when it’s common, typical things like eating well and getting enough sleep. Trying to get a teen to understand the importance of mental wellness and to take an active role in taking care of themselves can be even more challenging. But with rates of youth depression increasing, and NAMI reporting that at least half of all mental health conditions arise by the time a person turns 14, it is important that parents provide their teens with the guidance and support needed to make mental health a priority.
Below we are sharing a few strategies to use when teaching your teen to care and invest in their mental health and wellness.
5 Things Every Parent Should Do
Newport Academy, an organization that treats teens experiencing mental health or substance abuse, shares five things parents can do for their teens to encourage mental wellness.
- Teach coping skills– Coping skills to help manage negative emotions are critical for teens. With them, teens are equipped to overcome the larger challenges they will face throughout life. Coping skills help teens put negative situations in perspective and seek constructive solutions to problems that initially seem overwhelming. The most effective coping strategies for teens depend on their personality and specific needs. However, in general, successful coping tools allow teens to acknowledge, understand, and express their emotions while shifting toward a more positive, constructive mindset. Healthy coping skills for navigating stress and sadness may include: physical activity, mediation or breathing exercises, creative outlets or a more structured schedule. One way to teach coping skills to your teen is by practice: allow your child to fail (within reason), and help them draw their own lessons from it. Help them problem solve rather than solve problem for them. Teens want to be independent so don’t manage them, let them take the lead as much as you can, and (within reason) don’t save them from their mistakes.
- Educate teens on mental wellness – Mental health challenges are a normal part of life. Parents should treat them as such, and teach their teens to do the same. Look for opportunities for everyday conversations about mental health; doing so helps remove stigma that may be clouding your teen’s understanding of mental wellness. Consider sharing some of the mental health challenges you are facing with your child to help them understand that everyone is struggling with their emotions from time to time.
- Encourage mind-body wellness – Mental and emotional health are closely tied to physical health. While a healthy lifestyle does not always prevent mental illness, it can go a long way in helping to maintain a healthy mental state. Model the behavior you’d like to see in your teen: eat a balanced diet, get regular exercise, and make time to enjoy hobbies or social activities you care about.
- Talk to your teen – Teens are often reluctant to discuss anything too deep, like emotional challenges. Pushing them into conversations can backfire. Instead, make it clear to your teen that you areavailable to talk whenever they need you, and make an effort to check in with them on a regular basis. More importantly, when your teen comes to you with a problem, resist the urge to judge, argue, or offer an abundance of advice. Instead, try to understand what your teen is going through.
- Let your teen know help is available – Sometimes, teens need more than coping skills and loving support to overcome a mental health challenge. In these cases, it’s important for you to help your teen understand that mental illness is not shameful. Share with your teen what resources are available – such as therapy, smartphone applications to support mental health, support groups and more – and how to access those resources.
Taking care of your mental health can be difficult no matter your age. The stresses and responsibilities of day-to-day life can get in the way of the best intentions. And while your teen may insist they can handle things on their own, don’t stop being a parent. Maintain your involvement in their well-being; they’ll secretly appreciate it.
For hope and healing,
As the director of communications for Clarity Child Guidance Center, Mike shares the insights of children’s mental health experts, both inside and outside of Clarity CGC, who work with families looking for answers about their children’s mental health.
If you are experiencing an emergency, please call 9-1-1. If you need help locating mental health resources please visit the Find Help section of our website, call your local health department or the National Alliance Mental Illness's helpline at 800-950-NAMI (6264).