Tense Teen? Tackling Youth Mental Health Issues
Teenagers are like a completely different species! Your once loving, innocent and adoring child is now constantly grumpy, isolates themselves and speaks to you in grunts. Life pressures combined with surging hormones can create the perfect storm when it comes to their mood- but when is it just ‘normal’ teenage behaviour and when is it something to worry about? Here are some of the ways you can get closer to your child again, and help to prevent or tackle any mental health issues they may be facing.
It’s such a simple thing, eating together, but studies have shown time and time again that it’s beneficial for families. Those that eat together most nights of the week tend to have lower instances of teen pregnancy, drug and alcohol abuse, obesity and other issues. It makes sense when you think about it, not only is eating together healthier (as you know exactly what’s going into the food) but it’s a chance to talk and connect. Families that eat together tend to be closer and know their children more deeply. It’s something that most of us can execute at least a few days a week, come up with a list of family favourite recipes and start setting dinner times. It’s tempting to feed kids and adults separately and let teens sort themselves out, but they’ll eat far better and you’ll get to reap the rewards of more family closeness if you gather everyone together.
- Offer support and guidance
As adults we have life experience, we’ve been through so many situations and came out the other side which means we have plenty of advice we can give. If your teen is stressing about friendships or relationships, chat with them honestly and openly advising what you think their next moves should be. If they’re worried about exams and coursework, help them draw up a revision timetable and provide support for them staying on track. If they’re worried about their weight, you could suggest joining a new sport or activity to get them moving. Empathising with your teens situation (even if it seems silly to you) allows you to connect with them and work through their issues. This can be a great way for you to bond too, since when we feel that others truly understand us we’re able to connect on a deeper level. As a parent, you don’t have to be strict and maintain this authority all the time. Sometimes you really can just be a friend to them. Rather than guessing or assuming what’s wrong, start up a conversation and be receptive. The more of a rappor you can build with your teen the more open they’re likely to be with you. It’s unfortunate and can be upsetting when you grow distant from your teen especially if you were very close to them when they were kids. But as they get older they’ll crave more space and independence- however it doesnt mean they no longer need their parents. So let them know you’re there for them.
- Keep stress levels down at home
Home should be a safe place, your family’s respite from the world. If your teen is already having issues at school or with their social life, coming home to a hostile environment is only going to exacerbate issues. We don’t all lead perfect lives, but do your best to keep adult stresses and situations separate from kids and teens. Maybe your marriage is breaking down and you have to contact expert divorce solicitors, aim to keep arguing and shouting away from the household. If you’re worrying about money then don’t let your children see you getting yourself worked up about it. There’s nothing wrong with being open about what’s happening, but if they see you panic then chances are they’re going to as well. Provide them with a comfortable bedroom which is their safe place from the world, a good quality bed, a desk to do homework and storage is all that most teens will need. Give them privacy, work on building a good bond with your teen so that they feel comfortable sharing things with you- rather than demanding information from them.
If you feel that your teen might be struggling with a mental health condition like depression or anxiety then it’s important to speak to their GP. It’s easy to assume that it wont be this, from an adults perspective teens have it easy and think ‘what do they have to be stressed/ depressed about?’ However, the teenage years can be very turbulent. Body changes, friendship and relationship dramas, exams, worries of the future, pressures from school and part time work and more can all add up. Teenagers can and do suffer with mental health problems that need treating just like adults do. On top of this, disorders such as schizophrenia and bipolar can emerge in the teen years, a combination of hormonal changes and stressors in their environment are thought to cause this. If you believe your child is suffering then don’t be afraid to seek medical help.