It may be easy to identify and meet your teen's physical needs like adequate sleep, healthy food and a warm coat for winter, but emotional needs may not be as obvious. Good mental health will allow your child to develop socially, think more clearly, and tackle obstacles with confidence.
Below are a few tips for parents to help support your teen's mental health and well being.
- Downtime and the opportunity to play. It is easy for teens to have packed schedules with school, sports, scouts, work, volunteering and so many other opportunities available to them. Be mindful to include downtime in your teen's schedule. This may include alone time to get to know themselves better or a chance to be goofy with a friend with no other agenda. Allowing teens free time to play gives them a chance to discover new things they like, how to make decisions on their own and increases creativity. With current social distancing in place downtime is more easy to come by, but parents may need to be creative with allowing their teens a chance to play. This may look like an outdoor water gun fight, biking through the neighborhood, or stopping by spaced out on the driveway to chat and enjoy good weather.
- Stay connected with your teen through quality time. This can be challenging because it’s developmentally appropriate for them to want to surround themselves with their peers to gain independence. But studies show teens who spend more time with their parents have better social skills and higher self-esteem. Spending quality time with your teen and giving them positive attention doesn't have to be complicated or expensive. Plan an outing together, go on a hike, learn a new skill together, read the same book then talk about it or start a journal together. Make sure you allow your teen to give input in the activity so they are interested and eager to join in.
- Keep talking and avoid judgmental or sarcastic comments. All teens are moody at times. This is due to shifting hormonal changes as they gradually turn into young adults. Praise the positive and criticize the behavior, not the person. If you lose your temper, talk about your feelings and apologize if necessary. You are the role model and they are watching closely how you manage your own emotions. Speak openly and honestly to your teen about mental health. This helps reduce the stigma and silence of mental health concerns and shows them it’s ok to speak up about what they are going through.
Need immediate advice or a listening ear? Representatives on these hotlines are always available to take your call and offer advice.
- National Mental Health Association (800) 969-6642
- National Parent Helpline 1-855-427-2736
- National Crisis Text Line Text 741741 to be connected to a trained crisis counselor
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 800-273-TALK (8255)
Layla Habibi Olberding
Gym and Learn Teacher