How to support your teen’s mental health
From a blog by MyTutor
Given the challenges teens have and are facing due to the pandemic, Clinical Psychologist Dr Louise Egan gives 9 top tips on how to support your child’s mental health going forward:
Nurture positive self esteem
Regulate, relate then reason
Make time to talk
Guide rather than control
Help them grow in their independence
Help them make good choices with screen time
If you need to, get professional help
Make time for fun
Hang in there
Here are abridged summaries:
1. Nurture positive self esteem
Adolescence is a time when teens are developing their own identity. It’s also a time when acceptance and belonging to their peer group becomes especially important. Find ways to let them know their positive place in your family. Tell them all the positive things that they do that make you feel proud.
2. Regulate, relate then reason (3 R's)
Teens often worry about not fitting in, looking right, having friends, and doing well in their studies. When they’re distressed, try role modelling ways they can soothe themselves. This will help them to positively relate to themselves and others. You can lead the way by sharing with your child the links between your thoughts, feelings, behaviours and your reasoning out aloud when you are stressed. Modelling healthy coping techniques is helpful to your teen.
3. Make time to talk
Open up regular time to talk about what’s important to your child and learn how they feel. Look for small opportunities in the day to keep conversations going. Their wellbeing is influenced by how others around them understand and respond to their thoughts and feelings. You’re the best person to be there for your teen as they navigate these tricky adolescent years. Keep an open, engaged, compassionate and responsive approach as much as you can. Listen to them by acknowledging their thoughts and feelings with appropriate acceptance.
4. Guide rather than control
As much as you can, try to lead by example with your teen’s behaviour, rather than trying to control what they do. Our brains are still developing in our twenties and thirties! We often expect our teens to be more capable than their brain is capable of. The prefrontal cortex which is responsible for planning, thinking logically, moderating behaviour, self-awareness, the ability to take the perspective of another and social interaction is the last part of the brain to develop.
Try to respectfully describe to your teen the issue at hand, and how you feel about it. Hold off from critical comments as teenagers tend to be sensitive to disapproval and tune out. Ask for their point of view on the issue and invite your teen to problem solve with you. State clearly and kindly what you want to see more, of and encourage them to choose from a range of solutions that you’ve come up with together.
5. Help them grow in their independence
Naturally, teens should be navigating the psychosocial challenges of appropriate independence from you, identifying more with their peers and engaging in exploratory behaviours. Encourage healthy independence, peer relationships and exploration. You can do this by setting up opportunities for them to explore situations that are less risky and problematic e.g. agree to let them have that funky hairstyle, rather than giving in to their request for alcohol!
6. Help them make good choices with screen time
Self-consciousness about appearance is a big thing for teenagers, and as you probably know, social media and some TV shows can play a big part in this. You can help them develop a healthier relationship with themselves and their screen time by talking about the unhelpful messages portrayed in the media. Watching appropriate TV programmes, documentaries and films, listening to music and chatting about articles or podcasts on the subject can all help them think more critically about what they see online and on TV.
7. If you need to, get professional help
Sometimes it can be hard to tell whether a teen’s distress is just them being a teen, or something more serious. It might be time to find professional help when emotional difficulties are…
Happening for most of the day, more days than not, over an extended period of time
Having a significant negative impact on your teen’s engagement family and social life, as well as their education
Putting them or others at risk
8. Make time for fun
Being playful is an important parenting skill. Strengthening your connection by spending regular ‘fun time’ together will provide that secure base which your teen can return to in a difficult time, when a problem comes up. Children with a probable mental disorder were five times more likely not to have eaten a family meal all week (4.8%), and not to have spent time together with their family (6.0%) than those unlikely to have a mental disorder (0.9% and 1.0%, respectively) NHS Digital.
9. Hang in there
Though adolescence can be a challenging stage, the adaptive nature of the teenage brain means there are more opportunities for fun, creativity, curious exploration and learning. Your teen is developing into their own person, putting their unique stamp on the world around them–and that is something to celebrate.
Read the full article here.
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