The difficulty and uncertainty of the last few years have understandably led to various mental health challenges for us all, and teenagers are no exception. However, even prior to the pandemic, anxiety and depression were on the rise for younger individuals. As more teenagers are reporting experiencing “persistent feelings of sadness and hopelessness,” (CDC, 2021) here are some tips for parents and caregivers looking to help their child navigate their feelings.
Children and youth look to their parents and caregivers as examples, so while many parents and caregivers may think it is beneficial to always prioritize the needs of their children first, it is important not to forget your own. In stressful or anxiety-inducing situations when it is difficult to maintain a positive mindset, remind your teenager that things are always temporary and will get better. Practice healthy coping mechanisms like deep breathing, mindfulness activities, relaxation techniques and other forms of self-care. Demonstrating these attitudes and behaviours will assist your teen in doing the same.
If you notice a shift in your child’s mood, try to avoid pressuring them to talk and use questions like, “I’ve noticed you seem down, how are you feeling?” Open-ended questions framed like this can help give your child space to open up. Keep calm to allow them to volunteer information on their own time and use validation to support their feelings and sharing. While it is natural to want to jump to solutions for your child, talking it out will allow your child to continue to open up and come to you when they need support.
Reminders of Love and Support
A simple and powerful way to help your teen if they are struggling with their mental health is to remind them of your love and support. Even when a solution might not be available or you don’t fully understand their experience, reminding them that you are available for support without judgment goes a long way in assuring them that they are not alone.
Make Time for Joy
Many teenagers can experience overwhelm between school and social pressures, additional stressors like extracurricular activities or part-time jobs, and other day-to-day responsibilities. Make sure your child has opportunities just for fun. This could look like more outdoor time for some, games, or creative opportunities for others.
Check-in and Resources
Checking in regularly about your child’s feelings will help keep communication open. Remember you are not alone; support is available for yourself and your family.
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