Regardless of how old you are, you can remember what life was like as a teenager. However, over the years, many of us tend to “forget” to mention our struggles when having deep conversations with our teenage kids. Somehow, we believe focusing on the positives will somehow make them feel better about their current experiences.
Yeah, let’s not do that anymore. Absolutely, it’s important to share your good memories. However, if your child is showing signs of depression, anxiety, or uncertainty about their future. Teens need to see these people raising them struggle, handle their struggles, and come out on the other side.
So, how can you, the parent, know if your teen’s mental health is in trouble? It’s all about looking for “the signs”.
Signs of Teenage Depression and Anxiety
Teen depression and teen anxiety is on the rise. Why? STRESS! Look around at the current state of the world. It’s no wonder teens are feeling completely hopeless! Pressure at home and at school is intensified thanks to the digital world! Our kids just aren’t as prepared for life!
And have you noticed kids are more aware of financial issues concerning their families, as well as the world in general? Yeah - it’s stressful to look at the future and see a healthy, happy, prosperous one when people all over the world are:
Struggling to put gas in their cars to get to jobs that would replace them in a heartbeat
Companies firing loyal employees without any regard for the humans being fired and the families they’re trying to support, just caring about the company’s profits
Viruses coming out and no real way to battle them
Violence - gun violence, stabbings, automobiles used as weapons, and domestic abuse killings
A constant message from the media (mainstream and social) that mass shootings are the fault of those with “mental issues”, which people then attribute to mental illness. The media never shares the EXACT mental illness that is causing people to act out in such a violent way. The result: those feeling like they might be depressed can’t share this and won’t seek help, because mental illness is lumped into one stigmatized lump.
All of this makes it so important for parents and loved ones to know the warning signs of teen depression.
An active teen becomes less active
A teen who once took pride in his appearance no longer cares what he looks like (or smells like)
Grades dropping in school
Teachers are contacting you about your child’s lack of attention during class
No longer interested in doing the things they once loved - sports, hobbies, after school clubs, video games)
Suffering from chronic headaches, not eating, not sleeping
Experimenting with alcohol or drugs
Sadness and hopelessness
Spending time alone (teen not wanting to hang out with their parents can be normal, but if they aren’t hanging out with their friends, it’s a bigger issue)
Bringing up death or suicide
There are professionals who can help your teenager when you feel that your teen has shown even just one of the signs, before the situation spirals and you and your kid feel helpless.
Tips for Teens to Help Them Handle Teenage Mental Health
Right now, in this world our teens are living in, mental health still carries a negative stigma. Teens struggle to accept a mental health diagnosis, and often don’t want people to know, nor do they want to ask for help. Parents and loved ones have a lot they can do to help teens handle their mental health, and teens have plenty of things they can do for themselves, too!
Asking for Help is a Sign of Strength
Parents, make it clear to your teens that asking for help is not a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of strength! Life is filled with challenges, and handling one’s mental health is going to be another challenge. However, your child’s ability to admit he can’t handle life’s challenges alone is brave. Teach them never to be afraid, or embarrassed, to ask people they trust, or a professional for help. The message: they are not alone!
Set the example for your kids that making healthy choices is a top priority in life! Eating well, adequate sleep, and regular physical activity are all important for their overall well-being. One of the best ways to make sure they’re providing their bodies with good nutrition, quality sleep and plenty of physical movement: a schedule. Plot out meals, activities, sleep and stick to it as best as possible.
Adults are notorious for “beating ourselves up” over every little and every big event popping up in our lives. It’s not easy to switch that negative self-talk into positive self-talk. It can be done, of course. If you’re a parent, making this adjustment is so important in order to show your kids from an early age that negative self-talk doesn’t do anyone any good in the long run.
Set an example and instill from an early age just how important positive self-talk is for optimal mental and physical health. Life isn’t perfect. Our responses aren’t always perfect. But positive outcomes are always possible.
Identify Coping Skills
High-stress situations happen every day. It sucks that stressors can happen at any given time, in any given place, as you go about your daily life. Teens living their lives are just as susceptible to daily stressors!
In order to manage mental health one must learn coping skills. A professional can help identify what sets your teen off, and then work with them to create coping strategies to handle life’s challenges.
We become who we spend the most time with. Teens often find it difficult to leave unhealthy relationships. They take bullying from so-called friends because there are mixed messages out there.
On one hand we tell our teens bullying is wrong, but on the other hand we tell many of our females that when a boy is mean to them it means the boy likes them. We tell our kids to give people the benefit of the doubt, provide second chances, and to be the bigger person. However, this often means they’re allowing negative and disrespectful behavior in their social circle, and that’s not healthy.
Explain how important it is to find friends who:
A warm, respectful, and positive environment in a social circle can only help mental health!
Helping with Your Teen’s Mental Health
Often, contacting a therapist is the best thing a parent can do once they notice signs of issues affecting their teen’s mental health. To be clear, teens rarely volunteer to head to a therapist’s office. Again, negative stigma, and the resistance to asking for help play significant roles in the lack of joy in learning they’re heading to see a professional. I promise I won’t take it personally! I also promise to do my best to make your teen feel welcome and to provide a safe space for them to discuss their concerns.