How to Talk to Your Teen About Mental Health
Starting a conversation about mental health can be challenging, especially if you are bringing up the topic with a teenager who may be especially sensitive about protecting their privacy. As a parent or guardian, you are responsible for keeping an eye on a child’s behavior, even if they are making it more difficult for you to do so.
Like adults, many teens need encouragement to make positive changes in their lives. If you notice your teenager seems unusually withdrawn, has lost interest in hobbies or is suddenly struggling to keep up in school, now is the time to speak up. Here are some quick tips to help you.
Ask What They Need
Adolescents who are starting to establish their independence won’t appreciate an adult preaching at them or telling them how to live their lives. Instead of telling your child what you think they should do, ask what they want your help with, then use that information to guide your responses. For example, if they’ve been slipping academically because they don’t understand the subject matter, offer to find a tutor. Or, you can ask if they’d be open to working with a therapist who specializes in teen mental health issues.
It can take a lot of courage for someone to talk about the mental health challenges they’re facing. Listen to your teen without interrupting, and do not minimize or dismiss their feelings. Reassure your child that mental health struggles like depression and anxiety are common worldwide, and that help is available.
Choose the Right Time
Conversations about touchy subjects usually go more smoothly when they happen organically. If you try to force the issue, you will probably encounter resistance. Wait for a time when you and your child have plenty of privacy and are not preoccupied with other responsibilities.
Be Comfortable With Silence
Your teen may need to take a moment to gather their thoughts or collect themselves emotionally. If this happens, don’t try to fill the conversational gap, as doing so could derail their train of thought. Be patient and give them the time they need to pull themselves together.
Ask Open-Ended Questions
Open-ended questions set the stage for a more detailed discussion by encouraging your child to provide a comprehensive answer. By phrasing questions thoughtfully, you can help your teen make better decisions about their mental health. If you sense any uncertainty, gently nudge them toward the best path.
Keep Communications Lines Open
Many mental illnesses begin in adolescence, but some teenagers don’t get the help they need right away. Make sure to emphasize that your child should always feel comfortable coming to you if they have any questions, concerns or problems with their friends or teachers.
Focusing on Your Family’s Health
At R&A Therapeutic Partners, we know parenting an adolescent can be challenging. That’s why we offer top-quality family counseling and parental support. If your family dynamic is dysfunctional or characterized by issues like substance abuse or codependency, reach out today to request help.
At R&A Therapeutic Partners Raymond Estefania and Ana Moreno specialize in substance use and mental health disorder evaluations, treatment, intervention and therapeutic/educational consulting for clients throughout the greater South Florida area, as well as nationally and internationally. For more resources and information please visit Therapeutic-Partners.com or on Facebook.