Tips and advice on how you can support your teen’s mental wellbeing
Transitioning from childhood into adulthood poses significant challenges for teens and their caregivers. During this transition, teenagers not only experience physical changes, but they also develop emotionally and seek to find their own identity, independence, and place in the world. As a consequence, caregivers often find their teen’s behaviours challenging and confusing.
Teens behaviour may cause concern to caregivers as they may be unsure if the behaviour is typical for adolescents, or if there may be concerns about the teen’s mental health. The changes in behaviour during this time of transition is linked to the development of the teen’s brain. Some areas of the brain develop faster than others. For example, younger teens tend to think in “black or white” and focus mainly on what is in front of them. In addition, the brain has not yet fully developed the ability to evaluate consequences. This can lead to impulsive behaviours.
It has been shown that many mental health concerns develop during the teenage years. Teens experience a range of challenges. Peer pressure, exam performance stress, finding and coping with sexual identity, social media, and bullying, to name just a few. Many of those challenges that teenagers face can have adverse effects on their mental health and wellbeing and may lead to the onset of depression and or anxiety.
Research tells us that getting help as soon as possible will lead to quicker recovery as any issues can be addressed before deeper anxiety or depression sets in.
TIPS ON HOW YOU CAN SUPPORT YOUR TEEN IN THEIR EMOTIONAL DEVELOPMENT AND HELP THEM ACHIEVE MENTAL WELL- BEING
It has long been established that the food we eat has an effect on our mood. You can encourage your child to eat a healthy balanced diet. A good way of doing that is by leading by example and by keeping healthy snacks in the house. Processed foods and sugary drinks create sugar crashes which lead to low moods and also don’t provide the necessary nutrients for healthy development.
The importance of sleep & rest
Teenagers have by biological design a different sleeping pattern to adults. This explains why they stay up late and want to sleep longer in the morning. In an ideal world, teens need at least 8 hours of sleep a night. Parents can help by collaboratively establish a sleep routine. Discuss this with your child and come up with a routine together. This could be having a bath before bedtime, reading a book, turning off all screens 30 minutes before bedtime, put a few drops of lavender oil on the pillow or write in a journal.
Journaling is particularly helpful in helping unwind as it gets the young person’s thoughts out of the head and onto paper. This helps to stop ruminating thoughts that causes teens to lie awake at night and worry about various issues they have on their mind.
It’s important that the young person has time to relax, meet with friends and engage in hobbies. The school year can be very stressful, and the focus is often on exams and homework. Encourage your teen to balance his/her school work with fun activities that they can look forward to. This will help to keep their mood lifted and relieve stress that may build up over the week.
Sharing your own thoughts & feelings
Let your child know that talking about mental health issues is normal. A good way is to talk about how you feel yourself. By talking about how you feel will encourage your child also to open up and talk about feeling and at the same time learn that it’s ok to experience painful emotions. Feelings come and go and it’s so important for mental health and wellbeing to be able to identify feelings and not be afraid to experience them.
Building self – esteem
Many teenagers have low self-esteem and compare themselves to their peers. In particular at a time of social media and the constant stream of images of friends who in their minds look better and have a much more exciting life. You can help your child by focusing on their strengths.
As a parent or caregiver, you have the opportunity to help your teenager through a challenging period in their life as they navigate from childhood into adulthood. It can be a challenging time for parents and children, and parents equally need to take care of their own well-being.
The good news is, that after a period of turbulence, with your guidance, your teen will have developed into a young adult who will be equipped to face challenges that may arise in the future.