There are few things as important in life as our mental health and those of our families. Although we can take our minds and bodies for granted, we must all be diligent in looking after ourselves. Parents within our readership, will know that from the moment your child is born, nothing is more important to you than making sure that they are safe, happy and healthy. We agonise over all sorts of minutes from what we eat when we’re carrying them to the temperature of their baby formula to what kind of food to feed them. When our kids get a little olde, however, looking after their needs becomes a bit more complicated. Dealing with adolescent mental health is a decidedly thorny issue. Teenagers are, after all, a roiling and unpredictable volcano of hormones and their behaviour can be erratic and sometimes incomprehensible (even / especially to them). How do you differentiate the typical adolescent growing pains from a genuine mental health issue? How do you know the most effective form of support to give them? It can be a minefield for parents, but a little understanding can go a very long way.
COMMON ISSUES FACED BY ADOLESCENTS
Most of us remember our adolescence, and we probably don’t have the fondest memories of it. It’s a time of great upheaval, and uncertainty and they are starting to notice the images of airbrushed perfection that are implied to be the normality of adulthood and how they don’t necessarily correlate with what they see in the mirror. Their attitudes toward themselves, their friends and the world around them is changing as the cosy perspective of childhood opens up to the trials and tribulations of adulthood. As such, adolescents are especially prone to;
Body issues (including body dysmorphia) Sexual confusion Feeling isolated or alienated Anxiety, including social anxiety Depression Loneliness Anger management issues
KNOW THE SIGNS
The most important thing you can do as a parent is to identify the signs of a mental health issue in your son or daughter's behaviour, which can be challenging given the nature of life as a teenager. Mood changes, erratic behaviour and the urge to closet themselves away are par for the course, but with a little light study, you can identify the signs of a potential mental health issue.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
As the parent of an adolescent, you likely know the dangers of being too obtrusive in your parenting. Of course, the most visible and fundamental thing you can do is be there for them to listen to them and help talk them through any issues they may be experiencing. Often, merely the act of talking to someone can work wonders. Encourage them to eat right (you’d be astonished at the difference a proper diet makes), spend time outside, get a healthy amount of sleep and get regular exercise.
Being in front of a screen is rarely conducive to mental health. Encourage your teenager to talk openly and frankly to you, and though you may worry about their behaviour, try to keep your reactions calm and patient. In some cases, it may be helpful or prudent to arrange an appointment for them with a mental health professional. With your love and support, your kids can overcome any obstacle to their psychological health. Collaboration.