A common misconception parents make is that mental health are only challenges for older teens and adults. But the truth is that the first signs of mental health issues often appear at a very young age. More than half of all adults with mental health problems were diagnosed in childhood, but less than half of those diagnosed received appropriate treatment. A failure to properly treat these illnesses at onset can lead to depression and substance abuse down the road.
Self-Esteem, Resilience & Coping Skills
Does your teen know how important they are to you? Do they have others who pour sincere and positive affirmations into them? So many teens struggle with their self-esteem for a variety of reasons. Self-esteem is all about how they feel about themselves. Self-esteem plays an important role in our teens’ lives. It can determine if goals are set and achieved, levels of motivation, self-worth, and directly ties into their future achievement levels and relationships.
The teenage years are a stressful time, as our children must deal with changes at school, in their relationships, and in their own bodies. Anxiety begins to set in as teens become overwhelmed with fear and worry. If your teen or preteen suffers from anxiety attacks, don’t encourage them to avoid or resist whatever it is that triggers the attacks. Rather, encourage them to invite a panic attack then write through it in a journal. Over time, they can change how their mind processes information. The goal here is NOT to rescue them, but to empower them with “coping skills” and help reduce symptoms without medication. Validate their feelings, so that they can understand that it’s okay to feel the way they do.
No matter how much we try to protect our children, there is always the possibility that they will be bullied. You want great things for your teen or preteen, and they have so much to look forward to, but it can be hard for them to see a future past the bullying or cyber bullying. Sadly, a large amount of bullying goes unreported and unnoticed by adults. Parents who have lost their children to suicide sometimes find out later their child was being bullied at school, and just didn’t want to face it another day. This is why it is so critical to have open dialogue with your teen.
It can be difficult to differentiate between a depressed teen and one who is just sad, overwhelmed, or stressed. Teens are experts at masking their thoughts and feelings, which leaves most of them to deal with depression on their own. This can easily lead to tragedy. The best thing you can do is to be involved in your teen’s life and let your child know that they can always talk to you about anything. Tell them that they are never alone, that you are always there for them, and that you can work through anything together.
Self-Injury & Suicide
Sometimes our teens are experiencing far more emotional pain than we realize. Teens that cut themselves do it as a release from the pain in their lives and to feel like they are in control. Unfortunately, self-injury never brings lasting peace. They’re very good at hiding things and shielding us from behaviors that they know we would not approve of or understand. “Cutting” is one of the most common self-harm behaviors teens engage in when they’re hurting, and it’s important to recognize the warning signs so we can intervene and get them professional help.
Over 13% of teens have made a plan to commit suicide in the past 12 months, and their parents probably never had a clue. Teens face so many struggles, and the majority of teens don’t feel comfortable discussing their true thoughts and emotions with their parents. That means you have to work even harder. Remind your child today that you love them and that there is nothing they can do that would make you love them any less. Tell them that every day and back it up with your actions.
Eating Disorders & Obesity
Sitting down together for family meals is easier said than done, but it’s definitely worth the effort. As kids go through adolescence, their bodies are growing rapidly, and you’ll constantly hear “I’m starving.” The goal is to try to get them in the habit of eating something for breakfast (cereal, breakfast bar, etc.), packing a healthy lunch for school, and learning early how to start preparing dinner for the family – even if that starts with just setting the table!