Mental health is something that we all have to take care of no matter our age. Teenagers are going through a unique transitional period with many emotional, mental, and even physical challenges. As one’s bodies change and their hormones rise and fall, they tend to experience the beginnings of adolescence and try to discover their identity and sexuality. Mental health issues among teens are becoming more common due in part to better education and greater adult awareness of these issues. As our society evolves, it is likely that these problems will continue to develop at higher and higher levels.
It can be difficult for parents to know how to deal with the mental and emotional needs of their teenage children, but it is important to remember that their mental/emotional health is just as important as one’s physical health. So, without further ado, let’s dive into this blog and learn some of the things you should know about your teen’s mental health so you can best meet their needs.
1. They need love and acceptance
The teen years are full of all the complications associated with growing and fading relationships. It is a time full of learning and new experiences. Teens learn or inherit many of their behaviors and their parents’ emotional and social reference points. Unfortunately, as teens learn to accept themselves and others, they run the risk of facing rejection, bullying, peer pressure, and other difficulties as they begin to figure out who they are and who they want to be with.
That’s why it’s so essential that you create a safe place for them to learn and grow, even as your children begin to act like independent adults. Spend time with your children and show them through actions and words that you care about their identity and that you love and accept them no matter what.
Teens’ ability to love and accept themselves begins with their parents accepting them as unique and special individuals. They need a safe place to come to talk about their thoughts and feelings and learn how to deal with complex emotions constructively. When they do, they begin to cultivate healthy mental and emotional patterns in them, and they learn to stand up for who they are and what they believe in.
2. Teens need structure
Even though many teens are beginning to act like adults, they still need consistency and structure in their lives to be mentally healthy. The best way to accomplish this is to create a structure with them and help them learn to make their own decisions within that framework. The structure from their younger years may not be as necessary, but you can adapt things you did then to make them work now, such as scheduling consistent sleep routines, times for homework and activities, family meals, and other social events.
While it is important to maintain certain boundaries, it is also important to let them make their own decisions and face the consequences. This is especially important for teens learning to cope with mental illness because structure and routine mean security, predictability, and comfort. In addition, puberty is often a time when teens test their limits to see where the boundaries lie. In this way, they test their individuality.
3. They need social activities
People depend on each other. Constant isolation is often the first step toward mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts, whether forced or self-imposed. This is especially true for teenagers who are just beginning to figure out who they are. They also need the company of peers and like-minded people to help them deal with their thoughts and feelings and live their lives. It is crucial that you allow your kid to find ways to build healthy social relationships with his or her peer group.
4. They need physical activity
Play may be something that many think is appropriate for young children, but it is just as important for teens. Granted, physical “play time” is often more like sports and outdoor activities like hiking and camping, but these types of activities are nonetheless good for teen health. It’s scientifically proven that the more time young people spend being active and exercising outdoors, the more likely they are to become functional adults.
To encourage healthy habits, consider limiting screen time, promoting outdoor family adventures, or encouraging participation in school or local sports teams. This not only provides an outlet for their mental and physical needs but also helps them develop a balanced vision of a healthy lifestyle for the future.
5. Teens need help with mental illness
Mental illness in adolescents is more prevalent today than ever, partly because awareness of the illness is growing and clinical diagnoses are increasing. Young people facing mental illness need support, understanding, and unconditional love as much or more than their peers, even if it is difficult to provide.
They may also need to be reminded that what they are struggling with does not make them “broken” or abnormal. So take the time to encourage them and work through their problems with them. Present yourself as a safe, non-judgmental environment to listen and work with them and provide constructive opportunities to process their thoughts and feelings.
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