Ways to Talk to Your Teens About Mental Health
Once your little bundle of joy turns into a tornado of hormones, it’s like your parenting game has reached a boss level. Having a teenager is not easy. But, being one is far from easy too. The crucial ingredient for managing to survive this stage together is -communication. You need to keep in mind that you’re their parent and that it’s your job to help them figure out how to deal with this, not the other way around. During this time, it’s crucial to talk to your teens about mental health. But, you need to take subtle and delicate paths of conversation in order to avoid triggering a ticking time bomb of emotions. Here’s how.
Don’t start sentences with ”You must…”
Even though you must speak with your teen about mental health and problems that may occur, for their own good, you should avoid using phrases with ”must” while doing it. The rebellious nature of these sensitive years makes them quite irritated by this word, and all the quality conversation may go down the drain. Instead of making them feel pressured by the urgency of the actual action you want them to take, perhaps it’s best to bring focus to the thought process that will bring them to the same conclusion.
Ask instead of commanding
For example, don’t say, “You must stop reacting aggressively” or “You must start exercising to get rid of that excess energy that’s making you overreact.” Instead, try approaching with “What do you think makes you react this way? Do you think a conversation with a professional would help?” and “How does running or going to the gym makes you feel? Do you think it will help you feel more relaxed?”
Teenagers love giving their opinions. So, it’s essential to encourage them to express their thoughts and guide them through the complete thought and emotion process. It may seem harsh and a bit hard, but they’ll only listen to your words if they come out of their mouth.
Learn to listen and don’t underestimate them
If you want to build a connection, it’s extremely important that you don’t underestimate how they feel. This is excellent advice for any kind of talk. Issues with mental health may arise at any time. You should understand that we all have our individual way of dealing with our surroundings. Just because you at that age didn’t see something as a problem is not a reason to laugh at some problems your kid might have. They might be more sensitive and have a feeling that it’s something huge. Your responsibility is to encourage them to talk to you about it so you can help find a solution.
Talk to your teens about mental health with an open mind
Assuming a young kid has nothing to be sad or worried about is akin to dismissing their experiences and feelings because of their age. If you do that, they’ll never feel secure enough to share their worries. Also, please be aware that this is a different time. Cyberbullying is a real thing and can cause a lot of damage. Unfortunately, many parents of teenagers learned that the hard way when it was too late to fix anything.
Make the atmosphere as natural as possible
Hard conversations at hard times with serious voices may scare your teenager, and they might refuse to cooperate fully. The best way to serve hard talks is in a comfortable environment. For example, if you suspect that your teenager might be stressed out and that they might have started using drugs, the absolute worst thing you can do is to say: “Sit down; we need to talk.” It’s better to start by making an environment comfortable for them, maybe take them to their favorite place or restaurant and start by asking benign questions, like:
These may seem simple, but if you pay close attention to their answers and, more importantly, to how they answer, you might discover some red flags. These simple questions may give youinsight into their emotional and social being.
Do not judge
If you find some of the warning signs and suspect that your kid might be an addict or have some different mental problem, make sure to proceed with questions in a way they feel your unconditional love and support. Judging won’t help them but can only worsen their condition, as they’ll feel you don’t understand them the way you should. Please don’t force them to go to therapy right away. But make sure that they are familiar with different types of therapy approaches.
Present them with options
Talk to them about rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT) and cognitive behavioral therapy as options. Try to paint the picture of what that means and how a therapist will help rationalize their emotions to achieve their inner balance and fight the problem. Please don’t push your opinion, but make sure that they know it’s best to turn to specialists and addiction treatment professionals who know how to perform REBT.
Show them your full love and support
Talking to your teens about mental health is essential, but it’s also important to know what you do non-verbally and after conversations. If you see warning signs of substance abuse, or if they admit to you they have a problem, make sure that you show them you’re here for them. Sometimes, you can’t offer a solution in one conversation. But you can offer them love and support and tell them you’ll stand by their side. Make sure you tell them there’s no shame in asking for professional help and that you’ll guide them every step of the way. Assure them that nothing negative will happen and that they are strong enough to overcome all obstacles.