5 Ways to #StandByTeens in Support of Teen Mental Health

The country is paying attention to teen mental health — and rightfully so. Young people with emotional distress deserve full and focused attention. There is a problem, and we must talk about solutions and offer strategies that empower parents and teens.  However, too many stories being told about teen mental health mistakenly paint the entire generation in crisis rather than recognizing its strengths.

This is a great generation. Youth are contributing to our communities and committing to building a better nation. Most young people have been resilient through stressful times. Often teens experience strong emotions precisely because they possess strengths like sensitivity and caring.  They will thrive when they are supported to navigate their current discomfort and ultimately learn to manage the power of their emotions. Teens thrive when we build upon their strengths.

We must empower parents with the knowledge of how much they matter in their teens’ lives. Adults must possess both the strategies to help young people thrive and the steps to take when they think a teen is having mental or emotional distress. Professionals can and do help.

Supportive parenting is about being there when problems arise.

Strong relationships and open communication position families to serve as guides to their children in the journey towards adulthood. Families with strong relationships are also poised to address mental health and emotional challenges. It’s not uncommon for teens to encounter challenges during adolescence. Supportive parenting is about being there when problems arise. If you’re worried or have a feeling something is wrong, take it seriously. Many parents who believe their child is acting out to “just get attention” feel as though the best strategy may be to ignore the attention-seeking behavior. If your teen is asking for attention it is because they need you. Give them the time and attention they’re looking for. 

There are many things parents can do to support teen mental health. Here are five ways you can stand by teens now:

  1. Practice balanced parenting and express love. A balanced parent expresses love clearly while still setting boundaries. They create a home environment that feels like a sanctuary and lets teens feel comfortable sharing their emotional lives. They offer unconditional love and acceptance. This is the most protective force in a teen’s life. When a teen knows they are loved by the person who knows them best – both their strengths and challenges – they are more likely to share their struggles and ask for help. 
  2. Understand teen emotional development. It would be hard to know if your teen is struggling with their mental health if you aren’t sure what the typical range of emotions is in adolescents – or when there may be a cause for concern. Teens often experience stronger emotions during puberty. This is because the part of their brain that experiences emotions develops rapidly during adolescence. You don’t have to be an expert or have all the answers. Instead, focus on being a good sounding board. Talk with your teen in a way that guides them to open up and calms their emotions. Taking this approach will help your teen feel safe.
  3. Learn the signs of teen anxiety and depression and when to seek professional help. It’s important for parents to know the signs of adolescent depression and anxiety. These signs may not look the same in teens as in adults. For example, teen depression may present with sadness, but could also appear as anger, rage, or outbursts. Parents are a key part of recognizing when their teens may need to seek professional help and are critical in getting them to the people trained to support teens to feel better. If you or someone you know needs help call, text, or chat 988 or visit 988lifeline.org. You can find other resources here
  4. Commit to building your teen’s resilience. The best strategy to help teens continue to build strengths while being prepared to handle life’s curveballs is to help them manage stress in healthy ways. It’s difficult to watch children struggle. To best care for them, you must know how to take care of yourself. By doing so, you serve as a model for teens. Your children will feel more secure because they care about your well-being. Let them see how you prioritize and manage your mental health and emotional well-being. Don’t let your stress impact their stress. Dial down catastrophic and self-destructive thinking. By showing how you cope, you help your teen learn to build resilience, which will help them bounce back from troubling times. 
  5. Acknowledge the external forces teens are navigating that impact their mental health. Our teens are dealing with a lot, from social media pressures to cyberbullying to societal issues like COVID-19, injustice, politics, and even war. It’s no wonder that so many teens are feeling a weight on their shoulders. Whether your teen is struggling with common issues like school or peer relationships, or navigating societal issues like racism and discrimination, be there to offer support. You matter in your child’s life, even if it feels like they may be pushing you away. This may be an opportunity to draw from family values and cultural strengths or limit their exposure to the causes of their stress. 

It’s more important than ever to stand by teens. This generation has learned the power of human connection. They want to create change and improve the world we live in. More young people are demonstrating their strength and sensitivity by being open to talking about mental and emotional health. And, they’ve shown themselves to be resilient. Now it’s up to parents and caring adults to support them to thrive in both good and challenging times. Investing in teens today creates stronger, more connected communities tomorrow.

Join us in a movement to build a resilient generation prepared to lead us into the future. Support teen mental health and well-being by sharing this article and tagging #StandByTeens. 

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About Center for Parent and Teen Communication

CPTC is fortunate to receive editorial contributions from a range of multi-disciplinary experts, journalists, youth, and more.

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