How To Fight and Overcome Mental Health Challenges in Teenagers
By Space Coast Daily // June 8, 2022
The most happy child can turn into the most brooding teenager, and no one really knows why. Well, that is not totally true. The reality of the situation is that we know all of the components involved. We know what parts of the brain see expansion, and what hormones are produced in a teenager’s body. But the interactions between these things are so complex as to be dizzying.
Many parents struggle when their kids turn into teenagers, but we have to remember that the teenagers themselves are struggling too. Their bodies are suddenly full of energy, sometimes more muscular than before, most times far more hyperactive mentally.
There are not enough seconds in a minute for a teenager to process what they feel in such times, let alone express it. That means it falls upon the parent to help. So, whether you a parent with a teenager showing signs of mental health problems, or one such teenager yourself, let’s take a look at the obstacles teenagers face and how to deal with them.
1. Start with Knowing the Obstacles
Mental health issues are a result of either or both chemical issues in the brain and bad habits.
Chemical issues in the brain can cause bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder. These things are chemical issues that happen as a matter of happenstance. They should be treated as disease to be treated, not behaviors to be punished.
One of the complex things about mental health is the fact that many disorders can be the result of trauma as well as chemical issues. For instance, some people will basically be born with generalized anxiety disorder. But some will develop it due to frequent childhood rejection.
It is important to know what your teenager is dealing with to know how to treat it properly.
2. Sleep is Crucial
Let’s not mess around here: Sleep is important, but society disallows teenagers from getting enough of it. A lack of sleep can lead to serious cognitive dysfunction as the brain develops through one’s teens. So, what does one do about sleep issues?
Magnesium is a popular solution but be sure to talk to your family doctor about more powerful sleep aids if it is not helping. The activity in a teenager’s developing brain can outpace the effects of magnesium, necessitating stronger stuff to get them to bed on time.
3. Monitor Screentime
This sounds like an instruction for parents to keep track of their children’s time on their phone, but it is much deeper than that. Teenagers should monitor their own screentime; not just how much they consume, but the affect that it has on them. It is easy for a teenager to think of what happens on Twitter or some other social media site as being the end of the world.
Parents should also monitor their own screentime. If a teenager sees their caretaker valuing what happens on social media too much, then they will be quick to follow suit.
4. Communicate Clearly
Again, this is for parents and teenagers both. You do not have to be an expert in communication to build a strong bond with your teenager. What is most important is that you be prepared to listen. Also, do not be afraid to pry. Don’t ask, “What happened at school today?”
Say, “Tell me something that happened in your first class today.” Specificity helps crack them open when they do not know what to say, which helps them signal when something is wrong.
5. Allow for Autonomy
Part of the issue with the teenage years is that they are more powerful than ever before, but also more restricted than ever before. They can see things and understand things that they did not see or understand before. School gives them structure, but also constrains them.
The mind and the heart cannot grow in constraints, so find some ways they can be autonomous. Give them the resources to cook their own meals—or, more appealingly, prepare their own desserts.
6. But Enforce Restrictions
This may sound petty, but as good as autonomy is, too much freedom can be damaging. Enforce some petty, essentially pointless rules to remind them who is in charge.
7. Pay Attention to Their Attention
A lot of teenager’s mental health is dependent on who they follow. This can mean their role models, but it can also mean the people they listen to at school. Do not try to undermine those “authorities”. Instead, try to mimic them. Take on a similar tone and supplant them.
8. Remind Them of Their Worth
Many parents forget to tell their teenagers the three most important things they can hear from a caretaker:
■ “I love you.”
■ “You are special.”
■ “I am proud of you.”
Do not just say these things. Show your teenager that they are true.
9. Behavioral Psychology
One of the great insights of behavioral psychology is the difference between negative and positive influence. Negative influence is when you take something away. Positive influence is when you give something. Pay attention to what you are taking away and what you are giving.
10. Never Dismiss Your Child’s Needs
You might know parents who say things like, “They just need their attitude adjusted,” or, “They need to be taught some respect,” in response to their teenagers’ attitudes. But that is not the right way to think of these things. Do away with all uses of the word “just”.
To say that someone would be a good kid if they “just” did one simple thing is reducing that teenager’s struggle to something much smaller than it is. Ignoring a teenager’s struggle like this can only lead to peril. This applies equally for the teenager; they should not dismiss themselves.
Being a teenager is rough. But like all things—at least all things humans have ever observed—it ends. Make sure that your teenager spends those crucial developmental years being supported and feeling loved, and do not be afraid to seek out professional help or medication.