The changes in behavior that you see in your teen is quite normal during his or her age. As mentioned in another article, positive parenting can help you when your teens are struggling to cope with those changes themselves. But how would you know if these changes are already connected to their mental health?
Normal changes are different from ones with a troubled teenager who might be dealing with mental health concerns. These could include a teenager’s feeling of low self-esteem, their perspective on their self-worth, anxieties, depression, physical indications of self-harm as well as suicidal thoughts. These mental health concerns sometimes start as young as they were children, especially if they had traumatic experiences during their childhood years.
However, for some teens, growing up could come as a shock to them. During this age of discovering who they are, what they want to be, and who they want to be with. They would soon start caring about the standards and opinions of society as well as the people around them. Their self-esteem and self-worth suddenly depend on being accepted, being loved, or having a sense of belongingness. And often, this is where their depression and anxieties root from.
So, the first thing you need to do is be able to differentiate the kind of changes you’re seeing in your teen.
If after reading these and you feel that your teen is already dealing with something serious, talking to them about it would be the first step to help them. We also recommend consulting a professional.
- Attempt subtle invitations for them to talk to you. Give hints that you’re noticing a change in their behavior. As absurd as it sounds, your teen ignoring you may also be his or her way to get your attention. They could be testing you if you are paying attention to them. Ask them if they’re alright and assure them that you’ll always lend an ear if they need someone to talk to.
- Reestablish your friendship with your teen and rebuild their trust again. The friendship and trust you had with your teens may not be the same as before. However, you can still rebuild that with them.
- Let them take responsibility for themselves. This would help them know that you trust them as well. Controlling them may only lead to more rebellion. As long as they aren’t doing anything that would harm themselves or others, accept their decision and continue to show your love and support for them.
- Be a good example. Rethink if you’ve let them down before that led them to lose confidence in you. Have you been keeping your promises with them? Have you been busier than before which is why they feel that they can’t depend on you anymore?
- Deal with your arguments with your teen. Heated arguments with your teen because of differences in opinion are natural. However, if they happen often and cause problems at home, it may be a good time to talk.
- Understand where their anger is coming from. Notice the warning signs before they explode. Is it because of school, a friend, a boy/girl, or maybe an issue at home? You may get hints about the cause of their depression or anxiety as well.
- Focus on what’s important. Before starting an argument with your teen, ask yourself: Is this worth getting angry about? How important is it to be right? What would be a better way to handle this?
- Be prepared to say sorry. Some parents miss out on this entirely. If you had made a mistake or had a misunderstanding, learn to swallow your pride and say sorry. It’s better to lose an argument than lose your teen completely.
- Listen to understand, not listen to respond. Listen carefully to what your teen has to say. If they are already experiencing mental health concerns, you wouldn’t want to add up to the causes.
- Expect rejection. Talking about depression can be an uncomfortable topic for your teen. It may take time before they open up to you, but never lose your cool and keep on trying.
- Listen without judgment. You may not agree with some, or maybe most, of what they’ll tell you. But you need to keep on listening. It would be best not to snort a joke, interrupt them, interrogate them, criticize them, or even offer advice. Being able to have them open up to you may be a once in a lifetime chance that your teen would give you. And you need to pass that test with flying colors.
- Focus on them and be genuine. Your teen needs to know that you care for what they have to say, and not just for you to solve a problem.
- After listening, be careful of the next steps.
- Do not try to talk to them out of their depression. You need to understand that their depression and anxieties don’t go away just because they’ve talked to someone about it. If it did, they would have already tried.
- Always be available. Be there for him or her more often. But again, be available, not intrusive. Your teen would still want their privacy, and no matter how much you want to help them get through this stage as soon as possible, it takes time.
- Be understanding. Rejection and being shut out can still occur despite them having opened up to you already. However, remember not to take it personally. Be more understanding and let them feel your unconditional love for them.
- Seek professional help if needed. However, we encourage that you consult your teen first. Solving your teen’s mental health concern is important, but losing their confidence in you won’t help either.
Yes, it can be scary, especially if your teen has admitted to how he or she copes with mental health concerns. But that’s why they need you now more than ever. Believe that you can help your teen overcome this. Always remind your teen that whatever they are experiencing right now, you will be there for them through it all.