Mental health is critical for teenagers to build strong relationships, adapt to change and deal with day-to-day life issues. Why we say mental health is important is because it affects their social and emotional wellbeing, and the teen years are where these factors are more impacted than other years.
Teenagers go through many changes and challenges in a short period and during this time their brains and emotions are still maturing. Have you ever wondered when you look back at when you were 16, your actions are more spontaneous, reckless, or you appear to have a thicker skin now? compared to then? This is because your brain mentality thinks differently now. You assess actions and consequences, compared to ‘whatever happens’. This can be a good thing and a bad thing, but your emotions as a teenager drive your brain mentality.
As a parent, your love and support and a strong relationship with your child can have a direct and positive impact on their mental health. It can even reduce the chances of your child experiencing mental health problems.
Pre-teens and teenagers who have good mental health often:
– Have a positive attitude and their energy is happier
– Have good and healthy relationships with family and friends
– Like to get involved in activities that interest them
– Have goals and life lessons they want to conquer
– Sleep well and can relax
– Talk and can chat amongst friends and groups, or to yourself about their life
As a parent there are things you can do to promote your pre-teen and teenager towards positive mental health and wellbeing:
– Show love, affection and care for your child
– Show interest in what’s happening in your child’s life
– Praise them when necessary
– Be mindful to consider their opinion and ideas when they speak, don’t shut them down. Encourage your child to talk about feelings with you
– Spend time together with your child, and also as a family and show that you enjoy it.
– Don’t let issues build up. Deal with problems as they arise
– Keep active. Physical fitness will help your child stay healthy, have more energy, feel confident, manage stress and sleep well
– Seek a professional
For children younger than 12 years, mental health warning signs might include:
– Sadness and crying
– Doesn’t want to attend school
– Ongoing worries or fears
– Withdrawal from school and social activities
– Problems with talking to other children
– Aggressive, disobedient behaviour, temper tantrums, irritable
– Sleep problems, including nightmares.
For children 12 years and older, watch out for your child:
– Being tearful or lacking the motivation to go anywhere or do anything
– Showing sudden changes in behaviour, often for no obvious reason
– Having trouble eating or sleeping
– Refusing to go to school, TAFE or work or dropping in performance
– Avoiding friends or social contacts
– Saying they have pain regularly– for example, headache, stomach-ache or backache
– Being aggressive or antisocial includes, missing school, getting into trouble with the police, fighting or stealing
– Being very anxious about how they look like their weight or physical appearance. Even losing weight or failing to gain weight
– Refusing to eat or eat in front of people
If a parent is seeking help with their teenager, where should they go?
WAYS Youth & Family or alternative youth and family specialist services, G.P, reach out for support from your social network, contact your child’s school or they can call Parentline on 1300 1300 52.
Visit the WAYS website to learn more about our community-based organisation, including our resources for parents and our programmes for children and teens.