One of the important topics currently is mental health. But did you know that according to WHO (World Health Organisation) one in six people are aged 10-19 years and half of all mental health conditions start by 14 years of age.
Children especially pre-teens need good mental health to create independence, build strong relationships, adapt to change and deal with life’s challenges.
From Monday 24th May 2021, WAYS is hosting a free five-week parenting seminar that focuses on how to talk to your teens about mental health and other difficult issues. This course will assist parents to build stronger parent-child relationships and better manage and understand their adolescent’s behaviour. And one of the presenters during this course will be one of our amazing and professional psychologists Courtney Morris.
With her extensive experience in dealing with mental health for all ages, we decided to interview her, so that you can get to know her experience and some helpful tips about how to deal and understand mental health.
Please tell us a bit about yourself Courtney?
I have 10 years’ experience in the helping profession, having worked as a trauma counsellor, case manager and more recently as a psychologist. My work has included supporting diverse populations including survivors of trauma such as domestic violence and sexual assault. I have worked with vulnerable families struggling with parenting, those at risk of homelessness, and young people experiencing a diverse range of psychological difficulties and social issues. I commenced at WAYS in November 2020 and am really enjoying the local community and the work I am doing with young people and their families. I am passionate about social justice, health, and wellbeing.
What warning signs should parents look for in terms of Mental Health presentations in their teen?
Some warning signs that I usually ask parents to consider are:
- social isolation, withdrawal from family and friends
- changes to sleep patterns such as sleeping excessively or disruption to sleep
- sudden changes in academic performance
- reduced interest in activities they would usually enjoy
- drastic changes to eating habits
- angry outbursts and aggressive behaviour.
- moodiness that is more than usual
- change in their attitude to schooling
- change in their pattern of school attendance
But in any situation, if you see any of the above and they are not themselves, then it is best to start an open conversation with them.
What helpful tips can you give to Parents to help them through this stage of life?
- Be sure to have a good support network around you, take time out to engage in your own self-care practises, keep active and eat well.
- To help manage your worry about your teen, know who your teen is spending time with, meet their friends and develop relationships with their friend’s parents. It is important for parents to know where their teen is going, who they are with, and when they will be home, this is common courtesy for people living in the same household.
- Try spending time with your child and take an interest in what interests them. Always ask to spend time even if they decline- the message you want to send is that you value them.
- Try validating their feelings as much as possible. You may not agree with their perspective or behaviour (and you can say this!) but try validating their emotions when possible. Try see things from their perspective.
- When you want to discuss something, they have done wrong or confront them about something, pick your time carefully i.e., not when you are angry, when their friends / siblings are around, when they are in a bad mood. Don’t leave it too long after the incident.
- Be consistent- if you have a consequence for poor behaviour carry it out as you said you would. Do not attempt or articulate any consequence you cannot execute or reverse when they do something good again.
- Normalise their anxieties, fears when appropriate.
- Have a good relationship with their school/ teachers; and finally.
- Be sure to provide unconditional love to your child, validation and communicate respectfully.
What are the main issues that Teenagers are facing?
Some that I have seen the most are:
- Feeling accepted for who they are and the stage of life they are in.
- Young people often face issues of low self-esteem and poor body image, stress and low mood or worry. The worry tends to be around being accepted by their peers, being included in peer activities, school performance, romantic attachments and not having enough money for the things they value.
1 in 4 young people will have generalised anxiety and dysthymic disorder (depression), so it always good to help them through adolescent if you know your child has these issues.
What factors play a major role in the development of Teenagers?
Family and support is the most important, but here is a list of the ones I believe are key factors:
- The type of family support young people receive
- How the family functions
- Consistent parenting
- Parents who express clear boundaries and consistently apply reasonable consequences for “bad behaviour”
- Expectations of teens
- Stable social relationships / friendships
- Peer pressure and bullying.
- Their temperament
- Their capacity to “bounce back ” after a challenge or failure i.e. resilience
- Consistent school attendance and engagement with education
If a Teenager is seeking help, where should they go?
WAYS Youth & Family or alternative youth and family specialist services, they could speak with a teacher they feel comfortable with, the school counsellor, G.P, trusted family friend or call Kids Help Line on 1800 55 1800 or Lifeline on 13 11 14.
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.