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Five 5 ways to reconnect with teens struggling with mental health blog by Amanda-Jo Serrano

The teenage years are a critical period for mental health because many mental health disorders first manifest during this time. It is common for parents to find themselves at a loss on how to move forward when their teen is struggling with mental health. According to the World Health Organization, globally, one in seven 10-19-year-olds experiences a mental disorder. This accounts for 13% of the global burden of disease in this age group. Understanding and addressing these issues early on can significantly alter the course of a teen’s life for the better. Here are five ways parents can reconnect with their teens struggling with mental health:

Open, Non-Judgmental Communication

Creating a safe space for open communication is the cornerstone of understanding and helping your teenager. Encourage them to express their feelings and thoughts without fear of judgment or immediate solutions. Sometimes, the act of listening is more powerful than any advice you could offer. Use empathetic listening techniques, such as summarizing what they’ve said to ensure understanding, and respond with empathy and validation, showing that you acknowledge their feelings as real and significant.

Educate Yourself and Your Teen About Mental Health

Knowledge is power. Educating yourself about mental health can demystify many fears and misconceptions you or your teen might have. It is essential to understand the nature of your teen’s struggles, as this knowledge can foster empathy and patience. Share this information with your teen in a way that’s accessible to them. This helps them understand that what they’re experiencing is not their fault and that they’re not alone. Furthermore, this can be empowering and reduce the stigma they might feel about their mental health issues.

Engage in Activities Together

Find activities that you can do together, which can serve as a natural way to foster connection and communication. For this purpose, these don’t have to be elaborate; they can be as simple as taking walks, cooking a meal together, or starting a hobby or project. The goal is to spend quality time together, showing that you’re available and supportive, and providing your teen with a non-pressurized environment to open up.

Seek Professional Help

There’s only so much that parents can do on their own. Recognizing when to seek professional help is crucial. This could mean finding a therapist who specializes in adolescent mental health, consulting with school counselors, or seeking support groups. Look in your area for support groups for teens, or even for yourself. Remember, seeking help is a sign of strength and shows your teen that taking care of their mental health is a priority.

Model Healthy Coping Mechanisms

Teens learn a lot by observing their parents. Model healthy coping mechanisms for stress and emotional regulation. This includes showing them how to express emotions constructively, manage stress through activities like exercise or mindfulness practices, and even how to ask for help when needed. Sharing your own experiences with overcoming challenges (in a way that is appropriate and not burdensome to your child) can also provide them with relatable examples of resilience and hope.

Final Thoughts

Finding ways to reconnect with teens struggling with mental health issues can feel daunting, but it’s a journey that you don’t have to navigate alone. By fostering open communication, educating yourselves, spending quality time together, seeking professional help, and modeling healthy behaviors, you can build a strong support system for your teen. If you’re interested in more tips from Amanda-Jo on connecting with your teenager, then you can read this blog. Remember, the goal isn’t to fix everything overnight but to show your teen they’re not alone and that with time, support, and effort, things can get better. Your unwavering support and love are the most powerful tools in helping your teen navigate their mental health challenges.

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