Teenagers today face a wider range of mental health issues than has been present in any previous generation. If you’ve been noticing concerning signs in your teen’s behavior, you may be wondering how to sit him or her down for a conversation. Here are four things you should keep in mind when you talk to your teenager about mental health.
Don’t Assume Something Is Wrong
A child’s teenage years are full of transitions, so changes in behavior aren’t always connected to mental health issues. While you should express concern and let your son or daughter know that you’re there for them, don’t go into the conversation assuming there’s something wrong. If there isn’t, your attempt to get to the bottom of things may come off as pushy and create more distance between yourself and your teen. Keeping a good relationship where they feel that they can talk to you about things will help them come to you when they really need help rather than when you think they will need it.
Listen More Than You Talk
As a parent, your natural first instinct will be to give advice and guidance. While there’s real value in this, your first task is to listen to what your teenager is telling you. Teens often feel that their opinions aren’t heard or fully respected by the adults around them, so jumping in with immediate advice usually isn’t a good idea. Let your teen tell you what’s on their mind, then explore possible solutions with them. This helps you get a good feel for how your child is feeling, which allows you to suggest better treatment options for them.
Use Compassion Instead of Judgment
If you find out that your teenager has become involved with drugs or alcohol, your first reaction may be to scold them. Take a deep breath, express compassion, and instead begin discussing recovery options, since judgment is only going to make the situation worse. You also need to realize that you aren’t alone in helping your teen navigate the complicated world of recovering from substance abuse issues. Institutions like the Family Center for Recovery have special programs targeted at teens that will help them kick their addictions and get back on the road to a good life.
Keep the Lines of Communication Open
Your teen may not open up to you about whatever he or she is facing the first time you try to initiate a conversation. For this reason, it’s important to be clear that you’re willing to listen at any time. Keeping the lines of communication open is extremely important, since it may take several conversations for you to get a complete picture of what your teenager is dealing with.
Talking to a teenager about mental health isn’t easy, but it’s something you’ll almost certainly have to do at some point as a parent. Use these simple tips to make the conversations easier and create a more open dialogue between you and your teenager.