Adolescence is a time that can present many challenges. As teens begin to approach young adulthood, they’ll begin to form their own identity and shape their own values, many of which may differ from the parenting of their childhood.
There are many normal teen developmental milestones that throw parents for a loop, such as an increased interest in sexuality and relationships, the desire to spend more time with friends than family and even bouts of sadness and depression as they become more aware of their emotions and begin to question them. However, you can be there for your teen.
You CAN be there for your teen.
You can’t stop your teenager from feeling so much, and the last thing you should do is tell them to “stop being dramatic” or to “just grow up.” That’s what they’re doing. In order to be there for your teen, follow these 5 tips. You’ll experience less conflict, greater connection and help guide them as they navigate the waves of adolescence.
Respect Their Opinions
You’d hate it if someone constantly told you what you think is wrong and insisted they know better just because they’re older. Teenagers may lack some of the insight and experience of adults, but they aren’t stupid. Their opinions are valid and deserve to be acknowledged.
You may think they have nothing to be sad or angry about, but they do. It can be frustrating when every attempt at conversation is shot down or dissolves into conflict, but try to remember what it was like when you were their age and just wanted your parents to treat you like a person, not a child.
Do Not Brush off Their Sadness
Your teens are their own people with thoughts and feelings that are not only valid but may even be more astute than yours at times. They know themselves, and they know what they’re feeling.
Don’t tell your teen that they’re being dramatic and are only acting this way because they’re young or don’t understand things yet. Try to talk to them about what they feel, and let them know it’s okay to feel bad sometimes. You don’t have to fix everything. You just have to be there.
Give Them Space
It’s helpful for many people who are down to have some time to themselves where they can vent, cry or just distract themselves with some good music and video games. You can express your presence without always have to be present. Let them know that you’re there for them and then give them their space and freedom to deal with their emotions.
Express Your Love
Be validating. Ask your teenager how they’re feeling, and take notice of their actions without being accusatory. Compare the following statements:
“All you do is spend time in your room, you don’t clean and barely talk to anyone in the house.”
“You’ve been spending a lot of time alone lately and seem down. Is there anything bothering you?”
The first statement is accusatory and aggressive. This can seem overwhelming and be emotionally hard to deal with for a teen dealing with tough situations. The second offers observations and an opportunity to open a dialog about what they’re feeling.
Your support is not just in your words; it’s in everything you do and how you receive your teen’s struggles. They may not express anything in return, but they’ll likely be appreciative that you notice they’re struggling and didn’t scold them for it. Instead you let them know you understand and are there for them.
How you approach your teen’s mental health will likely impact them for the rest of their lives. Make sure you foster acceptance and proactivity, not hostility and disgust that makes teens feel they need to hide their pain and hide behind a happy face.
Know When to Get Help
Half of all mental health disorders occur or show signs before age 14, and 75 percent of all mental illnesses will present by age 24. It’s normal for teens to go through a wide range of emotions, but sometimes, their behavior may indicate a bigger problem.
Everyone gets sad sometimes, and teens are prone to sulking and angst more than the typical adult. The symptoms of teenage depression may differ from those among adults, so it’s important to understand the different ways the signs can manifest.
Some symptoms to look out for include:
- Crying spells for no reason
- Low self-esteem, self-loathing
- Loss of interest in old activities
- Social withdrawal and isolation from family and friends
- Difficulty concentrating, poor school performance
- A new fascination with death or suicide
However, be aware that depression is not the only mental health disorder out there. Anything from anxiety or obsessive compulsive disorders (OCD) to bipolar or borderline personality disorders (BPD) could be the cause of your child’s behavior.
Brushing off your child’s needs can easily turn from a personal crisis to a legal problem. If your child acts out in destructive, dangerous, or even illegal ways, this will require enlisting the help of the hospital and healthcare professionals, bail bonds services, lawyers, and law enforcement. These professionals will treat the behavior which may help in the moment but probably won’t help long term. Getting to the root of the behavior is the key.
If you feel your child is struggling, offer your help and support. This could mean seeing a therapist, psychiatrist, or even just speaking openly with acceptance. Showing this kind of support from the beginning is important. The earlier support comes, the better the outlook.