World Mental Health Day: How to talk to your teen about mental health

Is talking with your teen about mental health daunting? World Mental Health Day, October 10, is an opportunity to engage with your teen in a meaningful way. According to the National Alliance on Mental Health, a staggering one in five children ages 13 – 18 live with a mental health condition. Even if your teen never struggles with mental health, chances are strong that one of their friends may. This is a conversation parents cannot overlook. Explore these five tips to start the conversation about mental health.

1) Choose the right time.

Select an appropriate time to talk with your teen about mental health. Bringing it up right after an argument will not be fruitful. Rather, choose a time when you are both well-rested and calm. Some parents might find it helpful to begin the conversation while you are doing an activity together like driving in the car or cooking dinner. Think of opportunities that will work for you, and then choose your timing wisely. Choosing the right time and setting will help both you and your teen feel comfortable discussing this sensitive subject.

2)  Be genuine.

Before you even begin the conversation with your teen, remember empathy. The adolescent years are a challenging time for teens, as they build their own identities. Be genuine in your concern and love for them as you begin the conversation. Let go of your frustrations and start with an open mind and heart. Feel free to share your own experiences with them, too. When you include yourself in the conversation, it shifts from lecture to discussion.

IMG 8044 1024x683 World Mental Health Day: How to talk to your teen about mental health

3) Ask questions and listen.

Ask your teen how they have been doing lately. Give them space to speak. Be quick to listen as they share their emotions with you. Be careful not to trivialize their feelings or experiences. Your teen opening up is an important first step in the journey to healing.

4) Share concern for your teen.

If you have noticed signs that your son or daughter may be struggling with a mental health problem, share observations that you’ve seen in your teen’s behavior. Frame these as “I” observations rather than “you” statements. For example, you might share, “I’ve noticed that you’ve been feeling very stressed about school lately. How have you been feeling?” For a list of mental health signs and symptoms, learn more here.

5) Continue the conversation.

Do not let the discussion begin and end on October 10. Make mental health an ongoing conversation with your teen. The more normal the conversations become, the easier it is for your teen to get help. Remind your teen that even when they struggle, you are there to support them — no matter what. Your teen has an advocate in you, and they are not alone. This builds trust between you and your teen.

If you observe mental health issues in your teen including depression, suicidal thoughts, drug abuse, alcohol use or others, reach out for help. Consider Shelterwood Residential Treatment Agency while you explore options that will be best for your family. Shelterwood Residential Treatment Agency recognizes that every teen’s needs are unique. Our relationship-based approach to treatment wraps teens in love when they are at their worst. At Shelterwood, we see the decision to enroll your child in a residential treatment agency as a new beginning and a chance for lasting change. Give us a call. We would love to answer all of your questions: (866) 585-8939.