Did you know that one in every four to five youths in the general population can be classified with a mental disorder? Unfortunately, many of these children and adolescents are not receiving the appropriate intervention or support they need at an early age. Needless to say, mental health is now at the forefront of conversations within schools, medical communities, and political forums.
Hormonal changes, the pressures of performing in school, and making friends can be a lot to handle. But throw in additional life stresses like divorce, death of a family member or friend, neglect at home, or financial troubles — that can make the strongest of us buckle under the pressure. What can parents do to help maintain their teen’s mental health?
Promote regular exercise. We already mentioned exercise for promoting physical wellbeing in Part 1 of this series, but exercise has proven time and time again to nourish mental stability as well. Studies show numerous benefits associated with children who actively engage in sports. If you’re wondering how to get your teen active, help them find a sport or activity they enjoy. Even if they just like to walk outdoors, build that into your family routine so that it grows into a positive lifestyle habit.
Give your child pointers on how to manage stress. Exercise is also a great way to manage stress. If your kid is down about a bad grade or a breakup, encourage them to hit the gym or volunteer somewhere to take their mind off anything negative. Teach them to replace negative occurrences with something positive instead of getting angry, turning to comfort eating, or other unhealthy coping methods. The best way to do this is to model the desired behavior yourself, and that includes how you respond to others in high-stress situations.
Model a good balance of hard work and socializing. Although studies show a strong link between health and academic success, grades aren’t everything. The most important thing is for your child to be happy. So if this means spending more time with friends or participating in extracurricular activities, you should encourage it — as long as it is a positive influence on them. But also be mindful about allowing them to take on too much. This can add to unnecessary stress and frustration. How much is too much? You’ll learn a lot by simply watching and listening to them.
Put effort into maintaining a good relationship with your teen. Although your teen may act like they’d rather not be around you, the truth is that they still need you. No doubt, parenting sometimes calls for a little nagging, but find ways to simply enjoy time with each other without spitting out demands. Let them know they can talk if they ever have questions or feel anxious, stressed, confused, or depressed. And really give them your undivided attention.
To learn more about Raising a Well-Rounded Teenager, read the entire series including how to support their physical, social, and behavioral development.