Most parents are worried about their teens' mental health during that exciting and turbulent period of their lives. The new challenges of social media, the desire to fit in, and making bad choices leave a lot of parents feeling helpless and confused.
Scientists who have studied teen depression have some good advice on how to have a better understanding of what’s going on inside teenagers’ heads and how to prevent teen depression.
These are the five main findings:
1. Give ongoing warm and caring support
Recent studies suggest that teens who experience ongoing support by their parents have lower depression symptoms and are less inclined to engage in risk-taking behaviour. What does positive parental support look like? It is important to listen and respect your teenager’s opinions, giving them appropriate support without discounting their emotional lives. One way of showing interest is to ask open-ended questions, trying to understand without correcting them or forcing your own opinion onto them. It might be hard sometimes but the best way is to model desired behaviour so even if your teen is talking rudely and aggressively to you try to stay calm and be gentle with your words. This does not mean that you shouldn’t enforce appropriate limits and rules.
2. Giving them a strong social and emotional foundation
Parents can support their children by talking about and accepting their own and their teenager’s emotions. Studies suggest that practicing mindfulness can help parents to stay calm when dealing with their children which in turn will help avoid anxiety and depression in your teen. Mindfulness programs in schools are linked to higher levels of well-being and decreased levels of depression in students.
3. Encourage Positive Friendships
As human beings we crave for connection and closeness and the better our relationships are, the closer we feel to our friends, the safer and happier we feel. We as parents can model good relationships and also explain that friendships can be rocky sometimes but that does not mean that they aren’t overall nurturing and meaningful.
It is important to connect and reach out to your friends when you are a teenager, peers play a bigger role than any other relationship when growing up. As parents we can encourage positive friendships but it is also wise to stay calm if we think our kids might be taking risks with their friends as this is part of growing up. Children that have at least one close friend seem to be more resilient, less anxious and generally have better mental health than children without strong social connections.
4. Help Your Teen Find A Purpose
Studies suggest that happiness levels go up if we as humans find what we do to have purpose and meaning. So make sure that your teen finds something to do that has some sort of personal meaning to them. You can help them find out what they care about by asking open-ended questions about what they like and what is important to them.
5. Help Shape a Positive School Environment
If you feel that school could support your teen better why don’t you discuss ideas with the teachers and principal of the school. It does for example pay off to have a restorative justice program at schools so that teens are taught to take on responsibility for behaviors like bullying.
There are of course a lot of different factors that affect teenagers mental health and might lead to depression. We as parents can only provide them with support to master the challenges that lie ahead of them.
If you would like to become a mindful parent or if you feel you need some support while navigating through the teenage years, give me a call today on 0423 090 885.
If you want to read more check out the Raising Children website which has a lot of information and other resources to support you and your teenager.