How to Talk with Your Teen About Life

Knowing how to talk with your teen isn’t always clear. At times, it can feel like they’ve been tasked with keeping state secrets from you at all costs – and while it’s never that serious, it’s important to point out that this secrecy isn’t unusual. As children develop into adults, they go through staggered stages of self-discovery. 

They are undergoing rapid changes, changes that are difficult to cope with and are often a source of embarrassment and confusion. Furthermore, teens experience a strong drive towards independence – all while still heavily relying on you, the parent, as a source of guidance, comfort, and safety. 

This can be confusing for parents, too, because their child might be attentive and clingy one year and begin to pull away and seek solitude the next. It can be difficult to feel like you’re really doing your job as a parent when your teen isn’t talking to you. 

Not all hope is lost. While long and meaningful conversations with your teen might be harder to come by, you shouldn’t give up on them either. Teens will pull away, but remember that they’re young, confused, and willful. It’s often on you to help rebuild the bridge towards understanding, provide avenues for communication, and make it clear – time and time again – that you’re someone your teen can trust and come to for guidance no matter what. 

In this article, you will discover how to talk with your teen about life.

Take a Deep Breath and Relax

Parents often react in one of two extremes when their teen stops talking to them: they pester, or they ignore. Parents who tend towards the former will want to know everything, one way or the other, even if it means invalidating their teen’s privacy or becoming overbearing. Parents who tend towards the latter will become less involved in their teen’s life, to their teen’s detriment. They might not even realize it when their teen is going through a hard time at school, is starting a new relationship, or is having trouble with their friends. 

If your teen is beginning to pull away from you – or has been for some time – take a deep breath and avoid reacting instinctively. It’s important to approach this as an adult, and to understand what your teen might need, as well as how you can get them to come to you. Let’s start with the most obvious question. 

Why Are Teens Like This?

It’s not really your fault. Nor is it theirs. The teenage brain tends towards independence, and feelings of “leaving the nest”, especially on a social level. They’re neurologically encouraged to focus on peer relationships – to make friends. 

And because of the complexities of adulthood, being a teen comes with a lot of unfamiliar and scary territory. Things they’re too embarrassed to talk about; things that, depending on the culture and social context, might even stir feelings of guilt and shame. 

In addition to independence, these awkward thoughts and volatile emotions can lead to strained dialogue and poor communication, especially with a short-tempered parent. If you’ve reacted negatively in the past (getting into shouting matches, starting every conversation with a judgment, berating your teen too often) talking with you becomes associated with negative experiences, eroding your parent-teen relationship. 

Ease Into Conversation Naturally 

A lot of parents make the mistake of announcing their intentions when they want to go beyond small talk. Teens are smart enough to pick up on your language tells and will inadvertently shut down or prepare to ignore you whenever you give the cue that you want to “talk”. Of course, most parents get ticked off by this – which turns an attempt at dialogue into a one-sided argument. 

Don’t try to force your teen into meaningful conversations. Start with the small talk. Or, just start with hanging out around your teen more often. 

For example, if they’re in the kitchen making themselves a sandwich, ask if you can hang out in the kitchen with them while they’re grabbing a bite to eat. Then, ask innocuous questions about mutual interests, friends, or what they’ve been up to. Once your teen gets into the flow of the conversation, it’s easier to start asking the right questions. 

Ask the Right Questions

It’s not particularly difficult to identify what a teen has been doing wrong lately. It’s also very easy to walk up to your child and tell them off for playing too many video games, for staying up too late, for studying at the last minute again, or for not doing the dishes. 

Generally speaking, teens are also aware that all of these things are things they shouldn’t be doing, and you telling them off doesn’t help you deal with your frustration, nor help them address their priorities, or solve the problem. 

If your teen is lagging behind at school, start off by asking them about school. Ask them how their preparations for the midterms have been going. If they reveal that they haven’t really started on them, ask if they’d like some help – or if they’ve put some thought towards how they’re going to start preparing. Get them to tell you what they know to be the right answer, and encourage them to act on their own agency to do that – instead of just telling them to do it. 

Avoid Judgment

It’s something parents hear time and time again, but it is really important for successful parent-teen communication, no matter how hard it might be sometimes. 

Passing judgment is very easy, yet it’s never helpful. We need to remind ourselves that teenagers don’t think the way adults do, and they have a harder time envisioning long-term consequences, or caring about risk. 

They know what they should be doing, but that doesn’t help that they don’t want to do it. Your job isn’t to point out the obvious, but to help them figure out ways to cope with their responsibilities, develop systems and schedules that might help them juggle what they must do with what they want to do, and reward their discipline. 

Teens Still Need Their Parents

Another mistake parents make is thinking that they’re just not that important anymore. While it might feel that way, it’s not the truth

Research shows that parental influence does not wane until a teen leaves the family home, and even if teens are naturally inclined to spend more time with their peers, parental influence is still stronger than peer influence for most of a teen’s decisions. 

This goes both ways – a poor parent-teen relationship correlates strongly with worse outcomes in life, including a higher risk of mental health problems and substance use

While your teen might not want to admit it, you’re an important part of their life, and they continue to look up to you or refer to your past actions and behaviors as a moral compass. While it’s impossible to keep being a superhero in your child’s eyes, this does highlight the importance of continuing to model the kind of behavior you want to see in your teen – in other words, it’s not enough to want your child to be better than you. You have to be better for them, too. 

Mental Health

5 Common Teen Mood and Thought Disorders

From the moment a child reaches puberty up until their mid-20s, they begin the long journey of physically and neurologically developing into adulthood. This is a biological, psychological, and social journey. Even 18-year-olds – who are, by definition of the law, adults – have a lot of growing up left to do. 

Teens are on the cusp of being independent and responsible members of society, and with that comes an innumerable list of uncomfortable physical changes, volatile emotions, complex interpersonal relationships, and a growing list of expectations and social mores. 

When teens lack healthy coping skills, and the guidance to work through these day-to-day challenges, they may be more likely to struggle with feelings of anxiety, or even depression. 

Understanding the most common mood and thought disorders can help teens and parents alike recognize and address their symptoms and provide the necessary support to better manage symptoms in adulthood. 

Here are five common teen mood and thought disorders.

What is a Mood Disorder?

Mood disorders are a class of mental health problem characterized by an unconventionally low mood (depression), or an unconventionally high mood (mania). An important characteristic for most mood disorders is that these feelings of overwhelming sadness or bursts of energy have no reasonable cause or explanation. 

A teen isn’t necessarily struggling with depression if they feel sad about a classmate’s death. But the loss of a close friend may be a trigger for the onset of a mood disorder, especially if they struggle to cope with their friend’s passing. 

Common Mood Disorders in Teens

Most mood disorders feature some form of depression, and depression itself is considered the second most common type of mental health issue in the world (next to anxiety).

However, some conditions – specifically bipolar disorder – also feature symptoms of mania, which include racing thoughts, insomnia, uncharacteristic productivity or creative energy, delusions of grandeur, and an exaggerated self-confidence. 

Current definitions of mood disorders and known mood disorders are based on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, 5th Edition, Text Revision (DSM-5-TR). Under the DSM, common mood disorders include: 

  1. Major depressive disorder
  2. Bipolar I disorder
  3. Bipolar II disorder
  4. Cyclothymic disorder
  5. Disruptive mood dysregulation disorder
  6. Persistent depressive disorder
  7. Premenstrual dysphoric disorder

In addition to these conditions, the DSM also identifies other types of mood disorders, including depressive or bipolar symptoms triggered by another medical condition (with physiological causes, such as an endocrine disease), substance or medication-induced mood disorder, and other specified or unspecified mood disorder. 

Major Depressive Disorder

Usually known as clinical depression, major depressive disorder (MDD) is the most common mood disorder in the world. 

It is diagnosed when symptoms of depression last for at least two weeks with no apparent physical or identifiable cause, characterized by feelings of emptiness and hopelessness. 

Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder may refer to up to five different mood disorders, but most people will recognize three: bipolar I, bipolar II, and cyclothymia. 

Bipolar I is characterized by symptoms of mania, or intense euphoric and irritable moods. Sometimes, these can lead to behavior that lands a person in the hospital. People with mania can work feverishly on a project for days before crashing, and do not consider negative consequences for themselves or others. 

Bipolar II more frequently features cycles of depression, alongside hypomania, or less severe manic symptoms. 

Cyclothymia is characterized by mild manic and depressive symptoms that do not qualify for bipolar I or II, but have been ongoing for at least two years. 

Contrary to popular belief, bipolar disorder does not typically cycle between states in rapid succession. A person with bipolar disorder will usually experience a handful of shifts or episodes per year. 

Persistent Depressive Disorder

Persistent depressive disorder, chronic depressive disorder, or dysthymia is diagnosed when a person is experiencing a depressive episode for at least two years. These long-term episodes may be less intense but can be just as severe. 

Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder

Disruptive mood dysregulation disorder (DMDD) is a mood disorder diagnosed in children between the ages of 6 and 18, characterized by extreme irritability and temper tantrums, at the drop of a hat. DMDD exceeds normal moodiness. A teen must exhibit inappropriate temper tantrums across different settings with intense mood swings between tantrums to qualify for a DMDD diagnosis. It is a relatively new diagnosis, and a controversial one. 

Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder

Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) is a complicated and recently recognized mood disorder closely related to premenstrual syndrome (PMS). While teens with PMDD share some of PMS’ symptoms such as cyclical symptoms, food cravings, and irritability, PMDD is much more severe, with often debilitating depressive symptoms, anxiety, and suicidal ideation in the weeks leading up to a teen’s period. These feelings wane two to three days after the period starts and return in the next cycle. 

Like other forms of depression, PMDD is largely hereditary. Our current understanding of PMDD assumes that it’s caused by an abnormal reaction in the brain’s neurochemistry to the hormonal changes that occur after ovulation, and before menstruation. 

Is My Teen Sad or Depressed?

When talking to your teen about mood disorders and mental health issues, it helps to be able to distinguish between “normal” and concerning behavior and thought patterns. 

The truth is that it can be hard to make these individual distinctions, and it often isn’t appropriate to make sweeping generalizations about what is and isn’t within the realm of a teen’s healthy spectrum of thoughts and behaviors. A few red flags to keep in mind may include: 

  • Extreme or sudden changes in behavior or personality. If your teen was previously outgoing, but has become intensely reclusive, it may be a serious sign of danger. 
  • Frequently talking about death, especially one’s own passing. Suicidal ideation can be masked and is often very private, but it may drop as hints in conversations. 
  • Loss of affection in relationships, loss of interest in physical contact. For teens with close partners, common signs of a depressive episode include pulling away from intimacy and becoming emotionally colder. 
  • Signs of substance use. Whether as a consequence or symptom of a mood disorder, or as one of the causes, substance use in teens is often a significant mental red flag. 

One of the biggest challenges when talking about mental health is recognizing that there often isn’t a single cause or villain to every story. It’s not satisfying to blame a mixture of circumstances and neurological predisposition for a person’s depressive episodes, but that’s often the truth: while tough times can make depression harder, people can also be depressed for no reason, or seek to harm or kill themselves at a time when they’re ostensibly at their “happiest” and most successful. 

Depression is exceptionally insidious because it does not offer a clear answer or a satisfying why. 

It’s often erroneously portrayed as a result of dire circumstances, when it can happen to anyone, at any point, for no reason. Expecting a reason or cause for depression leads to the unhelpful expectation that outwardly happy people are doing okay, or that there must have been a cause for them to feel worse. 

Recognizing and understanding that is crucial to making resources and help for depressive symptoms available to all people, regardless of their circumstances. 


Teens and Grief: How to Help Your Child Navigate Stormy Waters

Are you a parent struggling to navigate your teen’s grief?

The pain of losing a loved one can be especially challenging for adolescents, who are already navigating the complexities of growing up. Watching your child go through this difficult time can be agitating and leave you feeling helpless. However, there are solutions you can employ to support your teen through their grief and help them emerge from the experience stronger and more resilient.

In this article, we will provide you with the information you need to understand the unique challenges of teens and grief.

Teens and Grief

It goes without saying that only a parent truly knows their child best – and there’s little point in providing in-depth advice to consoling a child without the knowledge that comes with years of familiarity. But understanding how grief might impact teens generally, and why they might process grief and sorrow a little differently than children or adults might, may help some parents find a way to get through to their teens and provide solace in a difficult time. 

Teens are old enough to know and understand that death is a part of life. But that fact does not make the cold reality of a loved one’s passing any easier to swallow, especially if it’s your teen’s first time losing someone they care about. We see and hear about death every day, whether it’s a motorway accident or the casualties of a war far from home. But it only truly hits us when it’s closest – a neighbor, a family member, a friend. 

If this is your teen’s first experience with death, then know that it may take them some time to process what’s happened. 

Here’s what you need to know about teens and grief in order to provide the support they need.

Death Throughout the Ages

Generally speaking, young teens treat grief in the same way children might – but older teens process grief closer to how an adult would. The following guideline is meant to help illustrate some of the differences in grieving reactions between age groups, but it is also important to highlight that individuals will often mature at a different rate than the norm. Some teens are more emotionally mature than their peers, while others are not. 

Younger teens, ages 13 to 16, will have difficulty with emotional expression. They are more likely to act out or experience bursts of emotion during the early stages of grief, such as sudden irritability. They are still likely to internalize a person’s death in the same way children might – meaning, they might find a way to blame themselves if they were very close to the person – and may experience physical symptoms while grieving, such as unexplained pains. Stomach complaints and headaches are the most common. 

Vivid dreams or feelings of being in the presence of a deceased loved one are also more common among younger teens. 

As teens get older, they greave more like adults, especially after the age of 16. Older teens are not as emotionally mature as adults, but post-pubescent teenagers will typically have a better grasp on their emotional states and ability to convey and express themselves than their younger peers. Some teens may grow cold following the death of a close loved one – their emotional response may be to withdraw and hide their feelings from others. Others yet may try to use humor, sometimes even offensive humor, to relieve the stress and sadness of a loved one’s death. 

However, just like children and adults, older teens are still susceptible to some of the effects of long-term grief and loss, such as feelings of irritability, increased risk-taking behavior, and even depression

Grief is Normal

There’s no need to pathologize or treat someone’s grieving process, so long as their emotions are still within the parameters of grief. While it is normal to be concerned for your teen’s mental wellbeing, it’s also important to know that it’s normal to feel awful after a loved one dies – even to the point of no longer having much of an appetite, struggling at school, or generally feeling uninterested in hobbies. 

Grief is normal. But it is important not to forget that we are alive, and that grief is a temporary state. Research indicates that it peaks around six months after a person’s death – it often isn’t constant, but comes in waves. Feelings of grief may last for years after, but will usually only be felt strongly during moments that serve as a reminder of someone’s passing, or special occasions. 

Prolonged or complicated grief may be a cause for concern – if your teen continues to feel depressed years after a loved one’s passing, for example, they may be having trouble processing and moving on from that death. Professional counseling may be in order, simply to help a teen find ways to reinvigorate themselves and find joy in life. 

In some cases, the loss of a loved one can be a trigger for an underlying risk or condition, such as a panic disorder or another anxiety disorder, or mood disorders such as depression and bipolar disorder. In these cases, the grief of losing someone isn’t so much a cause as an inciting event. 

The point at which grief becomes something to worry about is when it lasts far too long, or when it becomes too severe. Some teens experience feelings of suicidal ideation or lean into self-harm after losing someone they care about. These are dangerous warning signs of a deeper underlying problem, including a potential mood disorder like depression. 

Family and Friends

Support and companionship are important. One of the underlying key differences between adults and teens in the grieving process is experience. Older people are aware that death is not just part of life, but part of everyone’s life. They learn to share that feeling and cope alongside others, seeking the comfort and support of their loved ones. 

Teens might not have this wisdom. Some teens might internalize their feelings and seek to hide or be alone, so as not to affect or “poison” others with their sadness. Some teens – and many adults – feel crushingly lonely after a loved one’s death. 

It’s important for teens to understand that they are not alone, especially after someone dies. We cope with these tragedies together, whether they were expected (in the case of a sick or elderly relative) or entirely out of left field. 

Comfort your teen with words and actions. Encourage them to cope through normalcy, through everyday experiences. Give them time to be alone for a few days, a week, but then encourage them to go back to school, to talk to their friends, to spend time with you and others. 

If your teen continues to struggle with their grief, to the point that they cannot return to a normal routine, consider talking to them about counseling. 


How Do You Help a Teenager with Low Self-esteem

Having low self-esteem is not particularly abnormal, especially among teens. In fact, research tells us that girls in particular tend to have lower self-esteem in their teen years, and that these feelings improve as they become adults. The same or similar can be said for boys – it’s one of the reasons nearly half of all boys regularly exercise exclusively to put on muscle mass. 

Teenagers and personal insecurity is a classic combo. But that does not mean it isn’t a cause for concern. While having low self-esteem is common, it is also one of the larger red flags for long-term mental health issues. Low self-esteem correlates with increased risk of self-harm, increased likelihood to smoke and drink, higher rates of eating disorders, and mental health issues such as depression and anxiety

Does that mean your teen is doomed to suffer from a mental health disorder as a result of their self-image? No. But a low self-image can compound the risk of conditions like depression, anxiety, or eating disorders, and may be a precursor to other forms of self-deprecation and internalized hatred. 

So, how do you help a teenager with low self-esteem?

What Does a Teenager with Low Self-Esteem Look Like? 

Low self-esteem may be expressed in multiple different ways. Generally speaking, however, there are two distinctly separate forms of teenage low self-esteem: aggression towards the outside, and aggression towards the inside. 

An insecure teen is an unhappy teen. They dislike, or maybe even hate certain parts of themselves, and see no use or potential path towards change. They take it out either on themselves – becoming quiet, withdrawn, needy, or passive – or on others – becoming aggressive, abrasive, and anti-social

Either way, teens who struggle with low self-esteem tend to have a harder time making genuine connections with others. They may still have “friends”, but these may be people who stick around for status or as part of a clique, especially if the teen in question is a known bully. Past the surface, however, one of the major problems with a low self-esteem is an inability to form healthy relationships. A poor relationship with yourself is a bad start for a relationship with anyone else. Either they cling excessively to others, or push them away. 

All teens with low self-esteem also experience negative self-talk, which reinforces their feelings towards themselves, and makes it hard for other people’s positive assertions and estimations to come through. You can’t expect a few words of praise to help resolve a teen’s deep seated issues with themselves, at least not at first. It takes consistent and genuine recognition to help a teen realize their own potential, embrace the positive parts of themselves, and learn to develop a healthier relationship with themselves, and then with others. 

This self-talk further warps a teen’s self-image, which is not always the same as your self-esteem. Your self-esteem is a value judgment, a summary of how you see your qualities as a person. Your self-image is your physical representation – how you look to yourself. 

Teens with poor self-esteem tend to have a worse self-image of themselves, needlessly criticizing every last physical detail, obsessing over unrealistic or unattainable physical standards, or even experiencing harsh body dysmorphia, wherein they might see themselves differently to how they really look to others, i.e., seeing themselves as fat despite being overly skinny, too lanky and lithe despite being muscular, or too tall or too short despite being of average height. 

Why Does My Teen Have Low Self-Esteem? 

One reason teens experience low self-esteem more than adults do is that they are insecure about their place in the world. In other words, it may be a part of growing up – coming to terms with who you are in the grander scheme of things. 

But not all teens experience low self-esteem, at least not to the degree that it begins to impact their mental health. There are a few reasons why some teens are more likely to struggle with low self-esteem: 

  • Genes play a role. Some people have a higher genetic predisposition towards anxiety and self-esteem issues, for example. 
  • Home environment and parenting play a role. Teens with a history of abuse or trauma, such as witnessing domestic violence, are more likely to struggle with self-esteem problems. 
  • The history of a teen’s mental health plays a role. Some teens might have been social butterflies as children but struggle to maintain their relationships with others as they reached puberty, because of the onset of a condition like ADHD or depression. The symptoms of these conditions can affect friendships, and make it harder to communicate with others, or result in hurt feelings. This can impact a teen’s self-esteem, especially if they were socially outgoing. In other cases, low self-esteem can be a symptom of the condition itself, such as most anxiety disorders. 
  • Societal pressures are also a factor. These are especially relevant in the modern age of social media. Teens aren’t just seeing idealized proportions and unrealistic beauty standards in TV or on billboards; they’re seeing them on Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok. They say comparison is the thief of joy, but it’s hard to impossible not to compare yourself to others as a teen today. Every element of your day-to-day is scrutinized online, and even if you don’t share images or videos of yourself, you can easily find pictures of people who might look like you, or whom you might relate to, being bullied, or criticized online. Teens who belong to marginalized groups or minorities – such as ethnic minorities or the LGBTQ+ community – may struggle with a low self-esteem due to colorism, racial preference, police brutality, and a heteronormative society. 

Attacks on a teen’s self-confidence need to be met with measures to help your teen feel more comfortable in their own skin, and develop pride in their abilities and innate qualities as a person. 

How To Build Up Self-Esteem

Self-esteem is built one day at a time. It is a long-term process, one that takes a lot of investment in your teen’s mental health. Some important things to keep in mind include: 

  • Focus on self-improvement. Help your teen discover and channel their efforts into avenues that they can succeed in, whether it’s academically, musically, physically – but also encourage them to continue to work on the things they might not be naturally good at. 
  • Praise your teen’s efforts. It’s not always about the outcome. If you only praise your teen when they’re getting an A+ or win gold, then you’re teaching them that anything less is worthless. It’s important that your teen learns not see things as black-and-white – and that they can be proud of the strides they’ve made.  
  • Help your teen moderate their language, especially self-talk. Remind them to avoid using self-deprecating words and to quit bad-mouthing their own efforts. 
  • Give them greater control and choice. Independence is a powerful tool towards helping a teen build their self-esteem. Allowing them to make their own choices can help them not just make mistakes and learn from them, but feel proud for making the right decision when it counts. 
  • Be a character model for them. Do you recognize some of your teen’s traits in yourself? Then it may be time to work on your own confidence, as well. 

Is a Confident Child a Healthy Child?

Outward displays of confidence may be a positive thing, but it is important to differentiate between what your teen chooses to project to the outside world, and how they might be feeling inside. Famously, Mr. Olympia winner Arnold Schwarzenegger shared that he felt immense anxiety and body dysmorphia in the days leading up to a competition, despite his on-stage bravado and extremely competitive persona. He would look at himself in the mirror and wonder how he’d won

It’s no different for many of today’s social media influencers. Even if your teen seems to be confident about themselves – whether it’s their appearance or their abilities – keep an eye out for subtle red flags, such as a low tolerance for criticism from others, obsessing over peers, constant comparisons, or self-deprecating comments made in private. 


6 Common Problems Among Senior High School Students

There are several common problems among senior high school students.

Growing up is a pain in more ways than one. It comes with its own set of privileges and subtle perks. But the process to reaching adulthood is lengthy, and no two paths are the same. There is no helpful guidebook, no actual blueprint. We all find our way, one way or another, through a maelstrom of emotional turmoil – especially in the tender high school years. 

Many adults might look back on their senior years and laugh about some of their old problems and worries. Oh, to be back in a day and age when their biggest fear was an F in trigonometry or being rejected by a crush. But it’s important to remember that the problems and fears senior high school students have are legitimate to them and can play a significant role in their transition into early adulthood, whether in college or the workforce.

Recognizing, understanding, and supporting your teen through these problems can help prepare them for the future, mold them to be more comfortable and confident in their skin, and provide them with the tools they need to combat other stressors later in adulthood. 

In this article, you will discover the most common problems among senior high school students.

Will I Even Need This Knowledge?

Whether it’s geography, advanced algebra, or biochemistry, high school will always include at least one field your teen might have no interest in, yet may be forced to learn. And the retort is always the same: when will I need to recall this information? 

The truth is, for many teens, the answer is never. You likely won’t need to understand the intricacies of covalent bonds, and might not be able to concisely explain how and why hydrogen ions affect the acidity of a substance in your late 30s. 

But in addition to mastering basic sciences, which serve as a basis for a lot of higher education, learning to absorb and recall information is a crucial life skill. The education system is far from perfect, often promoting rote memorization and recall over mastery and understanding. 

But it also asks teens to learn to manage their time, prioritize their education, and make grown-up decisions to sacrifice time spent doing things they might want to do for an investment in their future – lessons that will continue to carry over in adulthood. 

Balance is important. Some teens spend too much time studying and not enough time socializing. Others have the reverse problem. High school, or any education involving more advanced topics that require a longer, more arduous commitment to memorizing and understanding the presented information, will challenge teens to balance different aspects of life. 

It’s All Just Too Much

Many teens don’t get the support or the leeway they need to truly balance their home and school lives, whether it’s due to excess in extracurricular activities, setting their sights on an expensive and hard-to-qualify-for college, or dealing with the simultaneous pressures of growing up and satisfying the expectations of their loved ones, real or imagined. 

If you feel your teen is starting to struggle with the pressure, check in with them. Help them take a load off. Encourage them to relax. Help them manage their priorities so they don’t suffer from procrastination. Hold them accountable when they’re not committing to their promises, but reward them when they are. 

I Don’t Want to Be an Adult Yet

Some trends in today’s youth point towards a slower, more gradual path toward adulthood. Whether due to cultural or economic reasons, today’s teens get their first job later, move out of the home at a later age, and engage in sex and alcohol much later than their parents did. There may be a hesitancy toward adulthood

Is this good or bad? Researchers are split. Ultimately, there is nothing inherently good or bad about delaying some of the responsibilities and expectations of adulthood. 

Things Are Getting Worse Out There

Teens care more about societal issues than some adults might be aware of. Today’s teens are quite politically active, and politically aware. Social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter make it easier than ever to engage and organize, and learn more about current issues. But this comes with its fair share of challenges for teens. 

Many of them are frustrated by procedural politics and moderate stances, especially with regards to climate change. They feel that current governance is weak or ineffectual and gravitate towards radical change. In some cases, they’re justified in those feelings. 

I Can’t Sleep

Teens need sleep, and many aren’t getting enough of it. Lack of sleep or insufficient sleep can affect cognition, memory, and mood and increase stress, reducing the immune system’s strength and leaving teens more vulnerable to acute and chronic illnesses. 

Night-time screens are one big issue feeding the problem. Also included are varying study times and heightened expectations at school. Help your teen prioritize rest and recovery to improve their physical and mental well-being. 

I’m Not Comfortable in My Own Skin

Eating disorders are more common among teens and young adults than older populations. One factor that may correlate with the increase in rates for cases of body dysmorphia and related eating disorders (including anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder) may be the youth’s higher usage of social media, and targeted advertising. 

While previous generations were just as much at the whims of an advertising culture that promoted unrealistic standards and unhealthy practices through TV and magazines – from yoyo diets to unregulated weight loss aids – studies show that social media trends might be even more effective at influencing teenage ideals, and causing a negative mental impact, for example through overedited and filtered pictures of celebrities and influencers with unrealistic proportions. 

In addition to body dysmorphia, more and more teens are learning about the signs and symptoms of gender dysphoria and are realizing that they might not feel like the gender they were assigned at birth. Current estimates suggest that about 1.3 to 1.4 percent of teens and young adults experience gender dysphoria or identify as a different gender than the one they were assigned at birth.

Despite a growing tolerance for trans teens in popular media, transphobia has seen a stark increase in recent years. Violence against LGBTQ+ teens spiked in the years after 2016, and suicide rates among trans teens remain disproportionately high versus their peers, including homosexual teens.

In one way, an increased spotlight on the topic of transgender people has led to both greater acceptance and more targeted bigotry. 

Many teens who feel like they are experiencing gender dysphoria may have difficulty functioning in school or at home, especially after puberty. Some children begin to develop a gender identity different to the one they were born with as early as ages 3 to 5

For trans teens in high school, this can mean spending up to a decade openly or secretly identifying as something they cannot outwardly express. This feeling may be exacerbated by the onset of secondary male or female characteristics, such as deepening voices or growing breasts. 

The topic of transgender youth is still sensitive and challenging for many families to explore. However, more and more research is highlighting the importance of mental health support; trans teens have a disproportionately higher risk for anxiety and depression and ADHD, bipolar disorder, and eating disorders. 

Today’s teens face many problems, some new and some the same as ever. Helping your teen navigate a complex world is part of growing up. 

However, at least one in 20 teens may experience episodes of severe anxiety, and about one in 30 may develop a diagnosis of depression – mental health issues are on a rise and require additional support and compassion. Help your teens seek treatment, develop healthier coping habits, and become more resilient as they become independent.  

Mental Health

What Are the Benefits of Teen Friendships?

Should you encourage your teen to make friends? Absolutely! Encourage them to make all sorts of friends. Friendships are great; not only is connecting with other people cognitively gratifying in that you can learn all sorts of things through others, it’s also emotionally and even physically beneficial. Friends can get you into better habits and sports you might never have given a try before. They can get you to explore hobbies and interests you wouldn’t have. Friends widen our horizons. They can be a great source of joy

In this article, we’re looking closely at one of the most common questions we hear from teens – what are the benefits of teen friendships?

Friendships Can Reduce Anxiety

Teen anxiety is a vast and growing mental health crisis. A disproportionate physical and emotional stress response is at the root of every case of anxiety. It’s normal to be anxious under certain circumstances.

Teens are often anxious the day before a big test. They’re naturally going to be anxious about confessing to a crush or asking someone out to the prom. Most teens worry about getting into a good college or doing well in their sport or profession of choice. Many teens worry about things that adults might not find as necessary, such as school clout and online popularity. Some socially conscious teens will be anxious about things like global warming, the direct effects of policy on their lives, or their prospects in tomorrow’s job market. 

While many of these things are anxiety-inducing, people often mistake them for the causes of anxiety. Anxiety is not just the manifestation of stress

On a more psychiatric or clinical note, anxiety disorders are mental health issues wherein a patient displays disproportionate reactions to stressors or experiences a sense of dread and worry without a meaningful cause or stressor. 

Friends can play an essential role in mitigating these stressors, helping teens cope with their anxiety, being understanding supporters throughout the recovery and treatment process, and helping your teen continue to focus on their anxiety treatment.

Friendships are a Core Part of Adolescence

Have you ever wondered why making friends as an adult is harder? Most people blame factors like a lack of time and resources and fairly few opportunities to go out and meet new people. While some of these things are true, take note of another important factor: your brain. 

Most teens are explicitly wired to make friends, and accepting new people into their lives usually comes more naturally to adolescents than it might to some adults. Meanwhile, many adults face opportunities to introduce themselves to strangers and make new friends nearly daily– yet, we typically don’t. 

This isn’t always true – especially teens who struggle with social anxiety in adolescence but not in adulthood, will find it easier to bond with people they like as they get older – but generally speaking, teens are in a developmental stage in their lives where it’s normal to turn toward your peers and develop deeper bonds of friendship with those around you. 

It’s also one of the reasons teens find it so crucial to fit in. Teens are much more predisposed towards groupthink and peer pressure because they want to belong to a larger contingent. Some of this comes down to evolutionary psychology – the idea that many human behaviors result from survivalist behaviors handed down from generation to generation. 

We’re innately social creatures, not just because we continue to rely on each other in society but because we have always relied on each other to hunt, raise children, protect one another, and secure our futures. Teens are children on the cusp of independence in the wider adult world and seek to align themselves with other adults to find strength in numbers. 

These survivalist tendencies are not always positive. Popularity does not predict the health or strength of a friend group or any given friendship. But it does explain why teens are particularly drawn to the popular and why popularity and cliques play an even greater role in adolescence than they do later in life. 

In other words, your teen years are the ideal years for you to develop your social skills, hang out with people, meet new people, and explore the different facets of interpersonal relationships; to make mistakes, to trust, to be hurt, and to learn. 

Friendships Can Prolong and Enrich Life

Teen friendships are an essential part of a healthy and happy teen life, and the quality of a teen’s relationships with others can be a factor in their mental wellbeing in adulthood

Research shows that teens with deep, close friendships with other people generally show lower rates of anxiety, depression, and poor self-worth than teens who grew up as part of larger friend groups but with more external connections. 

True friends are great. They keep it straight with us. They remind us of our weaknesses and celebrate our strengths. They look out for us. They encourage us to be better, to embrace the best parts of ourselves, and to do what is best for ourselves. They become confidants in times of stress and turmoil and people to share and enjoy life with when it’s at its best. They make every moment of joy and bliss even sweeter and more memorable. 

Not all friendships are like that, though. Encourage your teen to nurture and cherish their closest and oldest friends, not to grow apart, to keep in touch, and to reap the benefits of friendship well into adulthood. 

Of course, friendships can also come with drawbacks. Some friendships turn out not to be friendships at all. Some people go out of their way to hurt others quickly and sometimes over the years. It may take your teen some time to figure out the difference and learn to eliminate toxic relationships over time. But even those lessons are valuable and help prepare them to find and avoid similar experiences in adulthood when they can be arguably far more harmful. 


5 Teen Anxiety Symptoms (And How to Cope)

Teen anxiety is on the rise, alongside other mental health issues. While most people know about conditions such as social anxiety disorder, depression, ADHD, and bipolar disorder, it’s important to note that anxiety disorders are by far the most common type of mental health issue across genders, ages, and nations worldwide. In the US alone, an estimated one in three teens between the ages of 13 and 18 will or have experienced symptoms of an anxiety disorder. 

We need to do better for our teens, including learning to identify the telltale signs of anxiety and help them cope as early as possible. 

In this article, you will discover the five common teen anxiety symptoms.

Common Teen Anxiety Symptoms

Teens who are constantly on edge, feel wired at all times, cannot stop worrying about certain things, or worry about problems that do not exist or aren’t nearly at the magnitude that they imagine them to may be struggling with anxiety. 

Pair these thoughts with an increase in severity and longevity – negative, harmful, and impairing thoughts lasting weeks and months – and it’s easy to understand why anxiety disorders are a huge problem. 

They keep teens from doing well at school, engaging with their friends, and developing as healthy adults. They can impact teens physically by cutting short sleep, affecting appetite, and straining the heart. 

Here are five common teen anxiety symptoms.

Panic and Hyperventilation

Not all anxiety results in panic. Many cases of anxiety may involve a blanket feeling of stress, an overarching dread or doom – but in some cases, that feeling can bubble over and erupt into an acute attack of severe stress. Panic attacks are more common in teens who experience panic disorder, which involves multiple bursts of panic within a short period. 

Panic attacks are experienced as severe physical episodes of discomfort, shock, fear, and confusion. They include a tightness in the chest, an accelerated feeling of time, a burst of adrenaline, and difficulty breathing, resulting in short, snappy breaths (hyperventilation) and chest pains. 

Teens can experience panic attacks with or without a trigger. Sometimes, panic attacks result from an acute stressor – such as a phobia, or a traumatic event. But they can also occur on their own, even in calm moments, such as the middle of the night. 

Panic can be very difficult for a teen, especially in the moment. If you or your loved one is experiencing a panic attack, it may help to start grounding them – take their hand and let them feel you by their side. Encourage them to breathe slowly, take the lead by breathing with them. 

Emphasize slow breaths in. Sometimes, it helps to hold that breath for a few seconds, before breathing out slowly. Deep breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps calm you down when your fight-or-flight response is kicked into overtime. 

If a certain trigger caused the panic, take them away from it to the nearest quiet or calm corner. If they’re bad with crowds or strangers, for example, take them to a quiet and calm room. 

Trouble Sleeping and Restlessness

Restlessness and poor sleep hygiene is one of the most insidious and underrated anxiety symptoms in teens. Teens already don’t get the kind of sleep they really need, and anxiety can make that a lot worse, turning opportunities for deep rest into a shallow sleep, or no sleep at all. 

Help your teen improve their sleep hygiene by taking minor, but meaningful steps towards better sleep. A few key things to bear in mind to improve sleep hygiene include: 

A dark and cool room. It’s easier to fall asleep in a calm and cold environment. Not too cold! 

Restricting the bed to sleep. If your teen spends a lot of time doing things in bed that aren’t sleeping – such as gaming, reading, or watching videos – encourage them to do these things elsewhere, such as a couch. 

Cut screen time an hour before bed. Lights can keep us up, even when they aren’t blue lights (like most screens are). 

Use calming scents and a pre-bed ritual, such as a warm shower. 

Certain supplements can help. Things like maca root and ashwagandha have been shown to improve sleep. At a doctor’s recommendation, consider melatonin. 

Feeling Nervous Around Others

Social anxiety, or social phobia, is one of the most common types of anxiety disorders. We’re not all inherently extroverted, but social anxiety goes a step further. 

It can be difficult to cope with social anxiety in adolescence – teens aren’t always nice to each other, and learning to exist in the wider social world and make friends can be immensely challenging for teens who don’t feel comfortable around strangers. The internet can help, sometimes, but it can also amplify the issues around social anxiety by creating a perfect vector for anonymous victimization and vicious online teasing. 

For teens with social anxiety, therapy may be a crucial starting point. Learning to identify and dispel anxious thoughts and make behavioral changes when meeting others – through school, mutual acquaintances, or group therapy – can help deal with symptoms of social anxiety. 

Gastrointestinal Problems in Teen Anxiety

Did you know that your gut acts as a second brain? The state and well-being of the microbiome in a person’s gastrointestinal tract can affect their mental health, influencing mood and stress. 

Similarly, higher stress is associated with poorer digestion and gastrointestinal problems. Some teens who experience anxiety are also more likely to struggle with irritable bowel syndrome. Furthermore, Crohn’s disease is more closely associated with depression and anxiety. 

Dietary changes may help calm your teen’s stomach problems and improve their anxiety. Talk to your doctor or a dietitian about how you can help identify your teen’s food intolerances and ideal dietary choices. 

Negative Self-Talk

Another common symptom of anxiety is negative self-talk. Affirmations can help teens combat negative thoughts, although they can be difficult to integrate initially. Compliment your teen’s strengths, make them feel seen and heard, and celebrate their victories as often as possible. 

Discourage them from putting themselves down, and help them embrace new hobbies or interests that might give them another outlet for their talents or help them realize that they’re capable of more than they might expect. Support and compassion are crucial. 

It’s Not Your Fault

When dealing with teen anxiety, it is vital to impart two things on your teen: first, it’s not their fault. Second, though it might feel that way most of the time, they are not powerless. Coping mechanisms do work – they don’t make anxiety go away magically. Still, they can help mitigate feelings of stress, reduce anxious thoughts and attacks, reduce the impact of the mental and physical symptoms of anxiety, and grant your teen greater power over their state of mind. 

It’s also important to remember that coping skills and habits are equally crucial on good and bad days. It’s not just that certain behaviors help deal with anxiety when it appears – it’s that applying these behaviors daily helps combat how often anxiety manifests itself and the degree to which you may get anxious. 

Teen anxiety can be complex and challenging to address. Most teens benefit immensely from the support and ongoing involvement of their loved ones. But sometimes, that’s not enough. Sometimes it’s appropriate and necessary to help your teen seek professional treatment for their anxiety. Consider talking to your teen about getting help together. 



How to Motivate a Depressed Teenager

Motivation can generally be categorized in two different ways: intrinsic and extrinsic. Simply put, an extrinsic reward or motivation is something like a cookie, or praise from a loved one. An intrinsic reward is the sense of accomplishment and pride when achieving a goal. 

Both are important, but intrinsic motivation tends to be more effective, as it represents our inner drive – our emotional needs rather than our wants. It’s great to get the cookie you wanted, but it’s ultimately more fulfilling if your reasons are near and dear to your heart. 

However, one of the most severe problems with depression is that it handicaps a person’s capacity to experience intrinsic motivation. On the outside, this makes people with depression seem listless, if not lazy. But looking deeper within, this is a form of pain that affects nearly every aspect of life in a debilitating way. 

Depression also affects extrinsic motivation. A cookie sounds nice, but it might not feel worth the bother. One of the significant symptoms of depression is anhedonia, which ranges from a dampened sense of joy to pure joylessness – things that used to taste good taste less good, and things that used to be fun are less fun. Things that used to be interesting are unimportant. 

The struggle to feel motivated extends beyond schoolwork or other responsibilities. A depressed teen may struggle to find the motivation to get out of bed, let alone brush their teeth and get dressed. 

So, how do you motivate someone with depression? Let’s take a step-by-step approach. 

Adjust Your Expectations

Depression can be a long-term illness. In some cases, it is tied to circumstances and events. Other forms of depression, like major depressive disorder, can be intense and long-lasting, with no significant cause or trigger. Some teens experience persistent depression, or dysthymia, which can last years. 

But there are good and bad days in the midst of it all. No one with depression chooses to be sad, and it’s a fight every day. Some days go better than others, and paying attention to when your teen is feeling better and encouraging them is especially important. 

With depression often comes guilt. Many teens who experience depression feel ashamed about their behavior while depressed. They want to do more, but they feel like they can’t. They want to do better, but they feel smothered. It’s a negative cycle, and it is only made worse by the negative observations of others. Calling someone with depression lazy or telling them to “simply” try harder will result in the opposite. Fewer good days, and more bad days. 

Patience and consistent support are best. Be in your teen’s corner. Know that they’re doing their best, even when they don’t seem to be doing much of anything. And when they do get things done, let them know that you’re proud of their efforts. 

Be Supportive and Offer Frequent Affirmation

Affirmations are essential in the long-term management of depression. They are the bread-and-butter of emotional support loved ones can offer a depressed teenager. Recurring negative thoughts is a pillar of a depressive mood disorder, and fighting against those thoughts with positive affirmations helps your teen understand that the people around them support and believe in them. Think of it as fighting negativity, on a daily basis. 

Encouraging your teen to repeat affirmations back to themselves can be annoying, but it also helps. Vocalizing it – giving the positive thought a voice – can make a meaningful difference over time. Some positive affirmations your teen might want to try or hear can include: 

  • You’ve made it through other challenges and got this one, too. 
  • You’re capable and strong. Depression does not control you at all times. 
  • You’re not alone; many others are fighting against dark thoughts, too, and your family/friends are here. 
  • I’m proud of you for today/what you’ve done/what you’re doing. 
  • It’s one step at a time, one day at a time. 
  • You deserve to be happy. 
  • You’re valuable, even when you don’t feel productive. 

Look For Help Together

A parent or friend cannot take away a teen’s depression. But they can do everything in their power to help fight it. In addition to positive affirmations, thoughts, and support, one of the ways you can make an impact in a depressed teen’s life is to encourage them in treatment and to help support them throughout the treatment process. 

It’s not enough to suggest therapy. Talk to your teen about seeing a professional together. Drive them to their sessions. Suggest or talk to the therapist about family therapy or joint sessions. Be involved and learn more about how you can help your teen – such as reminding them to take care of their daily journaling or asking about their therapy homework. 

Extrinsic motivation can still work. Talk to your teen about ways to help promote healthy habits that can contribute to managing depressive thoughts. For example, extra game time if they promise to go for a daily walk, and so on. 

Avoid Judging or Scolding Them

Tough love does not help. Understandably, seeing a teen struggle day in and day out with even basic tasks and responsibilities can make some parents feel frustrated and angry – but taking that anger out on your teen will always backfire when the enemy in question is their mental health. 

Negative emotions feed on other negative emotions and combating depression with scolding, and anger may elicit a short-term burst of energy out of fear or shame. Still, it will only make things much, much worse. Patience and positivity are key. 

Test Your Teen for Learning Disabilities and Other Conditions

Depression often co-occurs with other mental and neurodevelopmental conditions, including learning disabilities (dyslexia), ADHD, and anxiety disorders. These can interact and be exacerbated by symptoms of depression – making it even harder for teens to progress in treatment. 

If your teen struggles in more ways than one, they may need more than outpatient treatment. An inpatient treatment facility like Visions can help teens who need specialized treatment get the additional care and attention they require. 


How Parents Can Help Gen Z Teens

Parents sometimes make the mistake of assuming that the generational differences between them and their teens are akin to first contact between alien cultures. 

While it’s true that there are generalized statements that are more or less true for specific populations – such as the difference between people born in the early 70s and people born in the late 90s – more often than not, teens are teens, parents are parents, and people are people. Your children are much more like how you used to be than you might think or care to recall. 

Teens nowadays may be statistically less likely to drink, have sex early, or experiment with drugs, but their behaviors regarding risk-taking haven’t changed much. Most teens are still somewhat rebellious and will likely seek to push boundaries as they grow up. Teens don’t want to drive as much as their parents did, but an overwhelming majority of 70 percent still think having a driver’s license is essential as a teenager. 

And yes, teens grew up in the age of the smartphone and can’t recall a day without the Internet, but they use it for much of the same things other technologies were used for by teens throughout all of history: recreation and procreation. 

Understanding some statistical and behavioral trends that set Gen Z teens apart from the Millennials and most of their parents, Gen X adults, can help some parents better reconcile and recognize where their teens are coming from. But first and foremost, it’s important to dispel the myths and worries about grand intergenerational conflict or incompatibilities between today’s parents and the children they’re raising. 

Spend Less Time Worrying

No matter what anyone else says, the facts support that for most healthy young adults growing up today, the greatest influence in their lives is their parents. Parents play a crucial role in a person’s every developmental stage, from infancy to late adolescence and early adulthood. Peers play more of a role as teens age, but a parent’s influence only wanes after a teen or young adult moves out. 

As such, trusting in your teen’s judgment and how you’ve raised them is essential. Teens may have different interests than you did. However, you differed from your parents in many ways in your younger years while still sharing many of the same values and priorities, especially if your relationship with them was strong. 

You don’t need to understand why your teen prefers to hang out with friends on Discord rather than learn how to drive to the mall to go see them every weekend in person to know that your kid is doing fine socially, given the way society has changed. However, understanding and accepting these differences can go a long way toward a stronger parent-child relationship. 

Understanding Generation Z’s Formative Years

Generation Z refers to people born after 1996, including many young adults and parents. 

The defining characteristics and unifying cultural experiences of Generation Z include the commercialization and global usage of the Internet, unprecedented cultural globalization, historic levels of economic recession, the explosion of portable personal computing devices and the Internet of Things, global warming, a swathe of armed conflicts since the end of the Cold War, and more recently, the COVID pandemic

Many of these events and circumstances have made Gen Z more fiscally and socially reserved than previous generations. 

More concretely, this means more teens are saving for retirement than previous generations, as many grew up watching their parents scramble for money or struggle under credit debts. As such, they’re generally wary of debt, and less likely to take on credit. Socially, Generation Z still likes to party – but will party less than previous generations.  

This Is a Digital Generation

In addition to the financial downturn, the Internet is perhaps one of Generation Z’s most essential and formative factors. It means that today’s teens are more likely to spend time in front of a screen than previous generations and are more content to spend time with friends virtually. 

Teens today grew up in the presence of social networks. This relatively new Internet-related invention allows people to form and cultivate relationships online through status updates, personal albums, image posts, and private messaging. Many long-lasting Generation Z couples met online, often across state or national borders, due to a common interest or shared online experience. 

Video games are also surprisingly important to Generation Z. More than a fad, they have become an entertainment industry that surpasses Hollywood in grossing. Kids are less likely to go to the movies, and more likely to spend time on Fortnite or League of Legends.

Video games such as massively multiplayer online games (MMOs) have become their own social networks. Friend groups often stay in touch much longer than they would have in older generations through instant messaging, social networks, and online group activities such as gaming. Millennials are also familiar with this – the average age for a gaming consumer is closer to 34

Kids and young adults today value their screen time. More than an idle source of infotainment, laptops and phone screens have become a view into a second world that exists parallel to the “real” one, filled with connections and people and friendships that are equally important as those made face-to-face. Understanding this can help parents value why their teens spend so much time online, and respect that the Internet represents a large part of their ongoing social experience. 

But that doesn’t mean teens today should learn to devalue the importance of living in the real world. 

Help Your Teen with Real-World Experiences and Interactions

One of the best ways you can help your teen cultivate better mental and physical well-being is to encourage and promote their real-world experiences without downplaying or judging them for their online social lives. Take your teen out often. Plan more outdoor activities with the family.

It’s not enough to passively encourage your teen to go out more. Why should they? Instead, take them with you on trips and experiences, take them to work with you to get a little bit of a taste of what it’s like outside of school or the home office, and help them get comfortable with various real-life tasks and situations. Expand their responsibilities, such as asking them to help in the kitchen, teaching them to cook, and eventually putting them in charge of groceries as they better understand how to prep and stock a kitchen. Help them develop their independent living skills, whether it’s navigating a tax return or going to the DMV. 

This could also be an opportunity to cultivate your teen’s professional or occupational interests. Encourage your teen to spend more time at local conventions for their respective interests or potential professions. Be in their corner and cheer them on. 

Teens today are justifiably worried about how the world is changing and their place in it. They are more academically pressured than ever while contending with a rapidly evolving marketplace, growing wealth inequality, rising prices, and the advent of new and volatile technologies in the workplace, such as AI-generated content and code. 

Teens might feel more acquainted with the digital world and the changing pace of their environment. However, parents can still help them find a better balance between themselves and their obligations, health and professional priorities, and stress and calm. Between enjoying the bounties of nature and benefiting from our advances in information and communications technology. 


What to Do When Your Teen is Struggling

Millions of teens struggle with their mental health in any given year. Those rates have been on the rise lately, and experts indicate that it isn’t just because of better screening measures or testing tools. We are seeing an increase in factors contributing to the mental and social struggles of our teens, affecting their health and wellbeing into adulthood. Teens are being pressured more than ever to get into the best colleges, outperform their parents, and find success in an increasingly difficult marketplace. 

Parents always want the best for their children. It is often frustrating, then, when they’re told they can’t take away their child’s pain. But they can help, even substantially. A parent’s role in the mental wellbeing of their child can never be overstated, and even professional therapists will agree that immediate family plays the greatest part in the treatment process, especially for young teens. 

But a willingness to help does little without the right tools. If your teen has been struggling as of late – whether it’s at school, with their relationships, with friends, with their growing responsibilities, or with their mental health – here are a few things that can help. 

Does Your Teen Trust You?

You cannot address your teen’s issues without being privy to them. Trust, here, is key. While any parent can get their child to tell them the truth, being confrontational and aggressively demanding with your teen can backfire. They’re more likely to lie, edit the truth, or keep things from you because they fear your judgment, your verbal retaliation, or even just your disappointment. 

When teens grow up knowing that their parents expect the best, they’re afraid of mistakes. But mistakes are an inevitability, especially in adolescence. Growing up is all about making mistakes, and it becomes impossible to learn from those mistakes if each one becomes an opportunity for self-loathing and chastising rather than a teaching moment between a parent and their child. 

If you have been to hard on your teen, back off and allow them to see that your love and affection are unconditional, and that mistakes are a part of life – even when they’re serious. 

Privacy matters as well. To build trust, you must trust that your teen can make certain decisions for themselves, including what they choose to do behind closed doors. Trust in your child’s upbringing, and the ethics you have bestowed upon them through example. 

When your child trusts you, and knows that you will still love and help them when they’ve made mistakes, they will be honest with you about their problems. Encourage them to talk about those problems. 

Listen To Them and Their Problems

Listening is important, sometimes even more so than talking. The worst thing a parent can do is simplify a situation into an “easy” solution, especially when there isn’t one. Avoid words and phrases like “simply”, or “just do”, or “I would’ve done it like this instead”. 

Put yourself in your teen’s shoes and remember what it was like to be a teenager. It might have been tough for you to ask your parents for advice, especially if you felt like they were going to trivialize your problems or offer canned responses to a complicated situation. 

Yes, adults have greater responsibilities and a different perspective on life. But for teens, even “trivial” situations can have significant and far-reaching (in their eyes) consequences. It helps to take their concerns seriously and acknowledge how they feel in the moment. 

Look Out for the Warning Signs

Encouraging your teen to talk to you whenever they feel troubled or worried is important.

But there may be situations wherein your teen doesn’t feel comfortable discussing how they feel. Sometimes, that feeling of shame or confusion is part of the “problem”. 

Symptoms of conditions like depression and anxiety can include the kind of lowered self-esteem and heightened sense of self-critique that keep teens from getting the help they need. Instead, parents need to keep an eye out for “warning signs”. These might include: 

  • A sudden and drastic change in the crowd of people your teen hangs out with. 
  • A loss of interest in most hobbies, and no or few new ones. 
  • A shift in mood, particularly more frequent isolation and general sadness. 
  • Fatigue, both physical and mental. 
  • Sudden and extreme irritability.
  • Changes in weight, especially drastic weight loss or weight gain. 
  • Struggling socially, loss of friendships, frequent relationship troubles. 
  • Dropping grades. 
  • Obvious signs of drug use, from physical symptoms to external signs (smell, paraphernalia, leftover substances). 

Not all teens who need help are struggling with an identifiable mental health issue. Sometimes, the warning signs can precede any chance of a formal diagnosis. 

But it’s still a good idea to discuss your teen’s symptoms and behavior with a professional and talk to your teen about making an appointment together if you worry about how they’ve been feeling lately. 

Help Them Set Realistic Goals

Adolescence is a time of self-discovery and personal growth, more so than nearly any other point in a person’s life. With that comes a lot of experimentation, and change. Encourage your teen’s interests, their changing habits, and their new hobbies, even if you don’t necessarily like them. Furthermore, help your teen set and achieve realistic goals. 

Goal setting can be a helpful endeavor for teens who are currently struggling, whether mentally or otherwise. Working on something aimlessly, whether it’s an academic goal or something personal, can be demotivating. Small, realistic goals can keep your teen motivated and turn hobbies into passions. 

Talk To a Professional Together

If your teen’s mental health is deteriorating past the point where helping them with their schoolwork or encouraging them to talk to you about their worries is enough, it might be time to seek outside help. Make sure your teen understands that going to see a counselor or a therapist does not mean you’re trying to “unload the problem” on someone else. 

You’re there for them, will continue to help them every day, and will be involved in whatever a “treatment plan” might look like, if one needs to exist. Many therapists encourage parents and immediate family members to contribute to a teen’s ongoing mental health treatments, through family therapy, psychoeducation, and continued long-term care. 

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