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. 


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 teenage anxiety, teen depression, and other mental health challenges that may require teen mental health treatment, teen substance abuse treatment, or adolescent dual diagnosis treatment

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.  


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. 


How to Help Your Teen Make Friends

For most people, making friends in childhood is easy. Sometimes, it’s as simple as sharing or spending time together on the same swing. But as we get older, making and keeping friends can become harder.

For many teens, the jump into adolescence comes with a growing list of challenges, including new and frightening social dynamics, problems with self-acceptance, and insecurity. Other teens struggle to find the right friends and might be more likely to fall into the “wrong crowd”. If your teen has trouble opening up to people socially or personally or has been habitually shy from a young age, you might be tempted to try and help them make friends. 

The truth is that while you can help, your teen plays the most crucial role in finding the right people to hang out with. Changing what kind of people your teen hangs out with is difficult. Some research shows that teens tend to pick their peers based on their relationships with their parents – even in their “rebellious” phase, teens make friends based on who is around them, and environments are completely within a parent’s control.  

Suppose your teen enjoys playing video games and is more interested in the latest expansion of their favorite series but doesn’t care about music. In that case, it may be true that they’re less likely to hang out with anyone committed to band practice and theater. 

But don’t sell your teen short, either. Like adults, teens can like several things at once. And while they might be more inclined to assimilate into cliques and groups, teens nowadays are becoming more honest about what they enjoy outside their “core identities.” Sporty teens can discuss this year’s best manga or their love for tokusatsu shows. The popular influencer at your teen’s high school might listen to obscure music and blast a Soft Machine album from 1979. 

Encourage Their Interests and Hobbies

Interests are everything, especially in today’s modern subculture-based super culture. Cliques and communities are forming online and being reflected in real life. People communicate through “memes” and references and inside jokes fostered by content creators they collectively enjoy. 

While teens still pick their real-life friends based on who they’re growing up around, they’re getting to know people from around the world, exploring interests, and trying out new things all the time. 

While it might be tiresome to see your teen hop from one interest to the next, know that that is normal and part of growing up. You might have started trying to learn an instrument at one point, only to give up and get into gymnastics, then skating, or cross-country. Whatever your teen might be interested in, encourage their interests, and support them in local meetups for their hobbies. 

Allow Them to Hang Out with Others

The best way to make friends is to spend more time with people, not just at school or in controlled environments where you can watch what your teen is doing, but out and about. 

If your teen is worried about going out to spend time with others, encouraging them to give it a try can help. Not everyone is indeed a social butterfly, but there are gradients to introversion and extroversion, and most people fall somewhere in the middle.

Suppose your teen leans much harder into introversion, perhaps even to the degree of social anxiety. In that case, encouragement can be one step towards helping them overcome the initial hurdle of spending time around others. 

But if it’s a recurring problem that they struggle with every time they’re faced with the prospect of going out, you might need to consider an alternative approach, such as professional help. 

Ask Them to Go to Groups

If your teen is invited to a party, ask them if they can invite another friend to come with them. Parties are a great place to meet new people and hang out with peers – but they can also be dangerous occasionally in addition to being stressful for some teens. 

Parents know and accept this risk as part of growing up – we have to allow our teens some freedom as they grow up, so they can continue to mature as individuals – but proper safeguards are essential. Sending your teen out with a known, trusted friend can give both of you greater comfort and security. 

Encourage Them to Be True to Themselves

Sometimes, teens will gravitate towards popular trends to become more popular. This is fine and normal, but it might become a bit more of an issue when there’s a lot of money or long-term consequences at stake. For example, trying out a new fashion style for a week is one thing, but tattoos are rarely well thought-out. 

Talk to your teen if you see them reinvent themselves every two weeks. Sometimes, we need to experiment to figure out who we are. But sometimes, we know who we are and feel ashamed of it. If your teen is being bullied for their interests, knowing you’re in their corner and helping them find others with similar likes can help them feel more confident in their skin and style. 

Ask Them About Talking to a Therapist Together

Teenage shyness is a personality quality millions of people share. Some people develop better social skills as they grow older, more confident, and more secure. Others struggle with their identity for years to come. Others yet suffer not just from usual shyness but from serious anxiety. 

If your teen displays signs of anxiety disorders, such as agoraphobia or social anxiety disorder, then encouragement and support might not be enough. Talk to them about booking an appointment with a professional to help them discuss their worries, and find ways to cope. 

Adolescence Mental Health Wellness

7 New Years Goals for Teens

New years goals for teens and adults can vary, simply due to different stages of life. For some, a new years resolution centers around weight lost, picking up a new hobby, or even getting treatment for mental health.

And for millions of Americans, a new year often comes with new goals and resolutions. But is that a good thing? Most new years resolutions fail to uphold their commitment, which would usually indicate that it isn’t just a question of willpowerWhy is it so hard to do the things you should want to do?

The answer, in most cases, is that you don’t really want to do them. New years resolutions typically fail because people tend to select goals that reflect what they should do or be, rather than what they want. It makes little sense to set a goal for yourself that is not ultimately tied to an activity or result that you truly enjoy or crave. Teens struggle with this just as much as adults do.

You Don’t Need to Start Today

A lot of people fail to commit to their new year’s resolutions because they started working on their goals on January 1st, rather than when they were ready. Someone who dives headfirst into a goal without the necessary preparation is more likely to struggle as a result.

Going back to the popular gym and fitness example, you might feel like you don’t know what you’re doing, and it becomes impossible to tell the difference between good and bad advice. Instead, use January as your exploratory month.

Do your research. Consult different experts. Formulate a concrete first goal. Determine what you need to establish your starting position – equipment, setting, space, and community resources. And then, get started in February or March once you’ve answered your day one questions.

New Years Goals for Teens in 2023

Goals that mean something to you – that are linked to your interests or guided by intrinsic motivation – are less likely to fail. Here are some concrete and productive new years goals for teens that you can work toward achieving this year for a better you and to improve your mental health too!

1. Set a Small Screen Time Limit

Excessive screen time is a risk factor for mental health and exacerbates symptoms of depression, lowered self-esteem, and anxiety. You don’t need to go cold turkey on social media or delete Discord from your phone. But do consider keeping a closer eye on your daily computer and smartphone usage, tracking your hours on screens, and setting realistic goals to minimize or introduce breaks for both mental and physical health.

Use those breaks to do something you enjoy – listen to music without looking at a screen, read a physical book, go on a walk, or spend some time gardening. If you have pets, take on more pet-related chores and responsibilities – these can be almost meditative and give you more time to bond with your favorite fur buddy.

2. Dedicate More Time to the Outdoors

Whether it’s something substantial like a monthly hiking trip or just a weekly drive out to the nearest national park for a quick jog or leisurely walk, being outside and in nature can do wonders for both your physical and your mental well-being. Try introducing a few extra nature trips or long walks through the woods into your life this year.

3. Place a Premium on Good Sleep

Sleep hygiene gets emphasized heavily in nearly every single one of these posts and articles, and for a good reason. Everything we do is contextualized by how well-rested we are. Cognitively, socially, and physically, our performance in nearly any aspect of life is colored at least partially by the quality of our sleep.

Making a commitment to head to bed earlier than usual is a good start, but it’s almost impossible to implement. Start with habits that will help you tire out more easily: make sure your room is usually cool and dark in the evenings, rely on warmer lights, cut out blue lights or screens before bed, quit caffeine in the afternoons, and exercise.

4. Go To Therapy (With a Friend)

Mental health treatment is not scary. Nor is it painful. But it is stigmatized, and many teens remain unconvinced that they need or should consider seeking professional help, even as their symptoms get worse.

However, reaching out for help and learning to take care of your mental health are great new years goals for teens. If you think you may be struggling with a mental health condition that is affecting your studies, your relationships, and your day-to-day life, taking the first step toward therapy will be tremendously helpful. But if you need that extra push, consider asking a friend to go with you.

5. Move A Little Bit More

There is more to exercise than running track and field, lifting weights, or going for a swim. Embrace movement in some shape or form, whatever it may be.

We’re ultimately not built to be sedentary for long periods of time, and once you find a form of movement that you enjoy, you can massively improve your general quality of life and regain control over your body.

6. Quit Deprecation

It may just be something small – like insulting yourself in the mirror, berating yourself for trying something or putting yourself down for buying something – but try to make a commitment towards stopping all forms of self-deprecation this year.

Don’t make jokes at your own expense, insult yourself when you’re alone or with others, or take your anger out on your own body. Whenever you feel the urge to say something mean, swallow it – and try to say something positive, anything positive, instead.

7. Try One New Thing

It could be crocheting, pottery, learning to bake, making bread, or even Japanese gunpla. New hobbies are not just an opportunity to expand your interests but an opportunity to meet new people, explore new ideas, find new outlets for stress, and even change your worldview.

A new years resolution can be an impetus for self-improvement and change. But it’s not enough to commit yourself to a vague goal on January 1st without more of a personal connection. It’s important to personalize your goals and pick a realistic approach.

Setting Realistic New Years Goals for Teens

Let’s say, for example, that you have always hated gym class, don’t enjoy most sports, and have spent most of high school being sedentary and enjoying non-athletic hobbies.

You have no personal interest in physical fitness and no real intrinsic motivation to go and begin your gym transformation. You have no concrete knowledge of where to begin in the gym, no foundation of strength or fitness, and no idea whether to prioritize cardio over weights or which supplements to take or ignore.

None of that changes from the night of the 31st into the morning of the 1st.

But, if you are interested in getting fit, you can take your general interest and begin adapting it to more specific, intrinsic motivation. Perhaps there’s a specific fictional character you wish to look like.

There’s probably some merchandise you can wear to help you relate your exercise regimen to that character, like a themed training shirt, hoodie, or shaker. Start your training sessions with arousing music from your favorite game or show. Begin consuming more fitness content that you relate to, or have an interest in. Find exercises that you do enjoy doing.

The Power of Goals

Goals can be powerful tools, but they can also backfire heavily. If your mental and physical well-being is important to you, then setting goals that are achievable should come before setting goals that are aspirational.

For more information about treatment for teen mental health, contact Visions Treatment Centers.

Adolescence Mindfulness

Mindfulness for Teens: Creating Healthy Coping Skills

If there is one thing people can agree most teens struggle with, it is the presence of the mind. The ability to be in the here and now is something that a lot of adults have a hard time with, as well, but learning to master this skill can have actual therapeutic benefits – regardless of your current mental health. Mindfulness for teens can be a great tool to promote healthy coping skills, build patience and discipline, and discourage maladaptive behavior.

Emotional Regulation and Balancing Mental Health

Why do these things matter for mental health and emotional stability? Our mental health at any given moment reflects the psychological equilibrium that we have. In other words, good mental health is balanced. Healthy reactions and emotional regulation show a clear mental state.

On the other hand, poor mental health is often characterized by inappropriate or unhealthy thought patterns, behavioral patterns, or moods.

Feeling uncharacteristically sad over long periods of time for no known reason. Having boundless energy and feelings of grandeur at random. Experiencing intrusive thoughts that are inconsolable through healthy means.

Building Mental Resilience

Our mental health is affected by the sum of controllable and uncontrollable factors – from traumatic events or the genetic lottery to the things we do and the way we react to things done to us. Biological, social, and psychological factors each play a role in how we think, what we feel, and even what we do.

Mindfulness for teens can be a crucial tool in helping build mental resilience in times of stress, as well as adjust to negativity in a healthier manner and learn to be present rather than be distracted by the failures of the past or the anxieties of the future. But like any other skill, it must be trained.

What is Mindfulness?

Put as simply and vaguely as possible, mindfulness is the ability to be mentally present. Put more concretely, mindfulness is a practiced skill that requires a person to pay attention to the moment they live in, tuning out thoughts of the past, worries of the future, and everything that is not immediately relevant to the present.

Mindfulness Can Be Natural

Mindfulness can come naturally. One common example of this is the psychological state of flow. In productivity, flow is described as a mental state that a person enters where their creativity and cognitive ability are at near-peak; a point in time when a person is completely immersed in whatever it is that they are doing. A person can experience flow while drawing, coding, writing, cleaning, shoveling snow, or driving down the highway.

The opposite of flow is when a person is distracted, wanders and daydreams, ruminates on negative thoughts, dwells on things in the past, or thinks solely of something in the future.

Mindfulness Can be Practiced

While flow comes naturally, mindfulness can be practiced. You can utilize breathing techniques, traditional methods of meditation, as well as activities that you like to frequently immerse yourself in to promote the act of being mentally present and aware of the moment. The more time you spend being mindful, the less likely you are to struggle with distraction, and the more you can train yourself to enter mindfulness – and a state of flow – on command.

Methods of Mindfulness for Teens

There are different methods of training mindfulness for teens. Therapists utilize different approaches to help teens actuate and recenter – to actively catch themselves in moments of rumination or negative thought and say, “no, stop. I will focus on this activity ahead of me.”

Learning to utilize mindfulness as a framework for different coping skills, both for avoiding rumination and negative thoughts, and to help build resilience against stress through frequent stress relief, can be immensely useful in maintaining, improving, and adjusting one’s mental health.

Mindfulness lets you:

  • Be aware of yourself and others.
  • Pay better attention in class or when you’re participating in an activity.
  • Learn more from being attentive and listening actively.
  • Make fewer mistakes by ingraining the things you hear and taking the time to put them into practice more often.
  • Improve your overall mood by finding different ways to circumvent negative thoughts or avoid rumination through an active skill.
  • Get better at finishing tasks well before they are due.
  • Enjoy a healthier work-life balance with fewer school- or work-related anxieties.
  • Become a better listener for friends and family, and become a better partner in your relationships.
  • Learn to avoid grudges and unnecessary emotional baggage, and deal with frustrations in a healthier manner.
  • Learn to stay calmer under stress and duress, and develop resilience against different challenges in life.
  • And much more.

The Struggles of Being Mindful

Mindfulness is not necessarily easy to cultivate, and there are people who struggle far more with being mindful than others. Some mental health conditions actively fight against a person’s capacity to be mindful – for example, inattentive symptoms in ADHD are a prime example of anti-mindfulness. Mood disorders can make it much harder to try and focus on anything other than intrusive negative thinking and the rumination spiral that it creates.

Mindfulness as a serious therapeutic tool must be combined with a dedicated treatment plan and, in cases of severe mental health problems, medication. Mediating symptoms through medication and therapy can help teens begin to apply mindfulness in their daily lives through rituals, chores, stress-relieving activities, schoolwork, and even through daily conversations with friends and loved ones.

The Importance of Support and Consistency

Mindfulness, as a key part of managing one’s own mental health, is important. But that does not mean you are alone in your journey, that your mental state is exclusively your fault, or that only you alone can affect how you feel and what you do. Another important part of addressing your mental health is learning the importance of support. Friends and family build the backbone of our support system – the people we trust the most, who we rely on when things get bad or beyond our control.

Like any other skill, mindfulness for teens is best practiced consistently. We can enlist the help of our loved ones to enforce that consistency – to remind us of our exercises and short-term goals and the discussion points elaborated upon in therapy.

Like our physical well-being, our mental health is a lifelong journey. Helping teens cultivate awareness of their mental health at an early age can serve them well.

For more information about teen mental health and therapies, visit Visions Treatment Centers today.

Adolescence Mental Health Parenting

Red Flags in Teenage Behavior to Look Out For

We’ve heard the jokes and the comparisons before – teenagers are like little aliens, their moods change on a whim, their logic is incomprehensible, they’re incredibly difficult to deal with, and so on. While it’s true that most adults won’t remember what it’s like to think like teens, most teenage behavior still follows some sort of logic – even when it’s purely instinctual or based on very short-term benefits. But what if becomes more than that? What about the red flags in teenage behavior that nobody told you about, you know, the ones that could create a mental health condition later on?

Being a teen means transitioning from childhood into fully matured adulthood – a process that begins with the onset of puberty but lasts well into a person’s early 20s or even later. With that process come a lot of bumps and challenges. Differentiating between these and real mental health issues – which are becoming increasingly common for teens – can be difficult.

Outside of being boneheaded or self-centered, teens will often struggle with emotional maturity, consistency, and long-term planning. Sometimes, “normal” teen behavior can be conflated with a serious behavioral issue, and in other cases, it is a precursor to a serious behavioral or mental health problem.

Even if your teen infuriates you, there’s a line to draw between annoying or troublesome teen behavior and genuine mental health issues. Learning to recognize those is important, whether as a parent, friend, or close relative.

What is Normal Teenage Behavior?

Defining normal behavior is difficult. There’s the societal norm, then there’s the researched average, and the matter of what feels normal from an individual, anecdotal, or cultural perspective.

Most people can agree on a few general things about teens – such as their shortsightedness or lack of emotional maturity – but there are case-by-case differences on where normal ends and where red flags in teenage behavior may begin. There’s no real way to “treat” a teen’s sexual drive, their will towards rebellion, or their curiosity for the taboo.

For example, our laws make it illegal for kids to get drunk or engage in sexual intercourse before a certain age.

Yet despite these laws, we know that the average drinking age in the US (i.e., age of first drink) is 13-14 and that half of the population has their first sexual encounter between the ages of 16 and 20. Teens do things they shouldn’t do all the time, and we need to intervene on a case-by-case basis. But that doesn’t mean we pathologize every teen’s mistakes.

In other words, we just need to draw a line between normal individual expression and signs of pathology. In the case of the latter, your teen might be struggling with something they can’t deal with on their own, and getting help as soon as possible gives them the best chance of fighting it.

It’s the difference between trying out a beer and becoming a heavy drinker by age 17. It’s the difference between trespassing for a “prank” and routinely engaging in dangerous and illegal activities. And it’s the difference between having a teen’s typical short temper and becoming violent towards others on multiple occasions.

Important Red Flags in Teenage Behavior to Spot

Let’s start with the red flags. These are signs of a serious problem. In other words, if your teen is exhibiting one or more of these red flags, you should consider speaking with a professional and talking to your teen about counseling or therapy. These red flags include the following:

  • Heavy drinking and other signs of repeated drug use.
  • Knowingly engaging in illegal activities, including speeding or vandalism.
  • Becoming violent towards other teens or people on multiple occasions.
  • Often referencing death and talking about death, especially what it would be like if they died.
  • Frequent signs of physical injury and hiding/lying about cuts and bruises.
  • Burns and other signs of self-harm.
  • Suicide attempts.

Red flags are meant to highlight problems that most teens don’t have. While a large number of teens have had a beer or tried marijuana, most teens are not habitual users of “hard drugs” or struggling with addiction. Most teens aren’t engaged in routine illegal activities, whether it’s vandalism or theft. Most teens aren’t routinely assaulting each other or struggling with suicidal thoughts.

These are serious behavioral issues that warrant a professional opinion. There’s no point trying to diagnose your teen’s behavior yourself – it might look like addiction, but it might be a combination of drug use with a mediating mental health condition, like social anxiety. It might look like depression, but it might, in fact, be a bipolar disorder, which may require a different treatment plan.

If you’ve observed certain red flags in your teen, then seeking professional help is important.

Other Important Signs

However, you don’t need to wait for a teen to show red flags to be concerned for your teen’s mental or physical well-being.

Some of the behaviors listed below might indicate a mental health problem or personal issue, but they may also indicate that your teen needs someone to talk to or that they are finding themselves engaged in unhealthy coping mechanisms for their schoolwork or personal life. These behaviors include:

  • Illicit drug use.
  • Losing interest in old hobbies.
  • Rapid weight loss (or rapid weight gain) at an unhealthy scale.
  • Overexercising (i.e., to the point of repeated injury and/or hospitalization).
  • Social isolation (withdrawing from others).
  • Spending inordinate amounts of time online (never going outside or logging off).
  • Sudden and severe mood swings.
  • Struggling to enjoy things and being gloomy most of the time.
  • Having a very quick temper and becoming easily frustrated at minor things.

Talk About It and Get Help

Some people worry about pathologizing normal instances of negative behavior – for example, it’s normal to act out after a messy breakup or feel terrible after the loss of a loved one. Sometimes, we do things that aren’t in our best interest, and that goes for doubly for teens. We all cope in our own ways, and it isn’t always clean.

But the concern is still valid, even when there’s a “good reason” your teen might be acting a certain way. They may “snap out of it,” or it might start them down a seriously dark road as their symptoms get worse. If these behaviors apply to your loved one, keep an eye on them, and see if things get better. If they don’t – there’s still plenty of time to talk to them about getting real help.

Mental health issues are difficult to deal with, and many of them have their onset in the late teen years. Understanding why your teen is acting the way they are is important – but oftentimes, they might not even have a reason. Things like depression and anxiety can and often do develop without good cause, and their symptoms come and go without a specific trigger. If you’re concerned for yourself or your loved one, be sure to talk to a professional. At Visions Treatment Centers, we are here to help.

Adolescence Feelings Mental Health

Can Low Self Esteem in Teens Affect Mental Health?

Did you know that low self esteem in teens can pose many effects on their mental health?

Self-esteem is intrinsically tied to mental health – our self-worth is not just a reflection of how we see ourselves but can reflect on how we see the world, how we perceive opportunities and react to certain circumstances, and how resilient we become to outer stressors.

Greater self-confidence and healthier self-esteem can help a person cope with more hardship, get back up after setbacks, and better stand up to life’s challenges. Conversely, struggling to retain any pride or suffering from insecurity can make it that much harder to contend with life’s more difficult moments and makes it harder to refute or fight back in times of anxiety or depression.

Studies show us that self-esteem and mental health are strongly correlative – when one is down, so is the other. But there’s also evidence to suggest that the reverse can be true: by improving your self-esteem, you can improve your mental health. And by improving your mental health, you may make it easier to work on your self-esteem.

Let’s look at some of the ways low self in teens has an impact.

Which Came First?

When it comes to self-esteem and mental health in teens, it is a little bit of a chicken-and-egg situation.

Which is more likely? That low self esteem in teens caused them to be more perceptible to stressors that led to a mental health issue? Or that their self-esteem is a reflection of existing mental health problems, such as a precursor of depressive symptoms in the formative years?

Sadly, it’s very difficult to tell – and it might not matter much in treatment.

For example, depression, like other mental health issues, is a multifactor problem. Inner issues, such as genes and a behavioral predisposition towards negative thinking, as well as outer problems, such as victimization, stress, trauma, or abuse, all contribute to a depressive cycle.

Treatment Modalities for Teen Mental Health

In the same way, treatment for certain mental health issues will require the use of several modalities.

There’s the therapeutic aspect:

  • Talking to a therapist, learning to regulate your mood, identify harmful thinking patterns, and use affirmations and more positive ways of thinking.

Then there’s the pharmacological aspect:

  • Utilizing antidepressants to reduce the severity of depressive symptoms.

And the use of non-therapeutic methods in long-term depression management:

  • Forest walkingspending time with your petjournaling, long walks with friends, better sleep schedules, a good diet, and taking a break from a stressful habit.

Self-esteem is one important facet of a larger set of factors that might help determine a teen’s mental health. Having healthy self-esteem is important and should not be mistaken for narcissism or grandiose thinking.

For example, someone with narcissistic tendencies – someone who might qualify for narcissistic personality disorder – will usually struggle with major insecurities, and part of their behavior and presented self-image hides a deeper fear that they cannot own up to that image, leading them to lash out when confronted about it.

Healthy self-esteem can be promoted through therapy and non-therapeutic activities alike, including skills-building and social activities.

Improving Low Self Esteem in Teens to Boost Mental Health

There are a million analogies for understanding how your sense of self reflects on your attitudes and behaviors regarding the world around you. In the simplest psychological terms, everything we experience is filtered through our perspective, and the more we struggle to internalize positive qualities within ourselves, the more we struggle to see the good and fortune in everyday circumstances. It can become a dangerous and self-destructive cycle over time.

Addressing self-esteem problems does not have to start in a therapist’s office. Low self esteem in teens can be identified long before serious mental health symptoms, and in many cases, they’re completely normal. Most teens are self-conscious and insecure, and it is part and parcel of growing up and learning to live in your own skin.

Yet certain teens are more confident than others, and a lack of self-confidence can be a strong indicator of future problems, mental health issues, and an even lower quality of life. Here’s how you can change that.

1. Learn a New Skill

One of the quickest ways to improve your self-esteem and work on your self-confidence is to teach yourself something new. It could be a relatively lofty goal, like achieving your first backflip, or something a little simpler, like learning to use an image editing tool to improve your scanned drawings.

With free online resources all over the Internet and YouTube, there are countless things you can learn to do in just a few days of practice. You don’t have to show them off or compete with anyone but yourself. Pick anything you’re interested in and achieve a minor goal – then work up to something bigger!

2. Improve an Old Skill

Let’s say you’ve already spent a few years learning to draw or know how to play a few tabs on the guitar. Hone those skills! Pick a goal for your existing hobbies or skills, and let that goal revitalize your interest.

Simply spending time to improve on something that you like doing can be immensely gratifying and can help cement the crucial concept that no matter how you might feel about yourself today, you’re always capable of greater things than you might expect.

3. Find Healthy Communities

Learning to approach the problem of achieving a new goal will usually lead to questions and the experiences of others. That’s how many communities are shaped and grown.

Entire communities online revolve around teaching parkour skills to one another, sharing drawing techniques, or finding new ways to reduce run times on “speedruns” of retro video games. These communities are full of people sharing their successes and failures, their trials, and their victories. Those experiences can help you, as well, to find other people with similar interests and to push yourself. If you struggle with consistency in a new habit or skill, finding a community can help you maintain that drive toward achieving your goals.

4. Talk To Your Friends

The more a person struggles with low thoughts, the more likely they are to isolate themselves. But this usually leads to even worse symptoms of self-deprecation and lower self-esteem. We need our friends to help us formulate a better and healthier sense of self – no man is an island!

5. Stop Negative Self-Talk

Negative thoughts are a common aspect of depressive thinking and many mental health issues. It becomes part and parcel of the day to blame yourself for everything, but that second nature can be very harmful.

Like positive affirmations, negative ones can reinforce negative thoughts and negative behaviors.

If you’re late with a book report, don’t call yourself lazy or stupid. Don’t get upset about procrastinating or forgetting. Take a deep breath. Focus on the task at hand. Ask for an extension.

Whenever the urge comes to insult yourself – no matter what the context might be – stop it. Not only is it not productive, but it can be actively harmful to your mental health, no matter how much you might feel you “deserve” chastising yourself.

6. Talk to a Therapist

For teens with low self-esteem, it can be hard to remember that how they might see themselves is not necessarily a true reflection of who they are, and compliments or comments from others get brushed aside amidst instances of criticism or negative attention.

You don’t need to have a formal diagnosis to talk to a professional. People can and do seek out a therapist’s help without struggling with major depressive disorder or conditions like obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). A therapist can help you sort out your emotions, learn to manage irrational thoughts or separate impulses from smarter decision-making, and learn to implement habits and thinking patterns that control some of your worst tendencies, especially if you tend to see the worst in yourself and/or others.

Get Help at Visions Treatment Centers

Don’t be afraid to ask someone for help, whether it’s a professional, someone at school, or your parents. If you know a friend or have a loved one who consistently struggles with self-confidence, help them build that confidence through some of the activities mentioned above or by talking to someone together.

For more information about low self esteem in teens or how to get help, visit Visions Treatment Centers.

Adolescence Mental Health Self-Care

12 Ways to Practice Self Care for Teens

The topic of self-care and mental health conditions has grown in interest over the years, especially over the course of the pandemic – more than ever, people report struggling with professional burnout, stress-related illnesses, and social isolation. Yet these issues are not exclusive to adults. Teens, too, have been hit hard in recent times, and teenage rates of anxiety and depression continue to grow – making self care for teens and adults alike a priority.

Learning to manage your thoughts and minimize stress is valuable but difficult. Anxieties and worries can perpetuate themselves through the way they affect motivation, productivity, restlessness, and physical health – the longer you struggle with your mental health, the harder it is to improve it.

Can self-care help? Absolutely. While not a substitute for professional treatment, learning to incorporate different methods of self care for teens at home can help improve their mental health and even help combat symptoms of mental health issues like depression.

What Does Self Care for Teens Look Like?

Self-care does not need to be strictly defined. For some people, it’s a nice warm bath. For others, it’s a jog through the park. In some cases, self-care can be as specific as putting on your favorite song from a childhood movie and dancing around the living room or finger painting.

Self-care does not replace professional care – for teens who need therapy, self-care can be a supplemental regimen used to manage stress at home and avoid mental flare-ups.

For teens who aren’t diagnosed with anything but feel stressed out by exams, studies, relationships, or world events, self-care constitutes emotional awareness and learning to listen to your needs. Let’s go over a few concrete examples of proven and effective methods of self care for teens.

1. Start Journaling

Journaling is a powerful and often underrated tool for productivity, emotional awareness, and mental health.

More than just the ability to recount your dreams or go over your day, journaling prompts teens to be privately introspective, think back on and second-guess impulsive thoughts or negative impulses, and reinforce a healthier mindset – through journaling, a teen can come home from an upsetting day, write about it, calm down, review what they’ve written, and learn to come to a positive conclusion.

2. Create a Healthy and Realistic Schedule

As teens’ responsibilities grow, they quickly find out just how few hours there are in a waking day. Some teens overbook themselves, trying to manage school alongside friends, relationships, and a packed extracurricular program.

Teaching kids to leave time to dabble and experiment and then prioritize the things that interest them or bring them the most joy is important. Plan your day! Set aside the time you need to comfortably do your schoolwork and your chores and create timeslots for hobbies and interests.

Don’t cram for a test at the last minute, do homework an hour before it’s due, or play video games until the early morning hours. A sound, solid, and realistic schedule that leaves plenty of room for fun can help teens achieve their next big self-care goal.

3. Prioritize Good Sleep

Sleep can never be overrated, especially in the context of mental health. Even just an hour of missing sleep can have a significant impact on a person’s cognitive abilities and mental load, reducing their capacity for stress and ability to fulfill the day’s tasks and goals.

4. Using Video Games for Good

Video games have been a part of the mainstream for well over thirty years, ever since Nintendo and SEGA revitalized a dying industry in the 1980s. Yet despite polarizing headlines and worries about gaming addiction, there’s also been a lot of research showing that used sensibly, video games become an excellent tool for stress reduction as well as cognitive improvement.

There’s nothing wrong with enjoying video games as a medium, especially if it’s your personal method of winding down after school – and in the modern era, video games have become one of the most popular ways to stay in touch with friends over the summer, or even over a pandemic.

Just don’t let your gaming habit eat into the rest of your schedule!

5. Swap Out Your Snacks

When it comes to self care for teens, it’s not just about what you do, it’s also about what you eat. A healthier diet can have a marked improvement in a person’s mental health and mood regulation.

If you’re not a big fan of eating your greens, for example, find other more appealing ways of getting your daily vitamin and nutrient intake, whether it’s dried fruit, berries, salted nuts, or health-oriented snacks, like edamame and cacao nibs.

6. Get Moving

You don’t need to do laps around school or struggle on a pull-up bar to benefit from the mental health effects of exercise. Any kind of regular movement will do, whether it’s a long walk through the park or a round of Just Dance in front of the TV.

The most important thing about exercising isn’t what kind of program you choose or which equipment to buy – it’s about finding exercises and activities that you can do consistently.

7. Exercise a Creative Muscle!

Creative endeavors can be a wonderful way to release stress and enter a state of psychological flow. Not only is this great for skills development – whether it’s learning to play a musical instrument or learning to sketch – but it helps build a healthy habit that you can use to deal with adult stressors later in life.

8. Spend More Time with Pets

Spending time with your pet can be incredibly cathartic and stress relieving.

Animals like cats and dogs have been our companions for hundreds of generations, long before any of today’s existing civilizations were around – and the bond between humans and companion animals has significant evolutionary benefits for both.

9. Don’t Ignore Your Friends

The worse you feel, the easier it gets to isolate and stay away from others. When you notice that feeling is encroaching, try to spend more time with your friends.

Don’t stay away! Do the opposite. We’re social creatures, and interactions with other people are important for our mental well-being, regardless of whether you thrive in larger crowds or prefer hanging out with just one or two best buddies.

10. Be Outdoors

Whether it’s a longer hike or the occasional walk in the woods, being one with nature – even if that boils down to hanging out near a tree and reading a book – has a marked effect on mental and physical health, to the point that it’s become a researched phenomenon.

11. Go On a Social Media Break

You don’t need to radically delete your profiles or turn off and lock your phone away in a safe, but going through a social media cleanse every now and again can do a lot to reduce your stress levels, recalibrate your self-esteem, and even improve your empathy.

Social media is a wonderful tool – it’s a borderline miracle to be connected with so many people at once. But with it comes a heavy burden, as well. There’s just too much noise and far too much content, and it can become wildly distracting, especially when you’re in the middle of trying to build good habits and healthy schedules. Take a break every now and again, especially if you feel overwhelmed.

12. Volunteer (In Any Way!)

Doing good for others is a surefire way to feel better yourself, ironically. While it might not seem like we’re the most altruistically inclined species, there are genuine selfish benefits to doing something without asking for anything in return. Join the fire brigade for a summer or two! Help a homeless shelter. Work with rescue animals. Choose any cause that interests you, and give it a try.

Start Practicing Self Care Today

Taking care of your own mental health is difficult but important. Prioritize the things you need to function well – three meals, good sleep, enough water, and a nature break every now and again, for example, as well as less basic needs, like the occasional outing with some friends or a little alone time with a good book.

But when tough situations get tougher, don’t be afraid to ask for help. We all need it from time to time.

For more tips on self care for teens and mental health treatment, visit Visions Treatment Centers.

Adolescence Communication Feelings Mental Health Parenting

Supporting LGBTQ Teen Mental Health

LGBTQ youth (teens who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning/queer) are far more likely to experience victimization because of their identity, are far more likely to struggle with symptoms of mental illness, and are far more likely to resort to self-harm and suicide. With all of these variables at play, it’s essential to support LGBTQ teen mental health to provide help, empowerment, and growth.

These statistics are not inherent to being queer, but they are often a side effect of identifying as part of the LGBTQ community or living under circumstances that force repression and self-hatred. Getting help can be difficult, especially when teens worry about or fear the repercussions of coming out as LGBTQ or struggle with acknowledging their identity.

Acceptance goes a long way. Mental health rates and suicide have gone down among gay and lesbian teens, although they are still above the rates for their straight peers. In the same vein, suicide rates remained highest among trans teens, especially in the wake of a rise in violence against LGBTQ youth and continued attacks on LGBTQ groups – especially trans individuals – in both media and politics in America.

Helping your LGBTQ teen get the support they need to lead a fulfilling and happy life can be difficult, but it can be done. The resources are there, and the communities exist, both locally and online. You are not alone, whether as a teen or as a parent.

Beware of Conversion Schemes

Seeking help is an important part of getting better, whether you initiate it with your teen or through your teen’s own research. But with the desperation of wanting treatment comes the vulnerability that leads thousands of teens and parents into the trap of conversion therapy.

Regardless of your personal beliefs, research shows that conversion therapy is unethical and harmful to children and teens. It does not work and only causes lasting psychological trauma as a result. It is under no circumstances a form of “therapy” to begin with, and it is, with good reason, banned in 19 different states and jurisdictions.

Finding a Therapist with Knowledge of LGBTQ Teen Mental Health

The best thing you can do for your teen’s well-being, and to help your teen cope with the growing mental stressors associated with coming out as an LGBTQ+ individual, is to accept them as they are and, if they are struggling with their mental health, find a professional therapist or psychiatrist who has a history of advocating for the LGBTQ+ community, LGBTQ+ teens, and/or LGBTQ teen mental health.

A therapist with a personal history and knowledge of the different struggles that LGBTQ teens go through today may be able to have more success in helping your teen find treatment than someone with no experience with LGBTQ.

Just as personal representation in media can make a difference for many teens and adults who feel invisible in a heteronormative culture, working with a mental health professional who has personal experiences in the LGBTQ community to draw on or can better relate to your teen professionally through their LGBTQ identity may be a better fit for them.

Comfort is important when choosing your therapist. A gay man or a trans woman may have a better idea of what it is like to be in your teen’s shoes, in addition to their professional training and academic experience as psychologists and therapists, to help identify valid treatment options, root out local resources, and help cope with individual stressors.

How You Can Help Your Teen

There are countless ways in which parents contribute to their teens’ well-being, knowingly and unknowingly.

While professional treatment is important, especially in the event of self-harm, suicidal episodes, or debilitating mental health symptoms, parents should never underestimate the significance of their influence and supportive parenting, nor should they lose sight of how their actions and behaviors continue to shape their teens’ lives. Here are a few things you could do or are doing that can continue to help your teen with their mental health.

  • Let your teen know they’re loved unconditionally.
  • Talk to them and hear them out. Listen to their thoughts and words.
  • Spend time getting to know their interests a little better. Spending time with your teen and showing interest in what they like can help them feel more comfortable talking to you about other things, and helps them understand that you aren’t out to judge them as many others might be.
  • Review your misconceptions. Well-meaning intentions may lead to ideas and sayings that are actively hurting your teen. For example, don’t shrug off their identity or their mental health issues as “just a phase.” Learning more about gender identities and sexual orientation can help you relate to your teen and avoid alienating them.
  • Advocate at school. Not all schools have LGBTQ+ ally groups or LGBTQ-friendly student bodies, but all schools have LGBTQ teens. Talk to teachers and parents about organizing queer-straight alliance organizations to help LGBTQ teens in your community feel welcome, and to reduce victimization.
  • Talk to the teachers. Teachers can be a good source of information about what’s going on at school. Your teen might not always be forthcoming about what’s going on at school, especially if they’re being hurt or bullied. They may blame themselves or feel ashamed.
  • Get into therapy together. If your teen is struggling with depression or anxious thoughts or has a history of self-harm, then getting help can be daunting. Mental illness, in particular, has a way of feeding on self-doubt and shame, and many teens who know they need help may be reluctant to get it. Encourage them by making an appointment together and tagging along the first few times. Alternatively, look into remote online therapy as an option, to begin with.
  • Give them privacy. Being there for your teen is important, but there’s a difference between being aware of what’s going on in their lives and spying without their consent. If you try to monitor all of your teen’s online activities, for example, they’re just more likely to go to greater lengths to establish secret accounts or carve out some other niche of privacy and foster resentment. The best way to keep your teen from keeping too many secrets from you is to ensure they know you’re always available to talk to and are willing to listen.

LGBTQ Teen Mental Health Services at Visions

Being a parent is hard, and it can be harder yet when your teen is struggling with depressive or anxious thoughts. LGBTQ+ teens are just like any other teen but are much more at-risk for mental health issues, often as an indirect result of their identity. Helping them protect themselves, know they are loved, develop stronger self-esteem, and feel proud in their own skin can go a long way towards helping them feel better.

If you or a loved one is seeking additional information on LGBTQ teen mental health, reach out to us. At Visions Treatment Centers, we offer unique mental health programming for LGBTQ+ teens, addressing many issues often found in the LGBTQ+ community.

Exit mobile version