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. 

Marijuana Parenting

Is CBD for Teens Safe?

We’ve all heard of CBD, which has grown quite popular amongst adults. But what is it? Is CBD for teens safe? And how is it different from marijuana substance use?

While only one CBD product is medically prescribed under very few circumstances – two rare forms of childhood epilepsy called Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome – they have seen a multitude of off-label uses over the last few years, and CBD products have hit the shelves advertising a vast number of potential benefits, from performance-enhancement to soothing anxiety, improving mood, and even managing symptoms of autism.

What is Cannabidiol (CBD)?

At its core, CBD (cannabidiol) is a hemp- or marijuana-derived cannabinoid. Cannabinoids are a class of substances that bind to cannabinoid receptors in the brain, sharing a similar chemical makeup to some of our own neurotransmitters. Cannabinoid receptors are a feature of the nervous system in most animals.

As a result, cannabinoids can affect the brain – and body – in different ways. Unlike other similar plant-derived compounds such as opium, cocaine, or even caffeine, CBD is not considered “psychoactive,” meaning it does not cause an altered state of mind or induce a sense of euphoria.

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)

THC, another cannabinoid, is responsible for the “high” that marijuana use induces. Some hemp plants are also primarily designed and genetically altered to reduce or eliminate the production of THC while retaining CBD. When CBD is extracted from a low-THC plant, it may still contain traces of THC. This is primarily the difference between isolate CBD (separated from other phytocannabinoids) and full-spectrum CBD (potential for low amounts of THC).

CBD in Foods and Supplements

Marketing CBD in a supplement or foodstuff is still illegal in the United States. Nevertheless, CBD products are becoming popular, especially online. Because the supplement market is not regulated as strictly as the pharmaceutical market, the only truly isolated CBD product is prescribed CBD or Epidiolex.

Other sources of CBD may be marketed as virtually THC-free on the Internet, but you would need to check with a lab to verify this.

Prescription CBD for Children

As a prescription drug, CBD’s current FDA-approved usage is primarily for children.

But that does not mean CBD for teens or adults is safe to use under most circumstances, especially because many CBD products retain the risk of containing low amounts of THC. But is that even a danger in and of itself? Here’s what we know.

How Does CBD Affect Teens?

In its purest form, CBD is a compound that interacts with similar receptors in the brain as THC, albeit very differently. While more research is being funded on the topic, the exact mechanism of action for CBD’s neurological effects is still unknown. Furthermore, the quality of the research behind CBD is often poor or leads to inconclusive results.

Some studies indicate that using CBD for teens with autism has a positive effect on reducing symptoms of anxiety, improving behavior and calmness, and dealing with symptoms of psychosis in individuals with schizophrenia.

FDA and Off-Label Use

But while FDA approval was reached for the use of CBD for rare forms of epilepsy, the FDA does not recommend any other off-label use for the drug, and there isn’t enough concrete evidence to support the idea that the use of CBD is beneficial in any significant way. Marketing hype, internet influencers, and online anecdotes remain the core of what drives CBD’s popularity.

Medical Supervision and CBD

That may not be enough to completely dismiss CBD’s usage for some. If you are interested in trying CBD yourself or as a potential anti-anxiety alternative for a loved one, it is important to try it under the supervision of a trusted physician.

In addition to helping you locate a higher-quality source of isolated CBD, a medical professional would also be able to guide you on dosage and advise against the use of CBD in conjunction with competing medication due to potential liver toxicity. Contraindicative medication aside, however, the side effects and short-term risks of CBD use are low.

On the other hand, the long-term risks of CBD for teens and adults remain unknown.

How is CBD Sold?

Outside of prescription medication, CBD is mostly sold in the form of an additive to baked goods and beverages or in the form of oil, candy, or transdermal patches.

CBD in foodstuff can be dangerous because it is virtually impossible to tell how much you are receiving in any given portion, and because CBD partially reconverts to THC under high heat.

Oil capsules, gummies, and transdermal patches provide a more accurate dosage, with patches providing the most consistent long-term delivery via the skin. However, the efficacy of any given CBD product lies entirely in how accurate the dosage is and the quality of the CBD, down to the level to which it is isolated from THC and other cannabinoids. Without proper regulation, you are left to make a choice on your own judgment.

Is CBD for Teens as Dangerous as Marijuana?

To use a different example – cocaine is a highly addictive, highly dangerous, and illegal drug. Most people know that cocaine is dangerous, and it has developed a deserved reputation as a party drug.

Did you also know that cocaine is primarily derived from a plant? And that millions of people consume part of this plant every day? To this day, decocainized coca plants continue to play an elemental role in the production of one of the world’s most popular products: Coca-Cola.

While Coca-Cola would famously contain a few grams of cocaine per bottle in years past, the modern-day incarnation of the drink still contains an extract from the same plant that cocaine is made from.

Without its addictive alkaline, the coca leaf is not dangerous. Nevertheless, decocainized coca leaf extract production is highly regulated, and only one company in the world supplies the multinational Coca-Cola company with the ingredient it uses in its soda. The other crucial ingredient is the kola nut, which provides the drink with its only psychoactive compound: caffeine.

Similarly, research shows that hemp has its benefits once you eliminate the psychoactive THC.

But is it also harmless? Truth be told, the jury is still out on that subject.

Marijuana is Still Illegal

Marijuana continues to be a federally scheduled drug, and it is still illegal in most parts of the United States and has been since 1970. This means that while much progress has been made in researching THC and CBD in recent years, it’s still difficult to secure funding for proper studies, which means there is a lot we don’t know about the long-term uses of marijuana-based products, especially cannabinoids like CBD.

While a decocainized coca leaf no longer carries any cocaine, cannabinoids like CBD do interact with the brain, mimicking some of our own neurotransmitters, which is why it sees potential as an anti-anxiety and anti-epileptic compound.

Do Your Research

At the end of the day, teens and parents alike should beware that CBD research is still relatively in its infancy, and off-label uses for CBD – whether to treat anxiety, autism, or acne – should be seen as early evidence at best rather than concrete proof. More time is needed to learn about CBD’s potential, its mechanism of action, as well as its side effects – especially in younger teens.

If you have questions about CBD for teens, always reach out to a trusted medical professional.

For more information about teen mental health disorders, visit Visions Treatment Centers.

Parenting Treatment

Entering Your Teenager in Residential Treatment

Is your teenager vehemently against the idea of getting professional help, despite the fact that they need it? Are you out of ideas on how to get them into a residential treatment program or convince them to go see a therapist?

Depending on how your teen is acting, what their misconceptions might be, what they’re afraid of, and what they’re diagnosed with, you may have a few different ways of dealing with the hand you’ve been dealt.

What Kind of Help Does Your Teen Need?

Always look out for your child, but if your teen is worried about being sent to an inpatient facility because they feel like residential treatment or rehab is overkill, consider compromising by asking them to talk to a therapist first or engage in an outpatient program.

Sometimes, getting a foot in the door is what matters most. Once your teen is in treatment, they may reconsider a residential program as they develop a better idea of what treatment is all about and what it might entail.

Is Your Teen Worried About Treatment?

A teenager who might need professional help are anxious about receiving it. There are a number of things a teen might be worried about, even if they’re outwardly aggressive or dismissive about getting help.

For example, your teen might not want to get treatment because it might mean taking an extended break from seeing their friends and peers. Maybe they’re worried they’ll have to break up with their partner. Maybe they don’t want to feel left behind or discriminated against for being “crazy.” Or maybe they’re angry about feeling like a burden and feel like getting help will only cement that feeling.

Mental health treatments aren’t a sham or a trick – your teen stands to gain everything and lose nothing. But they have to see that.

Convincing Your Teen

Talk to your teen, over and over again. Probe them, and be sincere. What are they worried about? Why don’t they want to consider treatment? If they believe it won’t help them, then talk to them about the evidence to the contrary. They aren’t alone with their condition, and chances are that it’s treatable – if addressed early, with individual therapy, medication, and specific mental health modalities.

If they’re worried about the consequences treatment might have for their life in school or in the community, talk to them about weighing the pros and the cons. Should they stay beholden to the opinion of a few other kids and let their mental and physical health suffer as a result? Are their friends really friends if they refuse to support them or want to judge them for their mental health? Can they really trust and rely on their boyfriend or girlfriend if getting help for a serious condition is a dealbreaker?

Avoid labels, dramatic arguments, or heavy-handed threats, like a life of crime or destitution. Your teen needs to understand that this isn’t a punishment or a burden – it’s a chance at a better life, an opportunity.

It’s Not Punishment

It can be difficult to get through to a teenager if they’ve made up their mind about something, especially as a parent. While teens do generally follow in their parent’s footsteps, they’re also at an age where confrontation and contradiction are normal.

However, they might be more likely to listen to someone else. Consider talking to a therapist or professional counselor about setting up a meeting or an intervention to educate your teen on their options and convince them.

Can You Force a Teenager?

When you’re sure you have done absolutely everything in your power to try and get through to your teen on the topic of therapy and treatment, it’s time to think the unthinkable – what about getting them the help they need without their immediate consent?

It’s important to point out that this doesn’t always work out, but sometimes, you aren’t left with much choice. Some mental health conditions make seeking help nearly impossible without a significant “push” – for example, certain conduct disorders and personality disorders are dependent on denying illness, denying treatment, denying culpability, and aggressively – and sometimes even violently – confronting authority.

Considering Other Options for Treatment

Dealing with a teenager who will vehemently fight back against the idea of treatment with no room for compromise may warrant considering other options. If your teen is underaged, then you technically can consent for them, depending on your state of residence. Be sure to ask a legal professional or find out through your state’s updated legislature if minors can consent to mental health treatment – or, respectively, consent to avoid treatment.

If you are legally in control, then you can arrange for your teen to be transported to a residential treatment facility against their will. Again, this isn’t ideal, and there are many case-by-case circumstances and factors that need to be discussed with both a professional therapist and your teen before resorting to any drastic measures.

Once your teen turns 18, they are an adult, and you can’t really make them do anything, especially go to therapy or seek out treatment on their own.

Limited Privileges

You do have other means of coercing your child, such as cutting them off from certain privileges. You can’t kick a minor out of your home, but you can cut off access to their phone, car, or allowance and limit their time with friends. Again, burning bridges with your teen can be hard to undo – but it’s also important to clarify that certain behavior will reap certain consequences and that those consequences are serious.

Teen Residential Treatment Centers Can Help

If your teen is not struggling with a conduct disorder or a personality disorder, then chances are that they will eventually see reason, especially if you work with a mental health professional to help them understand the difference between the reality of residential treatment and the stereotype of mental health boot camps or psychiatric facilities.

You’re not sending your child into a Hollywood horror asylum – most residential treatment facilities focus on providing high-quality amenities for rest and relaxation and are staffed with medical professionals who will cater to your teen’s well-being and education.

For more information about residential treatment for teen mental health, reach out to Visions Treatment Centers.

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.

Communication Feelings Parenting

How to Talk to Teenagers for a Better Relationship

It’s no surprise that books on teen behavior sell millions – while we’ve all been teens at one point or another, it’s very difficult for an adult to remember what it was like, and it’s even more difficult to try and empathize with another person’s teenage behavior or mental health problems, even when they’re your child. For example, learning how to talk to teenagers to develop an awesome relationship can be unique and pose its own challenges for every situation.

How to Talk to Teenagers for a Great Relationship

If you struggle to communicate with your teen and are finding that it’s affecting your relationship, it’s time to take a step back and analyze how you approach conversations with your teen and where your inadvertent priorities lie.

1. Don’t Be a Judge, Be a Listener

Sometimes, all your teen needs is a sounding board – someone to talk to who will listen without trying to address every issue or step in with unwanted advice. This is even more important if your first reaction to your teen telling you anything is to figure out what kind of judgment you should make as a result of their experience.

If you tend to scold your teen more than anything else, don’t be surprised if they eventually stop telling you what they’re really doing and start trying to hide things.

It doesn’t matter if what your teen did was wrong – most of the time, your teen knows that. It matters more to understand why they did it and talk to them about that. Be there as your teen’s champion, your teen’s coach, your teen’s guidance – not another reflection of the world around them enumerating all the things they’ve messed up in the last week or two.

2. Don’t Try to “Fix” Their Problems, Because You Can’t

At least, not all the time. The crux of this piece of advice is not to treat every question or encounter with your teen as an opportunity to deliver a straight answer.

For example, if a teen is having trouble with their friend, avoid giving specific advice or telling them what you’d do. Let them figure out what they should do – and provide guiding principles to help them make the right choice.

Similarly, when your teen misbehaves, ask questions. What were they thinking? Did they have a plan? What do they want? As parents, it’s impossible sometimes to control certain frustrations and avoid lashing out with accusations or condemnation. But whenever possible, use the situation to help your teen navigate their problems themselves.

3. Provide Guidance

It’s a popular sentiment that teens continuously pull away from their parents on the way to adulthood, but while that is true, it’s often paired with the misconception that parents become a waning influence on the health, well-being, and personality of their children.

Teens are absolutely shaped by their parents more than any other individual at that point in their life, provided their parents are around to shape them – much more so than their peers or teachers. In fact, contrary to popular belief, it’s usually a teen’s parent-child relationship that affects who they choose as their peers, and it tends to be the greatest influence on their overall mental health and likelihood to struggle at school or with substance or drug use.

Your teens will continue to mirror your attitudes and behaviors whether they realize it or not and will be reliant on you as their main role models until they leave home. That’s a significant portion of most people’s teen years as well as their young adulthood, especially as the economy worsens and more young adults opt to live with their parents.

All this is to say that no matter how it might feel at any given point, remember that what you say, do, and think as a parent will continue to impact your teen substantially, even as they become increasingly independent.

4. Manage Your Emotions

A lot of teens thrive on eliciting conflict. It’s not really something they do on purpose – teens are just generally getting accustomed to managing their emotions and, as such, are quick to resort to the dramatic. That means yelling, screaming, “I hate you!” and running away at the first sign of confrontation.

The worst thing you can do as a parent is give in to your inner frustrations and start scolding them or lobbing insults and yells of your own. Always, always, try to keep your cool.

Again, we’ve mentioned that we aren’t robots, and frustrations can seep through sometimes. But as much as possible, you need to emphasize rising above as a parent in order to provide proper guidance and set an example of emotional maturity. Show your teen that, while it’s healthy to let loose and blow off steam sometimes, it’s never appropriate to deal with a situation – especially a problem – by venting emotionally, especially towards other people.

5. Don’t Press the Issue, A Stone Won’t Bleed

As much as it pains a lot of parents to hear this sometimes, timing is quite important. Your teen won’t be open to a conversation all the time, and you can’t always press the issue just because you demand it. Your authority isn’t absolute anymore, especially when a teen feels quite strongly about something.

All you achieve by pushing when it’s no longer time to push is a much more antagonistic teen and an increasingly frustrated mindset.

This circles back to why it’s important to treat teens as individuals. They’re at a point where their development necessitates boundaries, privacy, and the ability to make choices that matter. Teaching them that also means understanding that there will be times when they draw these boundaries against you, and you need to give them some time to calm down.

6. Don’t Escalate

This last piece of advice can be very simple and very powerful. When your teen disagrees or responds aggressively, don’t immediately match their tone. Parents sometimes think the best way to respond to a teen with aggression is by displaying that aggression back towards them, but more often than not, this just seesaws into a screaming match.

Instead, try to take a pause. A moment of silence can mean a lot more than a loud yell. Sometimes, frustrated teens – whether it’s school stress, relationship problems, or even just simple hunger – can respond to questions like “have you done the dishes yet?” or demands like “take out the garbage, like you were told twice today” with venom.

But if you give them a moment to reconsider what they’ve said with a simple, stern look, you may be surprised how often you’ll get a begrudged “okay, fine.” In moments like that, a win is a win, and it’s better than taking on their energy and spewing it back at them to no avail.

Practice Talking to Your Teen Today

Talking to teens isn’t easy. The context of any given moment, the million things on your teen’s mind, the way their emotions are at play at that given moment, and their individual personalities can make each and every conversation a minefield of its own.

Learning to deal with that takes time, patience, and a keen mind to understand how your teen tends to think and work. But it’s worth it. Becoming a better listener and developing a healthier verbal relationship with your teen can be a good predictor for positive outcomes in life, including better academic achievements and mental health.

For more information on teen mental health and treatment, visit Visions Treatment Centers.

Mental Health Parenting Therapy

Can a Teenager Refuse Mental Health Treatment?

Can a teenager refuse mental health treatment?

It’s an important question many parents ask themselves when faced with a teen who refuses to get help for their worsening mental health symptoms. The answer is that it depends. For the most part, minors cannot refuse care – but some states do insist that mental healthcare providers need a minor’s consent to continue treatment. And most therapists and psychiatrists will not work with a teen if they are not interested in seeking help, unless their care has been court-appointed.

If your teen is an adult – meaning, 18 or older – then there’s nothing you can do to force them to seek treatment. The most you can do with a teen under the age of 18 is force them to show up to the therapist’s office – but without their consent and willing participation, the whole exercise can feel a little pointless. And remember, depending on the state you live in, you may not be able to force your teen into any kind of mental health treatment without their consent.

An inpatient program can help, a little bit. You can make your minor go to rehab, but it’ll likely damage your relationship with them if it isn’t something they ever agreed to, and it can take a lot of time for them to begin opening up to the lessons they will potentially learn while in recovery. This can be a very expensive mistake.

What Should I Do If a Teen Refuses Treatment?

Depending on your teen’s condition, they may be interned in a psychiatric hospital or may be forced to go to rehab against their will. Psychiatric hospitalization is a short-term treatment plan utilized in cases where people suffer from an acute episode of self-harm, suicide, psychosis, or other mental health conditions that cause harm to themselves or others around them.

After psychiatric hospitalization, a person is often referred to an inpatient program or an intensive outpatient program, such as a partial hospitalization program, to transition back to living at home. All in all, it can take multiple weeks for them to return home and feel better.

In some cases, a court might force someone to go into rehab for their condition. Court-mandated or court-ordered rehab is only imposed in cases where people committed a crime in connection to their drug use. If your teen went on a drinking spree and drove drunk, endangering others, they may choose to go to rehab instead of facing jail time.

But if you’re aware of your teen’s condition and its worsening symptoms, you will want to fight as hard as you can to make sure it doesn’t have to come to that. You can work with a therapist to convince your teen that getting help is the best thing for them to do right now.

Should I Even Force Mental Health Treatment on My Teen?

It’s rare for your only option to be to force your teen into treatment, whether it’s a therapist’s office or an inpatient facility for drug use. You may still have options in between.

The most obvious downside to seeking forced treatment is that your teen doesn’t want it. This means they won’t be receptive to treatment. They won’t trust their treatment providers, be dismissive towards therapists and other treatment specialists and professionals, and have a harder time benefiting from treatment in any possible way.

It’s hard enough as it is to successfully seek help for conditions like depressiondrug addiction, and anxiety and come out the other end with improved symptoms and a better quality of life. It’s much harder when you start off vehemently against the idea of getting help. However, you may have other options.

Talking to a Professional About Interventions

Interventions are basically confrontations between loved ones or family members with the goal of convincing the target person to seek the help they need. Interventions might feel famously cliché, but when done right, they can break through to a person and make them realize that getting treatment really is the best thing for them and what they need to do right now.

Teens may be becoming adults, but they’re still ultimately children, and they may be your children. Mental health symptoms can be scary and make the world a more terrifying place to be in. Seeking help might be something they’ve been conditioned to avoid or not accept, and helping them remember or learn that it’s okay to be helped can open them up to finally seeking care.

It’s important to talk from the heart here, but it’s also important to stick to the framework your therapist provides. It’s easy for interventions to break down into arguments, and that will not be conducive to your goal.

Try To “Sell” Your Teen on Mental Health Treatment

Your teen might have all manner of misconceptions about what treatment really means. Maybe they’re worried about having to take medications and being forced to endure all manner of side effects. Maybe they’ve heard horror stories about bad therapists and poor experiences in rehab centers. It’s important to talk to them about their treatment expectations and find out what it is they’re specifically worried about.

Most teens who struggle with anxiety or depression to a debilitating degree are aware of the fact that they’re different and that they might have trouble with things other people don’t.

Talk to your teen about treatment and what it might mean for them. If your teen feels like committing to treatment ignores all the problems they’re facing at home, consider making a commitment for them. Talk to a therapist about family therapy or group therapy. Take notes and apply what you learn in therapy at home together.

However, some conditions are harder to seek care for. For teens with schizophrenia, it might be hard to convince them to get help if they’re currently experiencing a psychotic break or have been more paranoid than usual.

Some personality disorders also feature paranoia as a primary symptom, which can make it harder to get treatment. Other conditions, like narcissistic personality disorder, may become violent or irritable if you imply that they need help. It may be in your best interest to talk to a therapist about approaching your teen with these conditions.

Commit To Mental Wellness at Home Together

One of the reasons group therapy is helpful to many people is because it helps remind them that they are not alone, and that they are not the only people who need help, or who are getting help. It also allows people to forge new friendships with others who have shared their experiences and have a unique insight into what it might be like to live with certain conditions.

If you and your teen both similarly struggle with certain symptoms, getting help together can not only improve your mental health but strengthen your bond as parent and child.

It’s not easy to convince someone who doesn’t think they need help that they should reach out for it. But if you reach out together, it might feel a little easier.

Communication Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) Parenting

Talking About OCD with Your Teen

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) affects approximately 500,000 children and teens in the US. While it is a well-known condition, OCD is frequently misunderstood and more common than most people expect. However, talking about OCD with your teen can encourage open conversation, help you and your teen recognize symptoms, and find appropriate treatment.

At its core, OCD is an anxiety disorder. Like social phobia or generalized anxiety, it centers around the physical and mental symptoms of fear and worry. However, it functions differently from those disorders. OCD is a recursive condition defined by two major characteristics: unwanted and overpowering obsessions and ritualistic, soothing compulsions.

These characteristics feed one another and keep the cycle going. When an obsession is ignored, the anxiety and discomfort around it grow exponentially until a compulsion is used to soothe it. However, this ineffective coping mechanism usually leads to the next obsession in due time. Alternatively, certain environmental triggers – from stress to timing – can trigger an obsession.

Children and teens with OCD may not necessarily know or understand that they’re struggling with something most people don’t struggle with. But the obstacles OCD can throw into schoolwork and home life can further feed the anxieties, frustrations, and depressive thoughts that may plague your child.

In teens who do know what OCD is and suspect they may have OCD, it becomes common to try and ignore or avoid the issue to dodge the stigma surrounding mental illness. Making sure your teen feels comfortable enough to talk about their anxieties, and seek treatment, is important. Here’s what you should know when talking about OCD with your teen.

Learn More

OCD is a complex disorder and not one to be lightly diagnosed. If you suspect that your teen or loved one might be struggling with OCD, especially if it runs in the family, it may be worth taking note of your teen’s behavior and speaking to a specialist first.

Learning more about OCD can help you talk to your teen about how they’ve been feeling and how they’ve been coping. Learn more about the different obsessions teens can struggle with and the many different ways in which compulsions develop.

OCD symptoms can even appear in the least likely of places, such as your teen’s gaming habits. There’s a difference between a quirky habit and a ritualistic devotion to certain daily practices.

If or once your teen is diagnosed, taking the time to learn more about OCD and how it is treated can help give both you and your child a better perspective of what’s to come and what to expect.

Dealing with Treatment Refusal

People are not often enthusiastic about being encouraged to see a therapist or mental health professional. We do ultimately still associate mental health disorders with personal failings, despite the fact that they are not related.

It is crucial to ensure that your teen understands where you are coming from as a parent, in the sense that you want them to have a chance at their best life, rather than center on the idea that something is fundamentally wrong with them. We don’t blame people for having a bad knee or for suddenly receiving a cancer diagnosis. We can’t blame anyone for having OCD. But we can do something about it together.

Recognize Your Role

It can be hard to admit that we may contribute to our teen’s compulsions and behavior, but even inadvertent involvement can negatively affect your teen’s perception of their own condition, being misinterpreted as tacit approval or a sign that things are fine.

This can come in many unexpected ways, such as providing excessive reassurance (feeding the proverbial feedback loop of OCD) or inadvertently participating in ritualized behavior, such as nighttime rituals your teen can’t sleep without.

If you find yourself involved in your teen’s compulsions, it’s best to see a professional yourself and bring it up. They can guide you through a context-sensitive way to help your teen and introduce better coping mechanisms.

Champion Transparency and Honesty

This can be difficult for some parents. It may sound counterproductive to give your teen more space when you want to have a greater effect on them. But sometimes, pulling away is the best way to get your teen to come to you.

To truly help your teen, you ultimately need their full trust and their total honesty. That comes from showing your teen, time and time again, that you trust them, too, and that your love and affection towards them is entirely unconditional, no matter what they think or feel.

Begin by respecting both their privacy and their right to a non-judgmental home environment. Snooping is an effective way to figure out what your teen is doing, but it’s an even better way to break their trust.

You want to make sure that you foster an environment where your teen feels that they are being increasingly treated like an independent adult – while still being your child and your loved one. Then, talk to them in earnest. Be honest about your own experiences. Relate to what they feel, whether it’s anxiety about school or your own experiences with depression and stress.

When you can’t relate, be empathetic. Ask them what they want to do. Start talking about OCD with them. Talk to them about getting help. Offer to bring them to a therapist the next day.

Support Their Treatment

Conditions like OCD are difficult to treat and difficult to live with. They can be a lifelong obstacle, requiring continued treatment and varied coping skills to make do. But when a person’s loved one is diagnosed with these conditions, it poses a unique challenge.

Standing on the sidelines is difficult because your influence on your teen’s condition is, while important, ultimately limited. It is a battle you cannot fight for them. The most you can do is be in their corner, always.

At times you will be their cheerleader. At times you will be their caretaker. But with patience, compassion, and the right help, you will also have many, many times where you will feel nothing but pride and joy for how your teen has overcome their challenges and continued to lead a good life in spite of them.

OCD Treatment for Teens at Visions

If talking about OCD with your child isn’t enough, contact us at Visions Treatment Centers. We can provide the tools and best OCD treatment approach to help your teen get back on track.

Addiction Marijuana Parenting Smoking Substance Abuse

Understanding Teen Marijuana Use and its Effects

From its depiction in pop culture to worldwide discussions surrounding decriminalization and legalization, marijuana use has been a central point of discussion in both policy and household arguments for generations. Yet the question remains in the minds of many – is it dangerous? And if so, how dangerous? Furthermore, what about teen marijuana use and its effects on adolescents?

While it is still a Schedule I drug, marijuana cannot quite be compared in the same vein as heroin or cocaine. Years of research have shown us that it is impossible to overdose on a drug like pot, and statistically speaking, it does not have the addictive potential of “harder” illicit substances. For comparison’s sake, marijuana is still named in the same breath as ecstasy and LSD, while schedule 2 drugs include cocaine, meth, and Ritalin.

But that does not make it a harmless substance, nor does it relegate marijuana to the likes of nutritional supplements or minor over-the-counter medication. Marijuana has a psychoactive effect on the brain, can be linked to cases of addiction, and can have long-term consequences for heavy or chronic use, especially in teens, who are more prone to the effects of mind-altering substances.

Is Marijuana Dangerous for Teens?

Marijuana, pot, or cannabis, is a drug derived from the cannabis plant, usually split into two major variants: Sativa and Indica.

Marijuana Strains

There are countless different popular strains of marijuana, each of which features different concentrations of CBD and THC, two of the main chemical components that give marijuana its mind-altering properties. In general, THC is considered the “active ingredient” in marijuana, while isolated CBD lacks the components needed to create a “high.”

Marijuana today is more potent, meaning it has a higher concentration of THC than in previous decades. This makes the drug more powerful, but grown, and harvested marijuana is still limited in its effects on the human brain.

Side Effects of Teen Marijuana Use

We do not know if marijuana use, even at a high level, leaves a permanent mark on the brain the same way alcohol, meth, or cocaine does.

Overall Long-Term Effects

But we do know that both the short-term and long-term consequences of THC in early adulthood and adolescent years include short-term memory loss, negative impact on cognition and coordination, poor time perception, and lowered attention.

In other words, even by the most conservative estimates, marijuana use affects a teen’s ability to do well at school by interfering with their memory and capacity for problem-solving.

Risk-Taking and Lowered Inhibition

Because marijuana is a psychoactive drug, it also affects risk-taking attitudes and natural inhibition, meaning that people who use marijuana are more likely to get into risky situations, accidents, and engage in unprotected sex, which makes the transmission of STDs more likely.

Teen Marijuana Use and Driving

The effects of marijuana on driving are less apparent. Studies that do point towards a greater likelihood of impairment show low to moderate effect sizes. Marijuana may increase reaction times (i.e., it takes longer for you to react to something on the road) and increase lane weaving, but also improve following distance. One way or another, it’s still clear that any and all mind-altering substances, from alcohol to pot to an inordinate amount of caffeine, increase the risk of a crash on the road.

Lack of Focus in School

If your teen is using pot, at the very best, it may be affecting their ability to focus on school and retain information learned between lessons – even if they aren’t using the drug on school premises. The CDC notes that adolescent marijuana use can also affect the development of the brain in negative ways, affecting teens later in adulthood.

Mental Health and Teen Marijuana Use

At the very worst, high levels of marijuana use may be a sign of something worse – such as self-medication for anxiety issues, or an emotional crutch, repressing their actual, urgent mental health problems.

Some studies also indicate that teens with a family history of schizophrenia and other acute psychotic mental health issues are more likely to experience an episode of psychosis if they use marijuana frequently. If your teen is often high, there may be more going on than just some light experimenting between friends.

Is Teen Marijuana Use Increasing?

While drug use has dropped significantly across nearly all substances among children and adolescents, the two major exceptions are vaping and marijuana.

At least part of the reason for this growth in use comes from the increased acceptance of marijuana as a recreational drug as a whole. However, it’s clear to most adults that there is a distinction between considering legalization and making pot available to teens.

Many teens might not be considering the dangers of pot use at their age because they aren’t aware that marijuana can affect developing brains differently than fully-developed brains, or they might not consider that the long-term consequences of pot use during school time might affect their ability to finish school and launch into their work lives.

As of about 2019, more than one in three high school students in the US has tried marijuana, and one in five has used the drug as recently as last month (when surveyed). Mental distress from increased anxiety, victimization, or identifying as LGBTQ+ (and the stress that accompanies an undisclosed or unaccepted gender identity) was also linked to increased rates of marijuana use, highlighting the danger of marijuana as a common maladaptive coping mechanism for teens in need of effective mental health resources.

Recognizing Teen Marijuana Use

Some of the signs of teen marijuana use are classic and obvious, including its distinctive smell and common bloodshot eyes.

Sudden or strange changes in personality or behavior, including increased irritability and memory troubles, as well as a sharp increase in appetite, are also linked to marijuana use. Keep an eye out for common drug paraphernalia, including papers (to roll and smoke), loose tobacco, glass pipes, and the drug itself.

What Should I Do?

Talk to your teen. They might not consider marijuana use particularly harmful, but just because the drug has been extremely vilified with false claims in past decades does not mean it is a good or healthy idea to smoke weed as a teen. Impaired memory and decision-making aside, pot smoking has a definite effect on lung health.

Be upfront about the effects of marijuana based on modern, impartial research, so your teen cannot refute your claims. Make sure they know that your concern stems from a concern for their emotional and physical well-being, and let them know that they can be open with you about the thoughts and worries that might be plaguing them and driving them to use marijuana more often these days.

In cases of constant use, consider speaking with a mental health professional or a therapist about a drug intervention or a treatment for marijuana use disorder in teens who can’t stop or refuse to stop using weed. Marijuana use disorder does occur and can be treated with a professional treatment plan.

Treatment for Teen Marijuana Use at Visions

For more information about treatment for teen marijuana use, give us a call at Visions Treatment Centers.

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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.

Communication Mental Health Parenting

5 Ways to Scope Out Your Teens Mental Health Status

Maybe they’re not eating as much as they used to. Maybe the enthusiasm in their voice has disappeared. Or maybe, they just seem different, and it’s got you a little bit worried. But you’re not sure how to approach the topic, or even how to scope out your teen’s mental health status. Asking them about it, you get little more than a grunt, a deflection, or an unconvincing “I’m fine.” Are they? You can’t tell.

Scoping out a teen’s thoughts and emotions isn’t easy. While we’ve all been teens at some point, it’s often pretty difficult to put yourself in the shoes of your child. Teens, after all, think a bit differently than adults tend to.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t probe them the right way. Even if your teen really is fine, it’s still a good idea to ask them about their mental health from time to time. But how?

Ask the Right Questions

Open-ended questions get you unsatisfying answers. The right questions can get you a little closer to the truth. If you want to figure out how your teen is doing, you need to evoke the kind of responses that give you better context clues as to how they feel.

It’s not enough to use a lead-in sentence. Saying: “I’ve noticed you haven’t been eating well lately, are you okay?” might net you an “I’m fine” or an irritated “I’m just not hungry.” Instead of “are you okay?”, ask: “What’s bothering you? You seem distracted, and your head’s been all over the place lately.” If your teen is acting much more scatterbrained than usual, it’s something they probably can’t deny. Alternatively, try:

  • “When was the last time you spent some time with your girl/boyfriend?”
  • “When was the last time you hung out with your friends?”
  • “Did you have a bad day? Wanna talk about it? Tell me what happened.”

It’s Not Always About Solutions

If and when your teen does start talking about the way they feel, don’t take it as an open invitation to offer nothing but solutions.

Sometimes, a helpful solution can be just what the doctor ordered. A nice piece of advice forged by insightful experiences. But a canned response, or a clichéd statement, is more likely to push your teen away than get them to continue talking to you.

If your teen is feeling anxious about something, it’s not exactly helpful to tell them to take it easy or that they’ll be fine. They want you to hear them, to validate how they’re feeling, to share your own experiences of being scared, of being anxious, and of overcoming that feeling.

Take them seriously. Listen to what they have to say. Don’t try to offer up a solution right away, especially if you don’t know exactly how your teen is feeling.

Notice the Red Flags

The common stereotype is that teens are unruly and emotional, so it’s hard to differentiate between a normal mood swing and a mental health issue. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Despite a few irrationalities, teen behavior can and does make sense – and there are always red flags that help parents indicate something is seriously wrong. A few things to keep an eye out for include:

  • A sudden and dramatic change in weight. Weight loss or weight gain is normal, but a drastic weight change may sometimes indicate a physical, mental, or eating disorder problem.
  • Physical signs of excessive stress. Frequent or chronic headaches and stomach aches, unexplained pains (i.e., no indication of why pain is being felt), signs of hairpulling, nail-biting, or nervous tics.
  • Signs of self-harm include hiding scars or cuts, self-starvation, or excessive exercise (to the point of chronic injury or deteriorating health).
  • Signs of drug use include empty pill bottles, fake prescriptions, other people’s medication, hidden alcohol bottles, or drug paraphernalia.
  • Excessive and sudden anger issues/irritability, including getting physical or frequent shouting. Unusual temperament changes, almost like a different personality.
  • And more.

Keep In Touch with Their Friends

It’s always a good idea to know who your teen hangs out with, not just because it gives you a better idea of what they’re up to, but because it can help you keep in touch with your teen, give you better context for what’s happening to them or how they’re feeling, and gives you people to ask when things don’t see to be going well for your teen.

If your teen won’t tell you what’s going on, try to ask their friends.

Reassure Your Teen

Some teens try and hide their problems from their parents for multiple reasons – but the most common ones include wanting to keep their parents from worrying and avoiding a parent’s judgment.

If you’re busy a lot of the time, then your teen might feel like bringing this up with you is just adding to your plate – especially if you’ve been having a hard time keeping up with them lately, neglecting to ask them how they’re doing, or shutting them down when they were about to tell you about their day.

Prioritize Good Communication

Prioritizing healthy communication with your teen is important, especially as they complete their transition into adulthood. Teens are increasingly independent individuals and continuously seek to define themselves while seeking distance from their parents. Giving them further reasons to push away can alienate you from your children and make it harder for you to reconnect and keep connected over time.

On the other hand, not all homes are safe spaces, and sometimes, your teen might not feel comfortable talking about how they really feel. Perhaps it’s because of something you’ve said in the past, an unfortunate association between their symptoms and someone you don’t like, or a parenting style that has eroded the trust between you.

Establishing a safe space for your teen at home is important to help them not just talk more freely about how they feel but also make progress in their treatment. Shaming your teen or making them feel even worse about how they think or what they’re doing will only send them down a deeper spiral.

Affirming Unconditional Love

Regardless of the context for why your teen might not be talking about how they’re feeling, reassurance is important, affirming your teen’s identity and worth as a person with or without their symptoms, and affirming your unconditional love for them, and the trust you want to foster between each other.

Make sure your teen knows that they can count on you and should always count on you to be in your corner. Help them come to terms with who they are in a positive sense, so they can tackle their mental health in earnest and separate themselves from their condition.

Don’t Forget Your Own Mental Health Status

Parents want the best for their children. But it’s important not to neglect your own needs in the process. You cannot offer effective support to your loved ones without doing the work to maintain your mental health status as well.

That’s a lot to ask. But you’re not in it alone. Just as you should support your teen, find others who can help support you. Friends. Family. Partners. People you can lean on in tough times, people you can talk to, people to open up to.

Stress management and adequate coping skills matter too. That means utilizing constructive coping skills – exercise rather than drinking, for example.

Taking care of yourself both mentally and physically can have a direct and positive impact on your teen, as well. While we like to think that our influence as a parent will wane strongly with each passing day after a teen turns sixteen, parents continue to be the most important role model for a teen’s behavior until well into adulthood. Children tend to continue to mirror their parents, even if they don’t want to. Improving the way you take care of yourself can help your teen take better care of themselves, too.

Get Help at Visions Treatment Centers

If your teen is struggling with a mental health issue, contact us today. For more information, visit us at Visions Treatment Centers. We offer professional help for teen mental health conditions via residential treatment and a range of modalities, using specialized treatment plans.

Don’t wait. Reach out now for an evaluation and testing.

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