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10 Tips to Support Your Teenager's Mental Health

Most adults would agree that the teenage years are tough. It’s hard to be a teenager and just as hard to be a parent while they go through this period of extreme change.

As parents we know that supporting mental health is crucial for a teen's overall wellbeing. To help you, we offer the following ten tips to help promote and maintain good mental health in your teen.

1.    Actively Encourage Open Communication

Foster a supportive environment where your teenager feels comfortable talking about their thoughts and feelings without judgment. Let them know you are there to listen and support them. Listen more than you speak – even if you want to try and give a quick solution! Listen to them when they have a problem and show interest in how they plan to solve it. Support them in their problem-solving methods and ideas.

2.    Promote Healthy Lifestyle Habits and Routines

Encourage regular exercise, a balanced diet, and sufficient sleep. Physical wellbeing is closely linked to mental health, and these habits can have a positive impact on mood and overall mental wellbeing.

Having consistent routines provides a sense of stability and predictability, which can be comforting for teenagers. Ensure they have a schedule that includes time for school, social activities, and relaxation. Using organization tools like weekly planners can teach great habits and encourage planning to ensure they have a balanced lifestyle.

3.    Teach Stress Management Techniques and Educate About Mental Health

Foster an understanding of mental health by discussing it openly. Help your teenager recognize that mental health is as important as physical health, and seeking help when needed is a sign of strength. Support your teenager to develop healthy coping mechanisms for stress, such as deep breathing and relaxation techniques. Introduce them to a Mindfulness App – there are numerous free ones out there.

Keep your mind open about where their interest lies and encourage mindful hobbies that align with their natural interests. If they enjoy dancing, drawing, or playing an instrument find ways to support these activities. Finding quiet joy in simple pursuits can be valuable to manage their everyday challenges.

4.    Strengthen Your Bond with Them

It’s important that you find a way to spend time with your teen. Teenagers are often busy with school, friends, and other interests, but you can still have a conversation with them over breakfast and dinner. Offer to take them to or pick them up from places; this will provide greater opportunities for conversations. If you take an interest in their interests, you’ll have many more opportunities for conversation. Listen to their music, watch their television shows with them and continue to take an active interest in their life.

Find a way to keep love and fun in the relationship and build rapport. Send them a friendly text message or a funny video. This shows them that you think of them and there can still be fun and lightness in your relationship.

The stronger your overall bond with your teen is, the more likely you will know if there is a problem in their life, and it also increases the chance that they will come to you for help.

5.    Build Your Teen’s Confidence

Praise, encouragement and positive attention let your teen know that you value them, recognize their efforts and their contribution to your life. Let your child know that you’re proud of them when they try, especially when things are tough, and even when they fail.

Don’t just link the praise to the award, accolade, or achievement. We don’t want their self-esteem to be linked to the external award and indicated that without the award they are not worthy. Instead, congratulate your teen’s accomplishments, milestones, and growth by emphasizing their hard work, effort, and perseverance.

6.    Encourage Positivity in Life

A positive focus is another valuable gift you can give to your child. If they can appreciate the good things in their life, they are more likely to feel positive. This can help keep difficult times in perspective, so they don’t become overwhelmed. We don’t want children to take on a false positivity as this can be emotionally draining. Instead, we can teach our kids to accept negative emotions and process them in a healthy way. We can encourage positive thinking and positive affirmations. For more ideas on introducing positivity to children and teenagers click here.

7.    Promote Social Connections

Encourage positive social interactions and help your teen build a strong support network. Their support network may come from school friends or may develop through sports clubs or hobbies such as art classes, volunteer or community groups. Understand, and help your teen to understand, that friendship can come from a variety of sources and whilst some teenagers may struggle at school, friendships can develop through part-time jobs or external clubs. Having friendships and social connections are vital for mental health, providing emotional support and a sense of belonging.

8.    Limit Screen Time

Whilst technology has many benefits, excessive screen time, especially on social media, can contribute to mental health issues. Rather than endless scrolling on their phone, get your teen involved in movie (or series) nights where they have input on the selected shows. This can also help to strengthen the family bond.  

Teenagers rarely like to be told to get off their devices but having an agreed set of limits – such as an evening off-screen deadline - can be a defined non-negotiable rule that the whole family is familiar with. With consistent rules the number of arguments can be minimised, and it will help your teen to understand limits in the future, when they are 100% in control of their screen time.

Try to promote a healthy balance of on-screen and off-screen activities. Explore, and be willing to facilitate, offline activities such as sport, non-screen hobbies and musical pursuits.

9.    Be a Positive Role Model

Demonstrate healthy coping strategies, resilience, and positive attitudes towards your own mental health. There’s not much point talking the talk if you’re not willing to walk the walk! Your behavior can influence how your teenager views and manages their own mental wellbeing now and well into the future. In times of stress tell your teen that you are having some difficulty rather than taking it out on them. Explain what steps you’re taking to help with your tough situation. It’s good for teenagers to see that life does present hurdles and that with support, and a plan, you can usually overcome or improve your situation.

10.  Be Attentive to Changes and Seek Professional Help when Necessary

Pay attention to any significant changes in behavior, mood, or the academic performance of your teenager. Sudden shifts may be indicators of underlying mental health issues. Address immediate concerns, but if you notice persistent signs of mental health struggles, don't hesitate to seek professional help. A mental health professional can provide the necessary support, guidance, and interventions.

We hope that you find our tips useful in what is a difficult stage of life. Remember that every teenager is unique, and it's essential to approach mental health support with sensitivity and understanding of their unique personality. Hopefully one day you will laugh about the teenage years together. In the meantime, please find further resources below to help you through, and don’t hesitate to contact First Choice Allied Health if you would like to see one of our psychologists.

Useful Resources: 

  • headspace  Online chat, email or phone contact with a qualified youth mental health professional for young people 12 to 25 years and parents/carers worried about a young person.
  • Tune in Not Out Information on various topics that interest young people, including alcohol, exams, mental health and relationships.
  • Youth Beyond Blue Beyond Blue provides information and stories about young people living with depression or anxiety. Phone number 1300 22 46 36.

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