America is facing an ongoing mental health crisis and teenagers are among some of the hardest hit groups for mental disorders. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, one in five teenagers between 14-18 will experience at least one severe mental disorder during their life. Having open lines of communication with your children surrounding mental health can help you detect early warning signs of depression, anxiety, and trauma.
How and When Parents Approach Mental Health Conversations Matters
The manner in which parents approach these conversations surrounding their children’s mental health is critical. Before engaging in a direct conversation, it’s important that parents set a good model example. Children model their parents’ behavior, and by creating an atmosphere where the importance of mental health is consistently talked about, your child will know it’s okay to acknowledge and express feelings. Setting a good model for children also means appropriately disclosing any of your own mental health issues and the various strategies you use to cope with them.
After setting a good example for normalizing conversations surrounding mental health, there are a number of things parents can do to get the most out of these talks. Many therapists recommend informal talks where parents consistently ask their children open-ended questions to avoid the standard “I’m fine” responses. Instead, you can ask your child, “What was difficult for you today?” During these casual conversations, it’s also important that you neutralize your tone and avoid making assumptions about what is causing your teen’s negative emotions.
The setting of these conversations also matters. Just because you are ready to have the conversation doesn’t mean your child is, so find a place where you can spend quality time together doing activities that you enjoy. When you’re spending this time together, look for moments to talk about friends, school, and social media that feels natural and authentic.
If you notice warning signs such as a shift in behavior or personality, a loss of interest in activities, or a change in sleeping and eating habits, it might be time to have a more direct conversation. Let your child know that you are here to listen without judgment and maintain a safe space by remaining calm and validating their feelings. If your child has revealed to you that he is struggling, ask how you can help and allow him to be a part of the solution process.
Red Mountain Colorado Can Help
Red Mountain Colorado is a leading residential treatment center for teens aged 14-17 that is uniquely designed to help struggling adolescents work through mental health issues like trauma, depression, and anxiety. Our programming empowers teens to build healthy coping skills and habits that they can use to work through the challenges they face.
When your teen arrives at our treatment facility, our team of passionate experts will assess if there are any underlying mental health symptoms. We then take an integrated approach to psychosocial wellness by fostering an environment where each teen feels emotionally and physically safe. For more information please call (970) 316-7683.