Ask James: How do I Support my Teenager’s Mental Health?

James Newman, Advice Columnist

How do I Support my Teenager’s Mental Health?

 -Parental Supporter 

Dear Supporter,

Firstly, Welcome back to a new school year!! And I’m so excited to be back with Ask James!

Mental health is something that everyone is affected by, and everyone, believe it or not, is not always happy-go-lucky. But it can be a pretty hard struggle to have healthy mental health when dealing with depression, anxiety, insecurities, sexual identity, and identity. The list goes on and on about why your mental health might be struggling. But as someone watching your child struggle mentally, it can be challenging—not knowing what to do, how to help, what to say. But I am here to help; my mental health is something I battle with all the time and struggle with often. It’s nothing to be ashamed of; We can’t be perfect all the time, no matter how much you or I want to be.

Parents, it’s important and imperative that you try to understand what can affect your child, which I know seems like a monumentally impossible task to try and even attempt. But many impacts on their lives can negatively affect their mental health. So let’s try an easy one, your influence on them. Ask them if your standards are hard to deal with? Do you force them to do things that make them struggle? What can you do to be a better parent for them? These are all great questions to ask to understand your role in their mental health. Believe it or not, you play a HUGE role in their mental health, which is often where teens’ mental health starts to struggle. So by getting to know what THEY need from not you and not just what YOU think they need, you can open up a space for understanding and progression instead of ignorance and regression. 

Once you’ve gotten to a place where you are growing a new aspect of your relationship with your child, which by no means will be easy, teenagers are sometimes challenging, but getting to know your child better and helping them with their mental health will help your relationship grow even better and may even help you out by understanding what you do that could have hurt them. But it’s all about understanding and not being defensive; now, this goes for both teenagers and parents because it’s essential to see both sides and recognize your roles.

After that, please spend some time integrating mental health with your child and other family members to have a safer environment where they (your child or children) can feel safe to talk about their feelings, negative or positive, without judgment. Another thing you can do is to understand stigmas against mental health and educate yourself on mental health by reading books, listening to experts like therapists or psychologists, and talking to people who deal with mental health problems. And maybe after talking to your child or children, you could also reflect on your approach to mental health and see that by helping your child, you could help yourself.

I hope this helped you <3.

See you again. XOXO.

– James