Taking care of your teen’s emotional health
About the Author
Kate Mosher, LCSW, is a Mental Health Clinician for Sierra Child & Family Services. To learn more about MediCal-funded mental health programs for youth, call 530-544-2111 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Find more support and resources in Barton’s Health & Wellness Directory at bartonhealth.org/wellnessdirectory.
Teens experience intense physical and emotional changes, have a growing need for independence, and are strongly influenced by their social network. Teens often feel misunderstood and are sometimes hesitant to approach adults for assistance.
They may be experiencing problems such as bullying, discrimination, or issues related to sexuality, dating violence, or relationship breakups. Caregivers can feel overwhelmed as they try to help adolescents meet these challenges.
Suicide Awareness & Prevention Month is a good time to take stock of your teen’s emotional health and address any red flags.
It can help to consider the difference between age-appropriate behaviors and behaviors that could warn of a treatable problem such as depression. It’s not unusual for teens to feel unhappy at times, to test limits, or to want their space. Symptoms that are more concerning (especially in combination) include intense or prolonged anger or sadness, aggression, anxiety, reckless or bizarre behavior, substance use, sleep issues, weight changes, withdrawal, dropping grades or extracurricular interests, and any statements or actions that indicate suicidal or homicidal thinking.
Begin a gentle and respectful conversation with your child about any concerns you have regarding your teen’s emotional health. Also, talk with your teen’s doctor. He or she can provide an initial medical assessment and, if necessary, refer you to a mental health professional.
Spend time with your teen, remembering that while a teen will push you away, they need you as a reliable source of guidance and support. Encourage your child to talk with you when they’re struggling, confused, or stressed. Positive reinforcement will help your teen feel good about himself or herself, so be sure to offer praise when your teen does share their feelings or problems with you.
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