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Healthy Emotions

Teens go through a lot. They struggle with physical and emotional changes, a need for independence from their parents and pressure from friends to join in activities they may not feel comfortable with. Parents can feel overwhelmed as they try to help teens meet these challenges.

Mental health and your teen

How can you give your child the support needed at this important time? Establish and maintain an open, loving relationship. That’s the most important step you can take to help your child through the tough years ahead. Positive reinforcement will help your teen feel good about himself or herself, so offer praise along with correction when needed.

The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry offers these suggestions for parents:

  • Establish a relationship that includes trust, honesty and respect.
  • Let teens show age-appropriate independence.
  • Encourage your children to talk with you when they are struggling, confused or stressed.

Be on the lookout

A serious mental disorder, such as depression, can harm teens’ relationships, disrupt their ability to function at home or school, and even lead to suicide.

These potential signs and symptoms need attention:

  • Agitation
  • Gaining or losing weight
  • Trouble in school, including an unexpected drop in grades
  • Signs of depression, such as wanting to be alone a lot
  • Lack of motivation or interest in people or activities
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Destructive behaviors
  • Substance abuse

If you think your teen might have a problem, talk with them and his or her health care provider.

Sources: U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, American Psychological Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American Academy of Family Physicians

Preventing teen suicide

If you think your teen is in immediate danger, go to the emergency room. If your child doesn’t get an evaluation by a mental health specialist while there, meet with a mental health professional as soon as possible.

Sources: PLOS ONE, American Academy of Pediatrics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, National Institute of Mental Health

Raising resilient kids

Going through a rough time? Kids will learn from how you handle difficult situations. Let them see an “I can do it” attitude. Remind your child that the current issue is temporary, and things will get better.

Sources: American Academy of Pediatrics, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Addressing drug and alcohol abuse

If you suspect your child might be using alcohol or drugs, have a face-to-face talk. Tell him or her the concerns you have. Be specific about what you have noticed about your child’s behavior that worries you.

Sources: Drug Enforcement Administration, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, American Academy of Pediatrics, National Institute on Drug Abuse

Here is useful advice about how you can help your teen learn more about healthy living: