How to Help Your Teen Have Good Mental Health
What is mental health?
Unfortunately, mental health is still rarely talked about in a positive sense.
Just as we ALL have physical health, we also ALL have mental health. Being mentally healthy means being able to feel and express the full range of emotions from happiness and joy right through to anger and sadness. When we are mentally healthy, we feel good about ourselves, which enables us to form positive relationships with others and navigate smoothly through change and uncertainty.
According to the World Health Organisation, mental health is a “state of well-being in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her own community.”
Good mental health is a thing in its own right and is not just the absence of mental health problems.
However, all too often, “mental health” is only mentioned in a negative context or worse, used as a synonym for mental illness.
Should we be worried about the mental health of our teens?
Not necessarily, no.
The media keeps reporting that we are heading for a “mental health crisis.” When I turn on the TV, open the newspaper or look at social media sites, I feel that I am being fed reasons why I should be concerned for the poor mental health that my children will seemingly inevitably inherit as a by-product of this pandemic.
I’ll be the first to admit that I have found this pandemic less than easy:
- I have felt loneliness from not seeing my friends.
- I have felt frustration when whole days of work have been disrupted by WIFI issues.
- I have felt sadness when holidays and fun days out have been cancelled.
- I have felt fear and anxiety from loss of income.
- I have cried A LOT, had sleepless nights and have had days where I struggle to find reasons to be grateful, no matter how many Facebook posts tell me that’s what I “should” be doing.
But being continuously reminded of the “negative impact” of the potential long-term effects of the pandemic on my mental health isn’t helping me and it is unlikely to help your teens either.
Although I feel these less than desirable emotions more regularly than usual at the moment and would much prefer to be feeling joy, excitement and happiness instead, I don’t feel that I have poor mental health. They are normal, natural, human emotions.
If your teen is currently feeling sad, stressed, lonely or anxious, these are normal human emotions and let’s face it, unsurprising in the circumstances we are currently living in. If they are telling you that they feel these things, that’s even better. This means that they are acknowledging their emotions and processing them. Emotions pass and will not inevitably lead to any long-term “crisis”.
How can we help our teens have good mental health?
- We can teach them to use positive language
The language we use is so important because our language gives instructions to our brains. If teens keep hearing negative words such as “depression” and “crisis”, it instructs their brains to feel hopelessness and fear.
The good news is that a few small language tweaks can make a huge difference.
For example, if your teen hears the word “difficult”, their brain will filter for difficulty whereas if you choose to say “less than easy” instead, your teen’s brain will process the word “easy” and will be more likely to feel positive.
- We can teach them to express their feelings. For more tips on how to do this, click here
- We can teach them how to handle overwhelm. For more tips on how to do this, click here
- We can help them to manage change and uncertainty by getting them to focus on what they can influence and forget about what they can’t.
- We can get them to spend more time doing whatever brings them joy
It’s so important for us to change the narrative of this pandemic for our teens. If we can teach them the tools to be resilient, they will be set up for life.
If you would like me to teach your teen some tools for maintaining good mental health, regardless of external factors, please book a free discovery call. 1 – 2 sessions can often be enough to give them a brand new outlook.