By – Dr Rishi Gautam, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, The GW School of Medicine & Health Sciences Washington DC, USA
Parents, both the mother & the father, play a crucial role in the psychological growth of children. As the childs first role model, they provide a sense of security and trust. This bond evolves over time, particularly during adolescence, as the parent’s role shifts from primary caregiver to partner or friend.
To detect whether your teenager is experiencing a mental health issue, the initial step is to recognise and identify some typical signs or warning signs. According to a 2020 study by Mehra, Lakiang et al., approximately 23% of adolescents in India suffer from some type of mental health issue, which is similar to the worldwide prevalence. Mental health problems are most frequently detected during adolescence or early adulthood. The most prevalent conditions in this age group are anxiety and depression.
Anxiety can present itself in various ways, such as excessive worrying, fearfulness in everyday situations, avoidance of social interactions, school or family gatherings, persistent concerns about negative events in the future, sleep disturbances, and recurrent panic episodes.
Teenage depression can cause irritability and argumentativeness, leading to personality changes, social isolation, frequent crying, persistent sadness, poor sleep and appetite, deteriorating self-image, and feelings of worthlessness and emptiness. In severe cases, it may even lead to self-harm or suicidal thoughts. The prevalence of mental health problems has significantly increased during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Now, the most important part is how parents can support their teen-age children waft pass these challenges? Let’s talk about some of key things that you, as a parent, must do in this regard. Show openness and acceptance towards your child’s emotional experiences by actively listening to them and validating their feelings.
Keep an eye on your teen’s social media activity, and try to establish healthy and trusting relationships with at least one or two of their close friends, as teenagers often confide in them first. Offer to seek counseling or mental health support if issues arise, as teenagers may not always feel comfortable sharing everything with their parents.
Initiate conversations about their day or general life, even if there are no apparent problems. Also, share your own experiences in a developmentally appropriate manner.
Observe your teenager’s reactions closely when you bring up these topics. Be willing to discuss romantic relationships and provide education about healthy sexual practices. Acknowledge that there is often peer pressure to conform to certain behaviors, appearance standards, and substance use.
Model positive behavior by sharing your own emotions and taking care of your mental health. Finally, and most importantly, take good care of yourself, including your emotional well-being. Parenting is a challenging job that can take a toll on our mental health. Children are more likely to share their problems when they see that their mothers prioritize mental health and create a supportive environment at home. They can observe how their mothers deal with stress and anxiety, which encourages open discussions around mental health.