The age of adolescence is a sensitive period of growth for teenagers. Naturally, young adults learn to navigate their environment through social interactions with their peers and acclimate to their friend groups. The increasing social expectations and demands that teens experience can lead to outbursts of emotions due to stress and pressures from family, friends, and even teachers to succeed academically, be popular, and fit an unrealistic body image ideal.
Today’s teens experience nonstop technological and social media exposure. In a continuously connected environment, teens are constantly exposed to text messages, phone calls, anonymous internet activity, and reality TV that they may not be fully ready to process developmentally. As teens learn to navigate and adapt to their environment, it is important to understand what your teen deals with and provide support as a parent.
What you can do to support your teen:
- Stay involved – Get to know your teen’s friends and their parents. Peers are an important influence.
- Avoid lecturing or shaming – Instead, ask questions when you sense something is wrong. Teens are more likely to open up to someone who is listening respectfully and makes them feel safe.
- Be a parent, not a friend – Negotiate rules as guidelines, set boundaries, and follow through with consequences.
- Don’t undercut your spouse – Avoid criticizing your partner in front of your teen. Presenting a unified front is critical.
- Follow through with family plans – Make sure your teen doesn’t opt out of family time or vacations.
- Don’t wait to seek help – Always seek help if you suspect a serious problem.
Teens may experience a variety of mental health issues, such as eating disorders, anxiety, depression and substance abuse. Seek professional help if your teen:
- Has dropping grades
- Distances themselves from peers and family members
- Loses interest in sports, hobbies, or extra-curricular activities they once enjoyed
- Resorts to violence
- Refuses to communicate with you after all of your efforts
- Continuously sneaks out at night
If you are worried about your teen, don’t hesitate to seek one of our experienced MFTs at Counseling California. Early intervention can drastically improve your teen’s mental health and get them back on the right track.