Half of the recorded mental health issues start at age 14, according to the World Health Organization. But the number could be more, as most conditions come undetected. This is the reason parents should look beyond their children’s physical health and refocus on the kids’ mental wellbeing, especially during the teenage years when the children are getting more independent. It won’t always be easy to carry on a conversation about mental health with your teen, but it’s necessary.
Here’s how you can help your child manage their mental health.
Educating yourself about mental conditions helps in your eventual conversation with your children, whether they have a diagnosed mental illness or not. Start with reading about common mental health disorders that might affect your kid. These include anxiety disorders, depression, ADHD, and eating disorders like bulimia. These conditions often require support from both professionals and loved ones.
Let Them Open Up
Your child should be able to trust you, no matter what. Even if you can’t help but be concerned, it’s important to wait and let them open up to you about their issues. But that doesn’t mean that you should be disconnected. Let them know you’re there for them by asking them over dinner or in the car how their day went. If they don’t want to tell you about it, don’t fret. Just let them know that your door is open if they want to talk about anything.
Brave the Storm Together
When they start the conversation, stop what you’re doing and listen – no matter how shallow their story might be at first. If they had a bad day, sympathize with them. It’s essential for you, as a parent, to validate what they feel first and reassure them that things will get better afterward. If they mention any red flags like self-hatred or self-harm, calmly ask them why they feel that way. Continue the conversation until they’ve let everything out.
Get Professional Assistance
It’s frightening for any parent to find out that their child has a mental illness. But we all have to face the truth if we want our children to be well. When they exhibit signs of mental disorders such as not wanting to go to school, self-harm, or outbursts of anger, consult your child’s pediatrician about it. They can refer you to a mental health professional that will assess your kid’s possible condition. When your child does get diagnosed and assigned a program, reassure them that it will be for the better. And that, like any other illness, their condition can be treated.
The keys to helping your child with their mental health are understanding, validation, and support. Know as much as you can about your kid’s condition. Ask the doctor about what you can do to ease it. Read about it online on reputable sites like the US National Library of Medicine and the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Acknowledge that what they feel is real, even if it can confuse you at times. And finally, stick it out with them through their treatment. In the rough sea of mental illness, be the anchor that keeps them grounded and the sail that guides them to wellness.