1 positive way to support our teens mental health

Having 1 positive way to support our teens mental health will help create the stepping stones to healthy relationships with them.

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK and although we have many campaigns around the world, Mental health still seems to be a subject that a lot of people find difficult to talk about.

I remember when I was in my final year at University, I felt that my mind was about to explode.  I honestly felt that there was no more capacity in my head to do all of the final assessments that I needed to hand in before I went off on my 8-week teaching assignment.  The final assessments had to be handed in before the teaching assignment as they were the basis of what I would teach over that time.

I sat in the doctor’s office – who was fantastic – and talked to him for about an hour on how I was feeling overwhelmed and that I couldn’t cope with the pressure of it all.  I remember him saying to me, “You have come this far, don’t throw it all away now.  Here I will prescribe you some Prozac.”  So off I went with my prescription – which I never had filled – feeling slightly better but still had no real way of getting through the next few weeks.  I also remember family members thinking that I was now ok because I had seen the doctor and nothing else was discussed around the matter.

Reflecting back on it, what I actually needed was someone to help me break down the tasks I had to do, that would help we tackle the overwhelm.  I knew that I didn’t want to fail my degree, but I couldn’t see a way around it.

The doctor did his best – this was the late 90’s, so we didn’t really talk about mental health back then – and his way of helping me was to prescribe Prozac. 

I remember coming home and telling my housemate all that was going on.  He was amazing.  He sat me down and helped me make a plan.  He reminded me of everything I had achieved to that point and we created a tick list of what needed to be done.  When I started checking off the list, I realised that I was so much further forward than I thought I was.  This helped spur me on to get the final bits together and have everything ready 2 days before the deadline.  Which was helpful because our printer decided to die on us as we were printing all of our schemes of work off.

One other thing that was obvious in all of this, was that I hadn’t told anyone how I was feeling.  I was always the joking, fun person on campus, who helped everyone else with their problems.  At no point would any of my friends have known that I was struggling so much with the workload and fear of failure.  I was so paralysed with how much I had to do, I just buried my head in the sand.

Talking is the most important thing for us to do.  It helps right miscommunications, create deeper relationships and help solve challenges that we may be facing.  We get to communicate our fears, what may be holding us back and how we feel that we need support. 

Creating a space for our teenagers to come and talk to us is vital.  A space that is non judgemental and that they can feel safe in knowing that even if they have ‘stuffed up’ you are there to help them find their way forward.

Three helpful ways that you can create this space for your teens:

  1. 1.  Listen openly.  Let them tell you everything that is going on for them and resist the urge to jump in and fix it.
  1. 2. Be truly present.  Put all devices, tv’s and other children somewhere that they won’t distract you and be present for your child.  It may be a little confronting for you so have someone you can debrief to.  Communicating your fears to your teen at this point isn’t going to be helpful.
  1. 3. Ask them what they want you to do about the situation.  Do they just want you to listen?  Do they need your help talking to a teacher or parent of a friend?  Do they need your advice on how they should handle the situation? Take their lead and remember that in resisting the urge to fix it, you allow them to be open with you.

Anyone who has followed me for any amount of time will know that communication talking openly with our children, is my number 1 tip. 

For more help and support around this you can join my facebook group http://bit.ly//Theconfidentmum

Or to find out what your parenting style is, and where you may need more support, try our free quiz here