Parents, I’ll be honest with you. There have been quite a few times I’ve had to lock myself away in my room or run to the bathroom at school to cry out a problem.
Most of the time, the problem itself wasn’t a big deal. But small issues pile up until sometimes you feel an overwhelming wave of emotions crashing down on you.
Often I’ll have a week in which this seems to happen every other day.
And that worries me.
I’m aware of the current statistics of mental health-related issues in people my age. It’s not uncommon to come across a friend who’s in therapy (or should be) for depression or anxiety.
Every time I get to a place where I feel I might be getting into the “I need more help than just myself” territory, I take a step back and evaluate where I am, the severity of my problems, and how I can stop the panic mode.
I know I’m not the only one with that self-awareness. So that leads me to the latest news regarding your teen and their mental health.
Examine negative emotions
A new study from the University of Rochester (June 2019) shows that kids who are able to describe their negative emotions have a better chance of warding off depression than those who struggle with verbalizing their feelings. (Depression in this case can mean depression-like symptoms after a stressful event or actual clinical depression later in life.)
Science Daily interviewed the lead author of the study, who said that thinking through your emotions can help you develop a plan to then overcome those emotions.
What this means is that communicating with your teen is key to their mental health. Not only will you have a better understanding of what’s going on in your child’s head, but you can actually help them be more mindful of their own thoughts and feelings.
Find the source of stress
Midterm exams. A big game. A rocky relationship. Friend drama. The list can go on and on.
The trick is finding the source of the negative emotions and dissecting how and why it made your kid feel bad.
Is she upset that her friend ignored her one text, or does she think that she and her friend are drifting apart? Is your son angry that he missed a goal that could’ve won the game, or is he feeling a lot of pressure to perform well on the field because his grades are slipping?
Is it overthinking? Are the negative emotions valid? Do they have too much on their plate?
Make “talking it out” a normal part of the process
Think of how much time you could save yourself if you analyzed every situation that stressed you out. You’d be golden.
It’s not an easily attainable goal, but it’s one we should all strive to have.
I’ve designated my mom as my go-to person for emotional issues. Sometimes she gets a very detailed text listing all the bad things that happened in my day that led to the bad mood I was in while writing the text. Sometimes I just share with her that I decided to skip coffee that morning because I knew I would have a busy morning and caffeine would only heighten my anxiety.
She sits on the phone with me when I need to talk out my problems out loud. She gives me advice to lessen my stress factors. And sometimes all I need is validation that the emotions I’m feeling about a situation aren’t completely moronic and childish.
What if you and your teen don’t have the kind of relationship in which you have heart-to-hearts every other day?
Offer anyway. It will always be in the back of their mind that mom or dad is there if they really need help.
Also, share your own experiences. It makes you relatable. Your kid can think of you more as a peer instead of an authority figure and in turn might be more open to opening up.
Encourage them to find their go-to person. If you know in your heart that there’s no way your teen is going to come to you with something like this, suggest that they consult with a good friend whenever they get stressed or overwhelmed.