Being a teenager is tough! It’s a phase of life filled with a confusing whirlwind of emotions, self-discovery, and various societal pressures. It’s also a time when many teenagers struggle with their mental health, facing issues like anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, and excessive stress. If you're concerned about a teen's mental health and want to help them, then keep reading as we unpack 13 different tips to nurture their emotional and psychological wellbeing!
13 Ways to Support Teens With Their Mental Health
Supporting teens with their mental health is no easy feat- sometimes it feels like there is no getting through to them! But with these simple, yet effective tips to help support your teen's mental health, you can feel confident that you are taking the necessary steps to give them the best support possible.
...And remember, you're human too. It's ok to feel overwhelmed and not know what you're doing sometimes- the most important thing to keep in mind is that you're here now reading this article because you care; and that is at the crux of supporting a teen through mental health challenges.
1. Educate Yourself
Before trying to provide support, take the time needed to educate yourself about mental health issues that affect teenagers. Understanding the warning signs, conditions, symptoms, and available treatments will better prepare you to properly help and support a teen who is struggling. You may notice warning signs such as changes in behaviour, mood, sleep patterns, or appetite. If you see any signs a teen may be struggling, address them as quickly as possible and seek professional help when necessary.
2. Open and Honest Communication
One of the most important things you can do to support a struggling teen is to establish effective and open communication. Create an environment where they feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and emotions without judgment. Listen actively, ask open-ended questions, and be empathetic. Encourage them to express themselves, and reassure them that you are there to help. Keep regular check-ins with teenagers too, even when they seem to be doing well. Mental health can fluctuate, so maintaining open communication is essential for ongoing support.
3. Respect Their Privacy
Respecting a teen's privacy can be difficult sometimes, especially when you want to help and protect them. But it’s so important for teens to feel that their boundaries are being taken seriously and that they have a sense of personal agency. Respecting boundaries can also help create and strengthen a lasting trust between you and your teenager. Be there when they want to talk but avoid pushing if they're not ready to share- you don't want to be that overbearing, smothering, and pushy parent that your teen is uncomfortable confiding in.
4. Encourage Self-Care and A Balanced Lifestyle
Another way to help support teens is to teach them the importance of self-care and balance. Self-care is something that we often think of as adults, but don’t necessarily realize is equally useful for teens. Help them develop healthy habits like regular exercise, a healthy diet, and adequate sleep. Encourage them to maintain balance by engaging in a variety of activities such as hobbies, social interactions, and relaxation. Help them find a way to include self-care activities that they enjoy and that help alleviate stress. It’s amazing the difference that self-care and balance can make to an overall sense of wellbeing!
5. Be Patient
During tough times, emotional support can make a huge difference for a teenager. Let them know that their feelings are valid, and reassure them that they are not alone in their struggles. But remember that healing and learning to manage mental health takes time, especially for a teen. Try to be patient and understanding. Avoid rushing the process or expecting to see immediate improvements. This can undermine any progress already made and leave teenagers feeling misunderstood and unsupported, and can potentially lead them to internalized feelings of shame for struggling if they feel judged or rushed to get better.
6. Connect with a Mental Health Professional
If a teen's mental health struggles are becoming concerning, severe or persistent, it’s probably time to connect with a mental health professional. If you’re worried that a teen needs more help than you can give them, look for a therapist, counsellor, or psychiatrist who specializes in adolescent mental health and teen therapy. A trained expert can provide the right guidance and therapy for a teen's specific needs.
Pro Tip: Even if a teen is resistant to speaking to a mental health professional for themselves, you may benefit from personal support to help you learn more about teen mental health and how to cope with the difficult emotions associated with navigating teen mental health struggles. As well, modelling and normalizing asking for help can help destigmatize therapy and encourage your teen to speak to someone; if they see that you go and are benefiting, they may be more open to it! You can even start with family therapy if your teen is nervous about going on their own.
7. Create a Supportive Home Environment
A supportive home environment can also significantly impact a teen's mental health. Encourage a nurturing atmosphere by fostering positive relationships within the family as much as possible. Set clear boundaries and ensure that all family members understand the importance of supporting each other's mental wellbeing. A truly supportive environment can only work if everyone in the home is on the same page when it comes to how you treat each other.
8. Reduce Stressors and Teach Stress Management
Stress is a common challenge for teens. The first step is to identify and help reduce stressors in a teen's life. This can include academic pressures, extracurricular activities, or even peer relationships. Then work with the teen to find ways to alleviate these stressors, whether through time management, stress management techniques, or seeking professional help.
Stress management techniques can include deep breathing, mindfulness, meditation, and exercise. These skills can help them navigate the pressures of daily life more easily. This doesn’t mean that you need to find a way to eliminate all stress from a teenager’s life, but work to ensure that stress is kept at a manageable level and doesn’t become overwhelming.
9. Monitor Social Media Use
Social media can be a double-edged sword for teenagers. It can be enjoyable at times, but can also make feelings of isolation, jealousy, and anxiety worse. Try to be aware of their general social media use and encourage responsible and balanced online interactions. Discuss the potential negative effects of excessive screen time and cyberbullying so that teens are better prepared to manage these issues.
10. Encourage Healthy Friendships
Healthy friendships play a vital role in a teenager's mental well-being. Try to encourage the development of positive, supportive, and trustworthy friendships. Help them recognize the signs of toxic or abusive relationships and offer guidance on how to address them. This can be a huge help to teens for years to come, so it’s never too early to start learning about healthy relationships!
11. Set Realistic Expectations
Helping teens learn how to set realistic expectations for themselves can also be a great way to support their mental health and wellbeing. Unrealistic academic or personal goals can contribute to stress and anxiety. Encourage teens to focus on progress and small steps rather than perfection or unattainable goals.
12. Foster Independence & Confidence
Developing independence and decision-making skills can also be extremely important to helping teens improve their emotional and mental health. Allowing teens to have personal agency, make choices and face the consequences of their decisions can empower them and boost their self-esteem. Another way to boost self-esteem is to help teens develop a positive self-image by encouraging positive self-talk. Teach them to challenge negative thoughts and practice self-compassion so that they can create a healthy view of themselves early on.
13. Seek Support for Yourself
Supporting a struggling teenager can be emotionally difficult and over time you may start to find yourself feeling overwhelmed. Sometimes this can bring about feelings of resentment, frustration, or even guilt. Don't hesitate to seek support for yourself as well! Connect with support groups, therapists, or counsellors who can help you navigate the challenges of supporting someone struggling with their mental health. Your mental health is important too!
Supporting a teenager who is struggling with their mental health requires patience, understanding, and a proactive approach. It may not be simple, but by supporting teens in both good and difficult times, you can make a real difference in their journey towards improved mental well-being. Remember that you are not alone in this; there is a network of support available to help teenagers as well as those hoping to support them.
Are you trying to support a teen with their mental health, but you’re looking for some additional guidance? Or maybe you know a teen who might benefit from professional counselling? Inner Growth’s therapists in Barrie, ON are ready to help! We offer both in-person and virtual therapy to suit your needs. Contact us with any questions, to schedule a free 15 minute consultation or to book a full session with one of our counsellors experienced in teen therapy.
Our team of online and in-person Barrie counsellors provide quality and effective counselling services in Barrie and virtually across Ontario to individuals (6+), couples and families. We also offer an Affordable Therapy Program that provides counselling services in Barrie to individuals (12+) who are facing financial challenges that need mental health support.