Parenting is hard, and parenting a teen is even harder. This is a time when your child is beginning to develop their own identity, which can be confusing for everyone involved. And mental health issues are common among teens.
About half of all adolescents will satisfy the diagnostic criteria for a psychiatric disorder at some point in their lives, and we’ve all heard about the untreated mental health problems and alarming suicide rates among this age group. Although adolescents and young adults have a growing need for independence, the prefrontal cortex continues to develop until the age of 25. This means that, despite appearances, your adolescent will still benefit from your guidance when it comes to emotional regulation and crisis management.
What to do?
It’s hard to know what to do when your teen seems sad or withdrawn. Teens often feel like they’re different from their friends, and it can hurt their self-esteem if they think something is wrong with them. It may help for you to understand how common these feelings are among teens, so you can reassure your child that his or her feelings are normal.
If you notice that your child’s mood has changed and he or she seems sadder than usual, talk to him or her about it. Don’t wait until something more serious happens before addressing the problem — this could lead to more problems down the road.
Give your teen plenty of attention and affection when he or she seems down, but don’t smother them — they need time alone too! Make sure they know you care about them no matter what is going on in their life at any given time.
Encourage your teen to participate in activities that make him or her feel good about themselves and will help them develop interests outside of school and friends — such as sports teams, music lessons or volunteer work — because it will give them a sense of purpose and direction in life beyond what happens during the school day.