The teenage years are often regarded as a time of excitement, self-discovery, and growth. It’s a period where adolescents transition from childhood to adulthood, forging their own path, and discovering who they are. However, beneath the surface, this journey can be a minefield of emotional turmoil and mental health challenges. The realities of adulthood loom large, and teenagers must grapple with a rapidly evolving world that they might not have been fully aware of before. This article explores the mental health struggles faced by teenagers and how parents can support them through partnership parenting.
“Teens are wired to start stepping out into greater independence but have a more difficult time doing so when they feel unsafe or when there are overwhelming restrictions prohibiting them to do so, based on circumstances beyond their control.” ~ Lainie Liberti – Seen, Heard & Understood
Teenagers and the Mental Health Struggle
Identity and Self-Discovery
Adolescence is a critical stage in a person’s life for identity formation. Teenagers often grapple with questions like, “Who am I?” and “Where do I fit in?” This quest for self-identity can be a tumultuous journey, leading to feelings of confusion, anxiety, and depression. Parents must understand that this is a natural part of growing up and be there to provide support and guidance.
As teens transition to high school and prepare for college or vocational training, academic pressure can become overwhelming. The fear of failure, high expectations, and intense competition can lead to stress and burnout. Parents can help by fostering a healthy approach to academic success, emphasizing the importance of effort over perfection.
Teens often place great importance on peer relationships. They may encounter peer pressure, bullying, and the challenge of forming healthy friendships. These experiences can have a profound impact on their mental well-being. Parents should encourage open communication and offer guidance on building and maintaining healthy friendships.
Social Media and Technology
The digital age has introduced a new layer of complexity to the teenage experience. Social media, while offering connection and information, can also contribute to feelings of inadequacy and anxiety. Parents can help by teaching responsible technology use and ensuring teens understand that the images and personas portrayed online are often far from reality, as well as leading by example when it comes to screen use.
Awareness of Adulthood Realities
As teenagers become more aware of the responsibilities that come with adulthood, they may feel overwhelmed and anxious. Concepts like financial independence, career choices, and the uncertain future can weigh heavily on their minds. Parents can provide support by engaging in open discussions and offering guidance, using their own past experiences to help relate back to their teen.
“The older teens I’ve been working with experience a greater sense of despair, knowing they have limited options preventing them from moving out of their parents’ home, finding summer jobs, being restricted from traveling freely, and facing tighter economic options… This can lead to greater depression and uncertainty about the future, more than they already had to begin with.” ~ Lainie Liberti – Seen, Heard & Understood
The Role of Partnership Parenting
Partnership parenting is an approach that emphasizes collaboration, empathy, and mutual respect between parents and teenagers. Here are some ways in which parents can use this approach to support their teen’s mental health:
Encourage open and non-judgmental communication. Allow your teens to express their thoughts, feelings, and concerns without fear of criticism. Active listening is key to understanding their struggles and offering guidance.
Be a Source of Guidance, Not Control
Instead of dictating decisions, help your teens make informed choices. Provide them with the tools and information they need to navigate challenges and make their own decisions. This empowers them to take responsibility for their lives.
Normalize Seeking Help
Let your teens know that seeking help from a therapist, counsellor, or support group is a sign of strength, not weakness. Mental health challenges are common, and it’s important to reduce the stigma surrounding seeking professional help.
Teach your teens how to cope with stress, failure, and adversity. Encourage them to develop healthy coping mechanisms, such as mindfulness, exercise, and creative outlets, to build resilience.
Set Realistic Expectations
Help your teens set achievable goals and understand that setbacks are a part of life. Emphasize the value of effort and personal growth over perfection and external validation.
“From the parent’s perspective (yes, I’m talking to you), please don’t try to solve this problem for your adolescent – you can’t. You need to be conscious of what is going on and share those frustrations with your teen to help validate their unspoken fears. This will bridge that parental-authority gap, slip into greater partnership, and help to build a healthy, strong connection.” ~ Lainie Liberti – Seen, Heard & Understood
Navigating the teenage years while juggling the realities of adulthood can be a challenging journey for both teenagers and their parents. Mental health struggles are a common aspect of this transitional period. Through partnership parenting, parents can offer the support and guidance necessary to help teens build resilience, make informed decisions, and develop the skills they need to thrive in the ever-changing world of adolescence. By fostering open communication and creating a safe, non-judgmental environment, parents can empower their teens to overcome challenges and emerge from this period with the strength and self-awareness needed to succeed in adulthood.