A lot of mothers complain that they don’t get along with their teenage sons or daughters. Mostly, parents don’t give it much thought as they think it’s “just a phase.” However, they should not ignore it as it can be something serious! It is estimated that one in seven (14 per cent) 10 to 19 year-old face mental health conditions, according to World Health Organization. So, teenagers being argumentative all the time or fighting over small things could actually be more than just a phase. As a mother, it’s best to lend support to your teenager whenever possible. There is a lot more that a mother can do to help their teenagers with mental health problems.
A mother not only gives birth to her children, but also does a lot for their betterment. So, teenagers struggling with a mental health issue will leave their mothers worried. But they can do so much more than just worry.
Health Shots got in touch with Dr Rishi Gautam, who is a US-based mental health expert and a specialist of psychiatry, to know what more can mothers do to help their teenagers with mental health problems.
Mothers play a big role in their children’s psychological development
It’s not just looks or some traits that a child picks up from his or her mother. A mom’s role is very important when it comes to their children’s psychological development. Dr Gautam shared that parents, especially mothers serve as a child’s first role model who they can trust and feel safe with, and the nature of this relationship also evolves as they grow into adolescents. According to him, a mother’s transition happens from being a “primary caregiver to being a partner or a friend.”
How to identify if your teenager is suffering from a mental health problem?
Like there are symptoms associated with various diseases, there are also ways to identify if your teenager is facing any mental health problem.
According to Dr Gautam, adolescence or early adulthood is the “most common period of life where mental health problems emerge,” and anxiety as well as depression happen to be the “most common conditions in this age group.”
He shared that anxiety manifests due to worrying too much, avoiding school and friends or family gatherings, being fearful of every day experiences, anxiety related to bad things happening in the future, sleep disruptions and also having frequent panic episodes.
As for depression in teenagers, it causes increased irritability and argumentativeness, and it presents as “personality changes, crying spells, persistently sad mood, poor sleep and appetite.”
They also have doubts when it comes to self image, they feel worthless and “may lead to self harm or even have suicidal thoughts”.
Things that mothers can do to help their teenagers with mental health problems
1. Be accepting of your child’s emotional experiences
As a mother, you should be open and listen to them and most importantly, validate their feelings, suggested Dr Gautam.
2. Monitor their social media activity whenever possible
Don’t turn into a stalker, but try to have healthy and trusting relationships with at least one or two of their close friends through social media. They are often the first people teenagers confide in.
3. Offer to seek counselling and mental health support to your teenager
If problems emerge, it’s best to seek counselling and health support. You need to understand that your teenager might not always feel comfortable sharing everything with you, and that’s okay. Allow them some time to open up to you!
4. Ask about their day or life in general
It’s not necessary that your child has to have a problem. Even if there are no apparent problems, ask them how their day went. You can also share details about your day or life as well.
5. Closely observe your teenager’s reactions when you bring these things up
Just interacting with your teenage daughter or son is not enough. You need to pay attention to their reactions as well.
6. Be open to discussing romantic relationships
It’s normal for a teenager to have a girlfriend or a boyfriend, so provide education about healthy sexual practices. Dr Gautam said, “You should also acknowledge that there is a lot of peer pressure when it comes to acting in a certain way, looking a certain way and also, consuming alcohol and drugs.”
7. Model positive sharing of emotions and mental health
As a parent, this is an important step because a positive influence is needed in your child’s life.
8. Take good care of yourself
Yes, heading to a salon or spa is good, but also focus on your own emotional well-being. Being a mother is a very tough job which takes a toll on you, and it is noticed that children feel much more comfortable sharing their own problems if they see an environment in the home that supports a discussion around mental health. According to Dr Gautam, they do so by observing “how their mothers deal with their own stress and anxieties.”
So, don’t forget to work on your emotional well-being while you are also trying to help your teenager with a mental health issue.