How to help your teen’s mental health
Practical advice that makes a difference
In 2022, 18% of children aged 7 to 16, and 22% of young people aged 17 to 24, had a probable mental disorder. Now, whilst that’s not the majority, that’s still too many in luna’s eyes – that’s why apps like ours exist. In fact, one of luna’s app features allows users to ask anonymous questions, and 1000s of these are young people seeking advice for their mental health and not knowing where to turn.
Once such example is:
“Hi luna experts, im a tween girl and Im really struggling mentally. I've sort of given myself a self diagnosis of anxiety and depression but I don't really know what to do to make myself feel a bit better, I know it is serious and I should talk to someone but telling my parents or a "trusted adult" is out of the question. Please help ASAP!!”
This is representative of 1000s more questions which luna gets asked daily, which demonstrates the need for both sides of the relationship to improve their methods of communication.
With all this in mind, luna’s rounded up some things you can do, as a parent, to help your teen’s mental health. Whilst there will never be one perfect way to approach this, hopefully these tips give you some ideas if this is something you’re struggling with in your own family unit.
Listen to their worries and thoughts
Sometimes, a listening ear is all that’s needed – you don’t necessarily have to provide an answer or a solution. Simply having a parent who is approachable can make a big difference to a teen’s mental health.
Remember to listen judgement-free – allow them to share what they’re going through, even if you disagree or feel worried in the moment. There will be more time afterwards to work through things or escalate them after you’ve heard them out, but reacting in any way that isn’t sympathetic or empathetic could cause them to hide more things in future.
Regularly check in with them
Something to consider is setting up regular check-ins with your teen. Think of them like a casual 1-2-1 where you can approach these conversations on an equal footing. Make sure they know this, to help them feel more comfortable sharing – explaining to them that these check-ins aren’t about getting them in trouble, but making them feel heard, can go a long way.
Life can get busy as a teenager, but them knowing they’ve got time and space to chat about how they’re doing can really help. Try making it a regular part of your weekly routine together and, over time, it can become natural and a healthy habit.
Remind them that you’ll always be there for them and they are loved unconditionally
Being a teenager comes with a lot of pressures. Having a constant source of unconditional love and support can make a huge difference when dealing with the stresses of school or friendships – not to mention the constant mood swings and body anxiety that come hand in hand with puberty. Encourage them to spread their wings and enjoy growing up, but remind them that you will always be there to support them whatever happens.
Take what they say seriously
One of the most important things you can do is to take what your teen says seriously. Even if you aren’t convinced it’s serious or you don’t quite understand, you should acknowledge and respect what they say. This way, they’ll be more likely to come to you with their thoughts and worries in future. Don’t be afraid to ask them questions to better understand what they mean – try to make them as judgement-free as possible. Remember, what may seem insignificant on the scale of your own life could be a huge deal to a teen.
Build a positive environment
Having a safe, stigma-free space can be a huge help when managing a teen’s mental health. Try to create a positive environment in your home and with other family members – encourage discussions with each other and answer any questions that come up, even sharing your own experiences can help.
Encourage them to continue their hobbies and activities
Particularly with increased pressure at school, many teenagers drop out or stop doing activities or hobbies they once enjoyed. Try to encourage them to continue with these or find new ones that they love. Remind them that having lots of things they enjoy doing helps them to stay well-rounded and also helps with stress management, physical and mental health.
That being said – if they share with you that part of their mental health struggles are about having too much on (which luna also gets asked about a lot!) bear this in mind. Activities might be a solution for some, but not for all.
Pay attention to their behaviour
Try to pay attention to how your teen is behaving and if their behaviour has changed. While it’s normal for things to change during puberty and adolescence, it’s important to try to notice any really significant changes. If your teen is normally bubbly and friendly but suddenly becomes withdrawn or anti-social, try to gently approach this with them and ask them how they’re really doing.
Make sure they don’t feel accused – some examples of how you could approach this are:
- "Hey, I've noticed things are different lately. I care about you, and if you need someone to talk to, I'm here. How have you been feeling?"
- "I've noticed you've been more reserved. I want to make sure everything's okay. If there's anything on your mind, I'm here to listen. What's been going on?"
- "I've seen a shift in your mood. How have you been feeling overall? Anything you want to talk about or share with me?"
Look after your own mental health too
When you are feeling your best, you’ll be able to help someone else feel their best. Make sure you’re taking care of yourself mentally and try to be honest with your teen about your own mental health, without relying on them for too much support. Seeing parents and guardians who manage their own mental health safely and healthily will inspire them to do the same.
Hope some of these tips help you build a connection with your teen – and remember, you can always redirect them to the luna app, which has plenty of expert advice on mental health in cases where you don’t have all the answers.