May is Mental Health Awareness Month, which is a designated time to focus on the important topic of mental and emotional health and well-being for ourselves and our families. Mental health awareness is becoming increasingly important in teenagers, who are under more pressures than ever in a fast-paced, competitive, and success-driven society.
In fact, according to the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, 20 percent of teens ages 13 to 18 have mental illness, which has quadrupled since 1950.
While important attention and focus are placed on mental health this month, parenting is a lifelong learning and growing process for both parents and teens.
Here are five tips to help you raise mentally and emotionally strong teenagers every month of every year:
Teach Positive, Specific Decision-Making Skills
When your teen misbehaves, it is a great opportunity for you to begin building the foundation of the decision-making skills they’ll use into and throughout adulthood. Reframe discipline into teaching moments and demonstrate to your child how they can exercise impulse control, self-discipline, and problem solving skills when they’re faced with challenges and temptations in the future.
Transform Mistakes into Learning Opportunities
As a parent, it is likely very difficult for you to willingly let your child make mistakes in their lives, but it’s a vital part of their learning how to deal with difficult emotions associated with failure. By accepting mistakes, and teaching your child they are a part of the learning journey, they will feel more confident and empowered to make decisions and try new things.
Focus on Morals, Character, and Gratitude
When your teen is acting out or struggling with difficult situations that arise, make it a consistent practice to always bring your guidance back to a core of good morals, character, and values. This type of leadership will give your child a sense of where they come from and what they believe in. Having this foundation enables them to rely on it as they make their own decisions in the future.
Additionally, encouraging your teen to refocus themselves using gratitude will help them learn to be thankful and think optimistically even in difficult times.
Limit Arrogance, and Promote High Self-Esteem
In her book The Price of Privilege, psychologist, educator, and author Madeline Levine explores the pressures of contemporary society on teenagers, and asserts that intelligent children of affluent families are the most at risk to suffer from depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues.
This emerging trend is attributed to an imbalance between arrogance and self-esteem in many teens. Namely, teenagers can be prone to having a higher amount of arrogance while actually suffering from lower self-esteem. Demonstrating and explaining the differences between these feelings, and helping your teen understand that they can feel good about themselves and be proud of their accomplishments without being cocky or arrogant will help them develop mental and emotional strength.
Ensure Your Own Mental Strength, and Model It
In order to be there and provide your teen with strong support, love and guidance, you need to ensure that you are taking care of your own mental health. Children will pattern their behavior after their parents and other adults they look up to and respect, so be a great role model and live out the lessons you’re imparting onto them in your own life.
If your teenager is consistently struggling with mental or emotional strength or health, and you’re not seeing any changes, improvement, or results from your efforts to love and guide them through their difficulties, then it may benefit your child to speak with a therapist or mental health professional.