It’s 2019. The future from “Back to the Future” is already in the past, and yet we seem to be exactly where we were before. Only worse.
School shootings are rampant, teen suicides the norm. Bullying has taken a new level of potency, and frankly, we seem no closer to solving the challenges of social ostracism then we were in 1985.
Couple that with the advent of social media, internet, and smartphones, and sprinkle it with the usual dose of hormones, mental health issues, peer pressure, school pressure, love interests, and identity confusion and, well, it’s a lot for a teen to manage. It’s a lot even for adults.
While teens don’t come with a manual, and no two are alike, there are a few critical ways to support your child for optimal mental health through their teen years.
It starts early and often. Create the spaces to engage with your teen. From dinnertime to one-on-one, set the stage for your teen to feel comfortable talking with you about their life and struggles in a non-invasive fashion.
You can’t possibly know everything, but you certainly can give it a shot by studying up on what teens are facing and how to help them through it. Books, seminars, experts, articles. Be aware and tapped in.
Know the world that your teen lives in, from friends to teachers, from coaches to other parents. Have a baseline for your teen’s usual behaviors and habits, and generally be prepared to respond and support your teen in the event of a crisis.
Parenting a teen can be daunting. We never know the effect our words or actions may have. Will we make the situation better? Will our teen shut us out?
Out of fear of failure, many parents choose not to do anything. If you do nothing then you won’t do the wrong thing, they muse, often leaving the work to the “system.” And here I urge parents not to fall prey to this way of thinking. Not doing anything is also a choice, and it’s not the right one.
We must be proactive in raising our teens. We may not always say the right thing, and our teens may not always feel like expressing their love for us, but that is OK.
It is up to us to try. If we fail, we learn and we grow. As do they. Nobody expects you to be the perfect parent every time, but you need to try. Taking the steps to make the effort is half the battle. We may not be able to change the past, but the future is now.
Mendi Baron, LCSW, CEO, Ignite Teen Treatment, [email protected]