Teens are impacted by electronic communication devices for nearly 12 hours every single day (more than double what it was a decade ago). The sheer volume of input entering the teen brain while it is busy sorting and growing and discarding is stunning. Add hormonal changes, family and life stresses, and genetic influences, and it is a wonder that there are any teenagers without a serious mental health diagnosis.
Here are a few points to keep in mind if you're parenting, teaching, or interacting with teens.
- Distraction does not need to be labeled ADD for you to be compassionate about your teen's struggle to stay focused. Offer support, tangible ideas, and time to practice new skills that can give your teen confidence in balancing lots of input.
- Overwhelming emotional responses is a hallmark of teenage. Don't wait for a diagnosis of clinical depression to intervene.
- Temper tantrums are not cute, at any age. You do your child a disservice by not finding solutions early for a child who has poor impulse control.
- It is never too early, or too late, to seek out tangible ideas and support for a teen who struggles with mental health issues - while remembering that most often there is no real reason to come up with a label.
- Personal responsibility and accountability is a skill that needs to be taught intentionally and modeled constantly.
- Actively explore with your teen different activities that can provide them a focused, grounded emotional place from which to grow - like music or sports.
Bottom line is that there is ample evidence for some mental health disorders that begin to show up during adolescence. It is also a fact that "normal" teen development often includes symptoms remarkably similar to mental health issues. Parents who remain enthusiastically involved, and who teach responsibility, accountability, balance, and interpersonal relationship skills have provided a healthy foundation for teens who grow into well balanced adults.
For clear and tangible ideas for raising emotionally healthy teens, check out HOPE Notes from the HOPE Coach, delivered every few days in your inbox!