Identifying Your Teen's Mental Health Struggles: Practical Solutions For Parents


The teenage years are tough – for teenagers, and parents alike. 

The journey of parenting a teenager gets especially overwhelming when we are met with communication barriers, erratic behavior, and frequent mood swings. Which, we must admit, is only a natural occurrence in the teenage years. 

Sometimes, these instances are enough to make us question whether we’re good parents  – and the effort we’re constantly putting in to try and understand our kids better. 

If you’re a parent currently going through this, it’s important to consider this perspective shift: 

It may not be about you; it may be that your teenager is faced with challenges that they find difficult to communicate. 

Them refusing to interact with you or discuss the on-goings of their life with you, keeping themselves isolated in their room all day… are common in the teenage years. 

Yet, these can also signal potential mental health challenges that they might need support with. 

That’s why it’s important to look out for early signs of possible mental health struggles in your teenager.

Signs Of Mental Health Challenges

  1. A loss of interest in usual activities 
  2. A change in the type of friends they are hanging out with 
  3. Completely isolating themselves from their friends 
  4. Frequent changes in mood – appearing dejected, frustrated, or angry 
  5. Taking unnecessary risks or engaging in erratic behavior (that’s not in your child’s nature)

These are subtle yet critical signs to look out for in the teenage years. 

Your teenager is going through a phase where they’re transitioning into adulthood, going through critical physical and emotional changes, while also dealing with important transitions in their academic and extra-curricular lives. It’s a lot to figure out in a short span of time, and it’s understandable that it can get a little overwhelming. 

But, the cause of concern arises when your teenager’s behavior goes beyond this typical teenage angst; when you start noticing patterns of isolation, a total lack of joy in daily activities, a lack of interest in engaging with friends, and so on. 

This is the stage where you might consider seeking the help of a therapist. 

Finding The Right Therapist For Your Child

When it comes to finding the right therapist for your child, consider that there are a wide range of therapies available, and each therapist has their own methodology and approach. 

Here are a few tips you can consider in the process: 

Ask Questions

Start out by asking a TON of questions – there’s  no shame in getting clarification around certain types of communication involved when seeking the right therapist – for example, you might come across a term that you don’t fully understand, or you may have heard of a particular methodology that you are keen to know more about. 

Don’t hold back from getting these questions clarified. 

Be An Active Participant In The Process

The process of finding the right therapist for your child should be a collaborative one. Be actively involved in understanding your child’s perspectives, get them involved in the process, and continue an ongoing dialogue with them throughout. 

Approach Your First Visit As An Interview

Remember that this is a process of identifying what’s important to you in a therapist, and then figuring out if your therapist meets those needs. That’s why, go into your first meeting with a set of questions, and don’t be afraid to interview the therapist to make sure that they are the right fit for you and your child. 

Get Clear About Their Style & Approach

Every therapist brings something different to the table, and your first visit is a great opportunity to gain clarity about their unique approach to therapy. For example, someone could be a cognitive behavioral therapist, whereas someone else might specialize in trauma response.

To ensure that you get the right person onboard, it’s a good idea to try and identify your child’s challenges in as much depth as you can. 

Gaining clarity is an essential part of selecting the right therapist for your child.

Here are a few questions you can ask: 

  • What is your style of therapy? 
  • What can I expect from our sessions?
  • How do you approach setting goals for therapy?
  • What is your approach to dealing with resistance from your teens?
  • How do you measure progress in therapy? 

Listen To What Your Child Wants

A key part of the process is to connect with your child and understand some of the basic needs they might have from their therapist. 

  • Would they prefer a male or a female therapist?
  • Do they want a person of color or a specific ethnicity?
  • Would they prefer the therapist speaking a particular language?
  • Do they want someone older, or someone closer to their age? 

Although these may come across as basic questions, they can be the make-or-break deal for your child. What’s important is that they feel comfortable with their therapist. 

The Best Strategy For Having Mental Health Conversations with Your Teen

It can get challenging to address mental health conversations with your teenager. At first, it can feel frustrating and overwhelming when they don’t open up and share their feelings with you. 

However, the best strategy is to stay patient through the process, get really vulnerable, and let them know that you’re there for them. 

Being emotionally grounded and open will help both you and your child approach these necessary conversations with comfort and ease. 

*If you or someone you know needs help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988. You can also reach a crisis counselor by messaging the Crisis Text Line at 741741.

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