Are you worried about your teenager? You are not alone.

Parenting teenagers is not easy. The changes that are going on in their brains can be a challenge to navigate.

Recently, you’ve likely seen some news articles about the declining mental health of teenagers. Teenagers report more symptoms of depression, anxiety and thoughts of suicide. Overall, teens say they feel more sadness.

Are screens part of the problem? Yes. You know this already. Watching teenagers sit together at a table while staring at their phones is excruciating and sad. They are not finding the happiness they crave in the screens of their phones. And yet, taking away the phones doesn’t cure all of the problems.

This makes parenting incredibly challenging. If taking away part of the problem doesn’t fix the problem, how do you fix the problem? How do you keep your teenager from struggling?

The answer is not the one you want. The truth is, you can’t.

 

Part of parenting is allowing the struggle and helping your teenager learn from it in their own ways.

Parents are working harder than ever trying to fill their children’s lives with all of the things and activities that they never had wondering why their teenager is feeling so sad despite the abundance that exists in their lives. How many parents have asked themselves, or their children, why can’t they just be grateful? You’ve given them everything they’ve wanted and it’s never enough.

This is the dilemma of our time. The sadness, the pain, the struggle— it’s not about what they lack. We live in a complex world filled with screens, endless possibilities, and lots of moving parts. It is overwhelming. For our children. And for us too.

And then a pandemic happened and screens became the lifeline for a lot of youth. Connecting in real life became scary. School changed shape and form. Expectations completely transformed and then transformed again. Some students adapted well and some did not. It’s a lot.

 

If you are worried about your teen and wondering if they need help, here’s what I suggest you do:

Tell them that you are worried and why.

Approach it from a non-judgmental place of compassion and keep it on your side of the street. Start with the words “I feel” and follow it with a feeling. For example, “I am feeling worried about you because you’re (not wanting to spend time with friends, losing interest in activities that were once fun for you, withdrawing from the family, insert your reason here). How are you doing and do you feel like you need more support or help?

If they are struggling, your job is not to end the struggle. Remind yourself that they are learning how to cope and manage the struggle and this is necessary and important because it is a life skill they will need moving forward. Fixing their problems may seem like the solution but it just creates problems down the line.

They need to learn to navigate the struggle. They need to build their tools to move through pain and life’s challenges. They need to learn how to connect on their own terms.

When you reach out to them, they may slam the door in your face or roll their eyes. That’s okay. They may also come back to you when their mood turns and tell you what they need.

Pay attention to your intuition. Parents know. If you think your kid is hurting beyond what feels normal and they won’t talk to you about it, consult with a mental health clinician for options.

Feel free to reach out to our therapists for support. If our therapists are not the right therapist for you, we will help you find someone who is.

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