Dr. MJ Bazos MD, Patient Handout
Teenager's Emotional Health
What should I know about my teenager's emotional health?
Your child's teenage years can be a difficult time. Teens may feel overwhelmed by the emotional and physical changes they are going through. At the same time, teens may be facing a number of pressures - from friends to fit in and from parents and other adults to do well in school, or activities like sports or part-time jobs.
The teenage years are a time of transition from childhood into adulthood. Teens often struggle with being dependent on their parents while having a strong desire to be independent. They may experiment with new values, ideas, hairstyles and clothing as they try to define who they are. Although this may be uncomfortable for parents, it is a normal part of being a teenager.
What can I do to help my teen?
Communicating your love for your child is the single most important thing you can do. Children decide how they feel about themselves in large part by how their parents react to them. For this reason, it's important for parents to help their children feel good about themselves. It is also important to communicate your values and to set expectations and limits, such as insisting on honesty, self-control and respect for others, while still allowing teenagers to have their own space.
Parents of teens often find themselves noticing only the problems, and they may get in the habit of giving mostly negative feedback and criticism. Although teens need feedback, they respond better to positive feedback. Praising appropriate behavior can help your teen feel a sense of accomplishment and reinforce your family's values.
What warning signs should I look for?
Teens, especially those with low self-esteem or with family problems, are at risk for a number of self-destructive behaviors such as using drugs or alcohol or having unprotected sex. Depression and eating disorders are also important issues for teens. The following may be warning signs that your child is having a problem:
What should I do if there is a problem?
If you suspect there is a problem, ask your teen about what is bothering him or her. And then listen. Don't ignore a problem in the hopes that it will go away. It is easier to cope with problems when they are small. This also gives you and your teen the opportunity to learn how to work through problems together. Don't be afraid to ask for help. Many resources, including your family doctor, are available. Some are listed below.
American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry : www.aacap.org
National Institute on Drug Abuse : www.drugabuse.gov
National Institute of Mental Health: www.nimh.nih.gov
American Psychiatric Association : www.psych.org
National Alliance for the Mentally Ill: www.nami.org
National Mental Health Association : www.nmha.org