communicating with teens

Comforting Part 4: Trust Me, Your Kids WANT to Talk About Mental Health

Comforting your teen series Part 4

Families talk about a lot of things, but mental health usually isn’t one of them. Historically, mental health has been a taboo, uncomfortable topic in many families. Whether generational, cultural, racial, or gender-based, many messages we have historically received about mental health tell us we shouldn’t share.  People have always struggled with their mental health; it’s just largely been done in silence.

Millennials and the GenZ generation are more aware and open about their mental health as compared to previous generations. This is obviously a good thing and shows we are making progress.  But because Millennials and GenZ’s are more open to talk while their parents may not be (through no fault of their own) it can create an uncomfortable situation and another obstacle stopping teens from opening up. I see this often in my office. While they’re open to talking, teens sense their parent’s hesitancy, discomfort, and in some cases, fear.  We all know that feeling when we perceive someone is uncomfortable–we tend to go the other direction.  Teens do the same thing, pulling back from sharing with their parents.  This can create more fear for a teen.  They want the security of connection with their parents, they need it. Without it, teens have to maneuver through their difficulty alone.  Without the reassurance from their parents that they are ok, they may second guess themselves and wonder if there is something wrong with them because they are struggling. This can often times lead them to feeling shame for struggling, causing them to be more secretive and hide that they aren’t doing well.  Teens are then left to deal on their own.  Many times, a crisis has to occur before parents are aware of what’s going on.

Conversations about mental health need to be ongoing in our homes.  When it’s ongoing, there isn’t as much discomfort talking about difficult topics, struggles, and how we feel about things. It becomes a natural topic of discussion.  It’s hard enough for teens to deal with everything; we don’t want them to do it alone. And we definitely don’t want them to feel shame for struggling.

Keeping mental health a regular part of the conversation means they can be transparent with you and reach out  for help because they’ll know they can. The safety of connection is present making it easier to face life’s challenges.

Please read the other blogs this series on Comforting your Teen: