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Teen mental health — mom and daughter hugging Child & Teen Depression

Teen Mental Health: What You as a Parent Need to Know

Haley Zapal  |  July 28, 2022

Teen mental health — mom and daughter hugging

**Please note: This blog post was updated on May 22, 2024.**

Growing up has never been easy, but for families today, it can seem even more daunting. Adolescence is a time of big change for kids, and dealing with emotions, school, and outside events can be overwhelming sometimes. As a parent, it’s important to help instill in your child healthy mental health habits that will last a lifetime, as well as to know when something may be wrong and a conversation is needed. This blog post will help you understand teen mental health a little better and how to connect with your child.  

Stressors — And Coping Mechanisms — Are Different Today

Even apart from the global pandemic, civil unrest, and inflation that’s disrupted nearly everyone’s life the past few years, teens today face issues our generation couldn’t have imagined. The pressures of social media and technology can create a toxic storm of self-doubt, FOMO (fear of missing out), sadness, bullying, and more. 

Teen mental health issues can manifest themselves in ways adults may not recognize. Even the way kids talk about depression has changed, with new slang terms, idioms, and metaphors. Instead of staying on the phone with friends venting about school or parents, they may turn to group chats, logging on to a Discord server to voice chat, or even just zoning out watching their favorite Twitch streamer.

How to Promote Positive Mental Health in Teens

Mental health is like taking care of a car — many big problems can be taken care of with preventative maintenance. Also, some folks may think of the term “mental health” as something negative, but in reality, it’s part of our daily lives, and can be a positive thing! Here are some ways to encourage healthy mental health in teens:

Talk about feelings often

Emotions are how we process and make sense of the world around us. Make sure you talk about your own and encourage your child to share theirs — good, bad, and everything in between. Let your child know that all feelings are okay, no matter what. Tell them they can always come to you with any emotion, problem, or situation for help. Plus, the more you talk about these feelings, the more you’ll know what’s going on in your child’s world.

Encourage good physical health

The mind and body are linked, so it’s important that teens eat nutritious food, drink lots of water, exercise regularly, and rest well. Set aside some time throughout the day to share healthy meals and move your bodies as a group. These activities can help promote positive mental health in teens.

Be a role model

One of the most important things you can do is model how to respond to life and emotions for your child. When you have a bad day at work and are stressed, demonstrate how you decompress with yoga or by having a movie night with the family. These little habits show your child that life isn’t just about what happens to you — it’s also how you react to things. 

Common Teen Mental Health Issues to Know About

Anxiety and depression are probably the most common teen mental health issues parents recognize, but there are other ways teens may be struggling, including:

  • Suicidal ideation
  • Disordered eating
  • Behavioral disorders
  • Risk-taking behaviors

Mental Health In Teens: How You Can Help

Know the warning signs

No one knows your child quite like you do, so you’re in the best position to know when and if something is amiss in their world. Here are some general things to look out for when it comes to warning signs for issues like depression and anxiety:

  • Changes in school performances
  • Eating habit changes
  • Increased irritability
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Losing interest in once-loved activities
  • Physical ailments without causes (stomachaches, headaches)
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Isolation from friends, teammates, and family

Actively listen

When you sit down to talk to your teen, give them your full attention. It can be hard for a young person to bear their soul, and the last thing you want is for them to feel like you’re not all there. Put your phone in another room, turn off the TV, and make sure there’s lots of eye contact. Ask follow-up questions and repeat back important parts of what they’re saying. This can look like “I hear you’re not sleeping well and feel tired all the time. That sounds pretty stressful!”

Show empathy

It may be hard to 100% understand some of the situations and activities your teen may be in. For example, maybe you’ve never dramatically been kicked out of a group chat. But you probably have experienced a fight with friends, though. Show your child that you understand their emotions and that they’re not alone in their feelings, whatever they may be. 

Offer support 

This can look like listening more often, planning a weekly ice cream date, or something heftier like working together to find a therapist. Let your child know that you’re willing to show up for them in whatever they need to support their mental health.

Provide resources

If there’s one silver lining to dealing with mental health issues today, it’s that there’s never been a time more filled with information and resources thanks to the internet. From videos and worksheets to texting hotlines and phone numbers, there are tons of ways to get and implement help. Check out the section below for resources for both you and your teen.

Helpful Resources for Teen Mental Health

How Bark Can Help Families

Even armed with the best information and resources available, it can still be hard figuring out teen mental health. Many teens turn to social media and messaging with friends to help make sense of their feelings and emotions — things they sometimes wouldn’t normally share with their parents. Bark can help by monitoring online activities for signs of depression, anxiety, self-harm, and suicidal ideation.

Bark helps families manage and protect their children’s digital lives.

mother and daughter discussing Bark Parental Controls