Talking To Your Teen About Mental Health
Bring up your concerns in a gentle way. Tell your teen why you’re worried about them, but try not to make them feel like you’re putting them on the spot.
Listen Actively. If your teen opens up to you, don’t interrupt or lecture them. Just let them talk, and do your best to understand them. Show respect for their opinions about what they're experiencing and why.
Dispel any feelings of shame. Tell your teen that mental illness is very common. Don’t use words like “crazy,” and don’t make your teen feel guilty for their illness.
Help teens find the resources they need. Teenagers may not know where to turn for mental health support, so help them come up with ideas. Suggest talking to a school counsellor.
Emphasize that mental illness is treatable. Let your teen know that, with the right treatment, a person can improve with a mental illness. Provide them with examples from books, blogs, and movies of other people
Keep the conversation open-ended. Don’t lecture your teen about how mental illness is “bad.” Instead, give them space to express their own ideas. Ask questions, and listen carefully to the answers. Encourage them to ask questions as well.
Find a good time and place to talk. Talk in a private, comfortable place. Think about whether your teen would be most comfortable talking face-to-face, or whether they might prefer to talk while doing something else.
Let your teen know you’re always available to listen or talk. If your teen clams up when you bring up the subject of mental health, don’t try to force a conversation. Instead, encourage them to come to you or offer them an alternative adult to talk to, a professional, family friend, if they ever do want to talk about anything.
Validate their feelings. Casually acknowledge that secondary school can be tough. Acknowledge the things that might be going on – ‘I know that you want to do well so it’s not surprising that you might feel the pressure of school/activities/ staying with the crowd.
Give them an easy out. For example, Have the duration of a car journey as the time limit so they know there is an easy end to any difficult conversation and that they have control. Let them know that you will only talk until you pull into the driveway and then they can decide whether or not to keep the conversation going.
Don’t try to talk them out of their difficult thoughts. Even if their thinking seems irrational or their thoughts trivial, it isn’t that way to them. Validate them, ‘It’s bothering you isn’t it,’ or ‘I can see how upset you are,’ so they know they can come to you again.