Promoting Positive Teen Mental Health and Wellbeing

“Adolescence can be a risky period for mental health problems. On top of environment and genes, teenagers go through many changes and challenges in a short period of time. This all happens while teenage brains are still maturing.”

Mental health is a way of describing social and emotional wellbeing. Your child needs good mental health to develop in a healthy way, build strong relationships, adapt to change and deal with life’s challenges.

Pre-teens and teenagers who have good mental health often:

  • feel happier and more positive about themselves and enjoy life
  • have healthier relationships with family and friends
  • do physical activity and eat a healthy diet
  • get involved in activities
  • have a sense of achievement
  • can relax and get a good night’s sleep
  • feel like they belong to their communities.

Your love and support and a strong relationship with you as a parent can have a direct and positive impact on your child’s mental health. It can even reduce the chances of your child experiencing mental health problems.

Here are some ideas to promote your child’s mental health and wellbeing:

  • Show love, affection and care for your child.
  • Show that you’re interested in what’s happening in your child’s life. Praise their efforts as well as their good points and achievements and value their ideas.
  • Enjoy spending time together one-on-one with your child, and also as a family.
  • Encourage your child to talk about feelings with you. It’s important for your child to feel they don't have to go through things on their own and that you can work together to find solutions to problems.
  • Deal with problems as they arise, rather than letting them build up.
  • Talk to trusted family members, friends, other parents or teachers if you have any concerns. If you feel you need more help, speak to your GP or another health professional.

Physical health is a big part of mental health. To help your child stay emotionally and physically healthy, encourage your child to do the following:

  • Keep active. Physical fitness will help your child stay healthy, have more energy, feel confident, manage stress and sleep well.
  • Develop and maintain healthy eating habits.
  • Get lots of regular sleep. Quality sleep will help your child to manage a busy life, stress and responsibilities.
  • Avoid alcohol and other drugs.

Talking with your child about mental health

If you’re concerned about your child’s mental health, start by talking to your child. This might feel uncomfortable – you might even be waiting for the problem to go away. But talking to your child about how they are feeling shows them they are not alone and that you care. Also, your child might need your help to get professional support.

Here are some ideas to encourage your child to talk to you about how they are feeling:

  • Say that even adults have problems they can’t sort out on their own. Point out that it’s easier to get help when you have someone else’s support.
  • Tell your child that it’s not unusual for young people to feel worried, stressed or sad. Also tell them that opening up about personal thoughts and feelings can be scary.
  • Tell your child that talking about a problem can often help put things into perspective and make feelings clearer. Someone with more or different experience – like an adult – might be able to suggest options your child hasn’t thought of.
  • Suggest some other people your child could talk to if he doesn’t want to talk to you – for example, aunts or uncles, close family friends, a trusted sports coach or community leader, or your GP.
  • Let your child know that talking with a GP or other health professional is confidential. They can’t tell anyone else, unless they’re worried about your child’s safety or someone else’s safety.
  • Emphasise that your child isn’t alone. You’ll be there whenever they are ready to talk.

If you raise your concerns with your child, they might refuse any help or say there’s nothing wrong. Many young people won’t seek help themselves. So you might need to say that you’re worried about him and you’ll be trying to get professional advice. It’s a good idea to encourage your child to come with you. If he won’t, you might need to go on your own.

If you’re not sure what to do, a GP or school counsellor is a good place to start.

Boosting teenage wellbeing: tips

Here are some ideas for fostering different aspects of teenage wellbeing.

Physical health. When your child takes care of themselves physically, it’s good for their wellbeing. For example, being active, having a break from technology, getting outside and getting enough sleep can help your child’s mood and improve their physical fitness.

Mental and emotional health. Good mental and emotional health is important for teenage wellbeing. For example, teenagers with good mental and emotional health can develop resilience to cope better with difficult situations. If your child develops resilience, they can ‘bounce back’ when things go wrong, which will boost their wellbeing.

Good emotional health also includes being aware that it’s normal and OK to sometimes feel sad, embarrassed, angry and frustrated – but these feelings usually pass.

A positive focus. If your child can notice and appreciate the good things in his life, they're more likely to feel positive. This can also help them keep difficult times in perspective, so they don’t become overwhelming.

Your child can do this by just taking a few moments each day to focus on what they are grateful for. You could even make this a family activity by asking everyone at the dinner table to name one thing they’re grateful for. You can be grateful for all sorts of things, like being together at dinner, the sun shining after a week of rain, having good health, being part of a great group of friends and so on.

Different activities. Trying new things and getting involved in different activities keeps your child’s options open, and can build their confidence and sense of self-worth. You can encourage your child by helping them find activities they might be interested in. It’s also important to praise them for being open to new things and willing to have a go.

Relationships and social connections. Relationships and social connections are vital for teenage wellbeing. Your child needs close and supportive family and friends. Good parent-child relationships tend to lead to good teenage friendships.

Meaning in life. Meaning in life can come from doing good things for others. Your child could look for everyday ways to help family or friends – for example, giving someone their seat on the bus, or helping someone pick up papers they’ve dropped in the street. Or they could get involved in community activity. This type of ‘giving’ lights up the reward centre in the brain, which makes your child feel good.

Feeling connected to something bigger can also help to give your child’s life a sense of purpose. Meaning might come from spirituality, life philosophy, or a commitment to a cause like the environment. People with meaning have less stress and get more out of what they do.

Goals and achievement. If your child has goals that fit with their values, are fun and attainable, and let them use their strengths, it can give them a sense of purpose and achievement.

Final word

I would like to congratulate all our Year 10 students who successfully completed the accredited training in teen mental health first aid, delivered by the friendly & professional staff from the Mornington Peninsula Youth Services.

Mental health & wellbeing is a priority for us all.

For further reading & resources check out the link below and get in touch when needed.

Yours in promoting positive mental health & wellbeing for all!

Donna Nairn
Director of Counselling