May is Mental Health Awareness month and at Teen Speak, we encourage parents and caregivers to check in on their teen’s mental health, then continue to check-in throughout the year. It can sometimes be difficult to assess if your teen is just going through “normal” changes or if a change in mood, weight or activity-level actually means they are experiencing difficult emotions or even an episode of depression.
Here are 3 signs your teen may be struggling with their mental health and what you can do. Keep in mind, the best person you can compare your teen to is themselves!
- Lack of Social Desires: If your teen is typically active, hanging out with friends and they have been shutting themselves in their room every day, it may be time to check in on what could be happening socially. Touch base with their closest friends (and their parents), as well as teachers or coaches at school. Get perspective from others – you may find that something happened at school to initiate this change in mood. Use an open-ended question to ask about how they are feeling “What is keeping you from hanging out with your friends more?”. Recognize that it is common and very normal for teens to not want to hang out with their parents or siblings, but the evident shift is if they are not hanging out with their friends either.
- Change in Weight, Gain or Loss (with no explanation): This can be tricky as our teens are growing like crazy and their bodies are rapidly changing! But if you have noticed a major weight loss or gain – not eating, or overeating – this may be a sign your teen is struggling. Reflect by offering concern to open the discussion “I’ve noticed you are not eating with us anymore and am a little worried.” Let them respond, you may need to allow for some silence while they consider your reflection. Depression just as commonly embodies overeating, as it does undereating, so knowing your teen’s eating habits, exercise habits and their general body image beliefs is important. Typically, your parent intuition will tell you if the change in weight is normal, or something to be concerned about!
- Emotional Mood Swings and Anger: Puberty can do a number on our teens, and in turn – us! Their hormones are changing and they feel most comfortable with their parents/caregivers – so the occasional outburst of anger or emotional rollercoaster shown to us is most definitely normal – but if you are noticing a regular rollercoaster of emotions and anger, there may be more going on. The best comparison to your teen is themselves, so ask yourself – is this a sign that something else is going on? Specifically, if your teen is typically chatty and wears their emotions on their sleeve, but has turned silent and emotional. Start with an affirmation “You believe in taking care of people around you – your brother, your friends.” Let them respond, then ask an open-ended question “What do you need to feel better?”
Our teens most definitely keep us on our toes – but we know that your number 1 goal is their health and happiness! In the midst of busy seasons or stressful careers, it can be easy to lose touch on what our teens are going through or how they are feeling.
We encourage you to implement weekly check-ins or monthly 1:1 “dates” with your teen so you feel confident in recognizing when their mood or behaviors drastically change. YOU are their biggest cheerleader – make sure your teen knows that! 🙂
Download our FREE 3-in-1 Bundle: Create Effortless Conversations with your Teen to learn more about what normal behaviors look like and how you can build a foundation for a life-long relationship!