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Parenting and Supporting an Adolescent with Mental Health Issues

Raising a child is rarely a smooth, simple process that parents naturally understand from the get-go. It takes lots of work, patience, and effort, especially when that child grows into a teenager. This becomes even more of a challenge when a teen struggles with mental health issues.

When it comes to parenting a teenager with mental health issues, there are a handful of strategies you can use to make the process easier. It’s important that parents know how to spot signs of mental health issues and the ways to help their child grow in their own mental health and well-being.

Recognizing Mental Health Issues in Your Teenager

In some cases, parents may brush off or make light of the signs of a mental health condition in their teenager, often thinking it’s “just a phase”. As a parent, it’s important to be mindful of the difference between teen rebellion and mental health struggles.

One of the most noticeable symptoms you’ll see in a teenager struggling with mental health is a consistent sadness or depression that lasts longer than two weeks at a time. They may start withdrawing from social situations with friends or family, sometimes avoiding these interactions altogether. As the withdrawing behavior progresses, they may shift to sudden outbursts of anger or frequent irritability.

When parenting a child with mental health issues, you may see their overall mood change, and at times they may be prone to uncontrollable behavior. They might start overeating or undereating as a means of coping with their emotions. They can also struggle with poor sleep, headaches, difficulty concentrating, or problems with schoolwork and grades.

More severe cases will include teens who begin hurting or cutting themselves, or talking about suicide.  Learn more about recognizing the signs of concern surrounding youth suicide in your teen by exploring resources such as The Jason Foundation at .

Challenges of Raising a Teen Struggling with Mental Health

Raising a child is never an easy task, but raising a teen struggling with their mental health has its own set of issues for parents to be aware of.

When parents experience their teenager struggling with mental health, they may feel confused or frustrated because it’s difficult to understand the problem. This may lead to frustration and stress on the part of the parents, since they know how to “fix it”.  In the long run, these concerns can cause anxiety and even depression for the parents as well.

As parents work to help their child, they may become exhausted from exerting so much effort. This state of exhaustion can lead to additional tension with loved ones and cause more conflict within the home.

Parents may also begin to feel guilty and disappointed in themselves for not doing better. This often happens when previous tactics or efforts haven’t made a significant difference in improving their teen’s mental health.

How to Parent & Support Your Teenager with Their Mental Health

If you are parenting a child with mental health issues, there are plenty of strategies you can use to make the process easier.

Educate yourself on the mental health condition

The more a parent knows about their child’s specific mental health condition, the more they can understand how to help. Take the time to study the condition, or ask for advice from friends and family who have experienced similar struggles.

Attend family counseling

Going to family counseling sessions is a great way to bring healthy communication back into your home. A counselor will offer ways for parents to better discuss issues with their teens and make better decisions together.

Practice stress management techniques

Guided meditation, deep breathing routines, and exercise are some of the best techniques to help manage stress and anxiety. Parents should make time to practice these regularly themselves and invite their children to be involved as well.

Find opportunities to relax and unwind

Going on vacation has so many benefits for mental health and building family relationships. As the connection between parents and their teens improves, it’s a great idea to get away from the day-to-day grind and enjoy some time together elsewhere.

Offer praise and encouragement to your teenager

Words of affirmation are one of the most powerful love languages parents can use with their teens. Sharing praise for both small and large achievements will make a big difference in building a child’s confidence. Even a heartfelt “I love you” is enough to positively impact a parent-teen relationship.

Get help from mental health professionals

If a parent struggles to find a solution or see progress, mental health professionals offer expert guidance. When you work with a reputable team, they’ll provide all the necessary tools and information to help you with parenting a child with mental health issues.

Do You or Your Teen Need Extra Help with Mental Health?

Parenting a child with mental health issues is a difficult process, but there are ways to help yourself along the way. If you or your teen is struggling with mental health issues, the mental health professionals at Northern California Behavioral Health System (NCBHS) are here for your support.  Call us at today at 877.717.0085, or find us online at to learn more about how we can help.

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