We’re well and truly in the information age, where communications and access to data transpires in mere seconds and literally at our fingertips. It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the sheer deluge of info, rapidly evolving technologies, and changing social rules. For our children, especially teens who are regularly using their tablets, smart phones, and laptops in their academic and everyday lives, these are the circumstance they currently live in. Information is mass, time is minimal, and demand is high.
Did you know that 1 in 5 individuals are diagnosed with some mental health issue? And that as a country industrializes these rates seem to increase? Yes. This is a fact.
As someone who knows the pressures all too well, I write to you about well-being because it is important to acknowledge the numerous stressors that your child faces everyday: social media, school, after school activities, assignments, exams, essays, college applications, a social life, a family life, and enough hours of sleep. Twenty-four hours does not always seem (or perhaps isn’t) enough. It is common for you to think “Oh, she’s just overreacting”, or “He will get over it, it’s just a teenager thing”. Unfortunately, these years are crucial and will affect their well-being in the long term.
I believe in two missions for parents that make a difference in your chid’s life:
Connecting with Them
A lot of the time, teenagers may seem as if they don’t need you to listen or converse with. FALSE. They need you more than ever. As a child, confronting parents approximates mission impossible because parents are always quick to lend advice, provide a solution, and fix the problem. This is not what is needed here. They need you to be a listener. Actively listening to your child and their needs will encourage a sense of openness, honesty, and respect. You will find that a child who can commonly confide in their parents will build better self esteem.
Adolescents have ongoing identity crises as they try to figure out who they truly are. Shuffling through different friend groups, music genres, mood swings, and likes and dislikes is part of the package. They are figuring it all out and developing a sense of personal identity more independently of you (and your expectations). All this while, emotional support is essential. If your child comes to you claiming that she has anxiety issues or is feeling overwhelmingly sad (amongst many other emotionalities), support her feelings. It is also extremely okay if your child feels as if they need to reach out to others (sibling, aunt/uncle, counsellor, psychologist, etc.) to speak about the situations that are causing distress. Counselling should no longer be stigmatized. It is beneficial and most people find the help and assistance they need to feel better.
Editor’s Note: Asisha Sachatheva is currently a senior at the University of British Columbia, Canada, studying psychology. She grew up in Bangkok and attended international school, and aims to pursue a career in counseling. She has previous written about harm reduction in the context of teens and alcohol use.