Every year on March 2, people around the world mark Teen Mental Wellness Day. This day aims to raise awareness of mental health issues that can impact teens, and with the recent pandemic, civil unrest, several natural disasters and a local school shooting, checking in on your teen's mental health might be more important than ever. Kristin Hardy, a counselor at Trinity Christian Counseling and a mother of three, provides tips for connecting with your teens.
"This is a time in their lives when it's imperative that you as parents listen more and react less. It's a time to meet them where they are at in the moment and really just ask what they need, which at the moment is probably not telling them your advice," said Hardy.
As opposed to younger children, who will share every detail of their day, teens are often less likely to open up about things that have happened, provide information about their friends or share how they are feeling. Hardy said to overcome this, say things like, "tell me more," or "how did that make you feel." She said it's important to lead the teen lead the conversation.
"Begin daily check-ins of highs and lows from their day - this practice helps them build confidence that they have in your because if you can handle the small stuff, the big stuff might not be so scary to share," said Hardy.
In addition to shutting down, it's not uncommon to see teens shut out. They will retreat to their bedrooms or spend lots of time alone.
"I believe that for most teens, their bedroom is their safe space. It is a place that is secluded from the rest of the world, the place where they can sit and be silent, the place where they can think, create and solve their problems, and a place where they can recharge from the day of the many activities that are being demanded of them every day," said Hardy. She said parents might become concerned over this change in behavior, but there are boundaries that parents can set.
- Keep the door open a crack so they know you could walk in any time
- Have teens keep their phones and devices ouside of their room
- Eat dinner as a family so they have a reason to come out of their room and communicate
For those who think their teen is suffering from anxiety of depression, it might not be easy to spot right away. Hardy said the symptoms often look different from teen to teen, but she encourages parents to look for things like lower energy level, inability to focus, feeling overwhelmed by things that they can't name, feeling on edge or being unable to relax. She said, with anxiety, sleep becomes an issue.
Hardy said it's important to make sure teens have regular physical activity, an outlet for sharing what is on their mind (journaling, friends, parents), a safe place to regroup, people to ask for help when they feel overwhelmed, a balanced diet, and her personal favorite, deep breaths.
If you suspect your teen is suffering from depression or anxiety, or might need someone to talk to, Trinity Christian Counseling clinicians are available to serve parents, teens, kids and families in the community. For more information, visit the Counseling Center website, call 586-468-0401 or email