GROWING PAINS: Tips on how to connect with your teen

Special Reports

TYLER, Texas (KETK) – Adolescents experiencing depression and anxiety have been a topic of concern with many of the unique challenges they are facing, but what can parents do about this? 

KETK spoke with several parents, teachers, counselors and teens and many of them had similar answers: to be present for your kids. 

Rebekah Walker, Licensed Professional Counselor, said that being present in their lives makes a difference in their mental health.

Even with parents being there for their teens, the red flags are often missed.

Walker suggests that parents may often confuse untreated depression and anxiety with their child ‘just being a teen.’

“I find that a lot of parents just say, ‘oh, well, that’s just how teenagers are,’ and so then the child who’s already struggling with depression sinks further into depression because isolation leads to more depression,” said Walker.

Erin Young, Licensed Clinical Social Worker and co-owner of The Bridge Therapeutic Services, said that even if you don’t understand, making an honest effort can make a big difference.

“I think that at times we talk at our kids and not with our kids. So I think just really just sitting and listening, if you don’t understand, tell them, ‘I’m trying to understand.’”

Erin Young, Licensed Professional Counselor, The Bridge Therapeutics

Young suggests spending time with your teen doing things that they chose to do to help you learn their interests.

Even when the communication is perfect, the teens may sometimes withdraw anyway, like Meaghan English told us she did when her grandmother passed away.

“It really began to affect me,” said English. “Something that I was afraid of was how others would see me if I let them know that, no, I’m not perfect.”

English said that she has always been a perfectionist and letting people see her mistakes and things she was feeling was hard.

She said that it is important to have a dependable support system.

Rose Everett, an East Texas parent, said that her daughter has a few adults that she trusts also and she knows that they would steer her daughter in the right direction and even reach out to Rose if needed.

The students and parents that KETK spoke with said that these additional adults are important for them to have in case they are not as comfortable taking certain problems to their parents.

“Help them to find that educator that that safe space while they are on campus that they can speak with, even if that’s an administrator, if that’s a counselor, or even if it’s a teacher that they can confide in,” said Tiffeni Mumphrey, teacher at Carlisle Senior High School.

English said that from her perspective as a teen, it is all about building a bond with your teen and making sure they know that they can come to you with anything.

She said that trust should be mutual between teens and their parents.

“You have to be able to trust them with some things that are going on in your life and then they’re going to be able to trust you with things that are going on in their life,” said English.

”Just being consistent, showing time and time again every time that no matter what you do, I’m still going to be here for you, no matter what I’m going to show you support,” said English.

Rebekah Walker noted that it is important to ask your child open-ended questions about their day to get them to open up more.

“I don’t ever, ever ask my kids how their day was. I say, Tell me, what was your best thing about your day? What was the worst thing about your day? How was lunch? Who’d you sit with? Those questions, because those are open ended questions that promote more conversation,” said Walker.

Walker added that if you’ve noticed that your teen has changed friend groups, changed their mood, or seems a little bit more irritated, then that is something you may want to be concerned about.

Walker also provided some tips on how to reach out to your teen

  •  How to reach out to your kid without causing them to shut down
    • Be open
    • LISTEN
    • Ask open ended questions, don’t interrogate
    • Learn about their likes, dislikes, learn about what they are interested in.
    • Get to know their friends
    • Create a home environment where they and their friends can hang out
    • When they mess up, talk about it and then move on. Don’t keep bringing it up over and over. Once and done.
    • Living up to standards intentionally or unintentionally set by parents
    • Verbalize your approval of them as a person, no matter what.
    • Let them know that approval and love is unconditional
  • Living up to standard intentionally or unintentionally set by parents
    • Verbalize your approval of them as a person, no matter what.
    •  Approval and love is not conditional

Below is a list of strategies and resources provided by Walker:

  • Call and talk to your child’s school counselor
  • Next Step Community Solutions: partnered with over 40 local schools and send Licensed counselors into the schools to provide mental health services to teens at no cost.
  • Check with your insurance if mental health services are covered, they can provide you a list of providers in your area
  • Community Healthcore, Andrews Center (access depending on your area)
  • Your primary care provider can help you find a referral to a mental health specialist

For a list of resources to help support your teens, click here.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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