How To Know If It’s Time To Reach Out To A Therapist To Help Your Teen
Being a teen can be really hard. There are bodily changes and shifts in responsibilities at home and school. Teens need room to grow independently and develop into their best selves, but when mental illness, imbalance, or negativity comes into play, allowing our teens the freedom and control they need becomes difficult, even scary.
Concerned parents have to think through how they will avoid unnecessary treatment and support their children without causing additional stress. How do we know when it’s “just a phase” and when it’s time to reach out for professional help?
Some teenage struggles are normal
Moodiness, anxiety, or difficulties in school or with their social lives are all expected struggles. These difficulties are typically temporary. Similar scenarios in which we expect a temporary decline in mental health are:
Moving to a new community or going to a new school
Divorce of parents, regardless of how amiable
Temporary developmental depression
It’s obviously still a good idea to talk with your teen through these scenarios. They still need your support.
When to worry about your teen
There are some things to watch for when deciding whether to approach your teen about therapy. If you have a family history of mental illness or if your child struggles in school or seems isolated from their peers, it’s a good idea to talk to them about counseling. Some other more serious indicators might be:
If you discover drug or alcohol use or participation in illegal activities
Signs of self-harm like cutting or burning themselves
Changes in eating habits or an eating disorder
Changes in sleeping habits or obvious fatigue
Verbalized thoughts about death or suicidal ideation (“No one would miss me if I died.”)
They’re excessively worried, often to the point of tears
What you can do
The first step to helping your child is communicating with them. Even though some teens can grow very closed off from their parents, it’s still essential to foster your connection with them. Keep asking them how things are going at school or how their friends are doing. Talk with them about sexual health, healthy eating, and sleeping habits, and help them understand it’s okay to feel how they’re feeling. The more secure your teen feels with you, the earlier you can spot any potential mental struggles. Once this line of communication is open, it’s time to talk with a professional.
What if they say no?
Children, especially teens, are constantly growing into their autonomy. They want as much control of their lives as possible. This is a normal part of development. As a result, teens often want nothing to do with therapy. There are some ways you can talk with your child about therapy to try to convince them to at least try it.
Normalize it early
Therapy still, unfortunately, comes with a stigma, but you have the power to dismantle that. Normalize mental health care by being open with your teen about your own mental health. Let them know that you also see a therapist or occasionally speak with a counselor. The earlier you make therapy normal, the more comfortable your child will be with the idea of talking to someone.
Give them some control of the process
Our teens want to feel respected, and they deserve it. Allow your child to take part in finding a therapist they think they’ll feel comfortable with. Then, respect their privacy. You’ll be tempted to ask questions about their therapy sessions. General conversation is fine. But let them keep their therapy to themselves if they want and trust a professional therapist to contact you if there is a serious need.
Talking with your teen about seeking therapy is extremely important, both for their mental health and yours. Therapists who work with teens design their sessions with teens in mind. We can work together to help your child take control of their mental health. Contact us for a free consultation today!