Teens today face a lot of challenges. When teens are struggling, they are more likely to make poor choices that will affect their future negatively. This can include misusing drugs and alcohol. On the other hand, when a teen feels good, they thrive! As parent’s, grandparents, teachers and mentors, you can do a lot to help protect your teen’s mental health against some of those challenges.
United Way in Utah County has come up with a way to think about helping our youth feel happy and make good choices. The strategy is called Everyday Strong. This simple framework is a way to take stock of what a child or teen may need in order to thrive.
First, is physical needs. If a child doesn’t have food, shelter, or rest, they will struggle to feel good and make good choices. Next comes safety. This includes physical safety, but also feeling safe to explore, safe to separate, safe to be yourself, etc. Next, is connection. The child needs to feel connected to parents, family and friends. Last is confidence. A child needs to know they are capable of doing things well that are important to them. If a child has basic physical needs met, feels safe, connected and confident, that child will thrive.
It is easy to believe that most children are safe. But even if a child may be safe, he may not feel safe. He may be afraid of getting in trouble or letting a loved one down.
A child who feels safe knows that she can tell the adults in her life the truth about herself, and she will always be loved, no matter what.
Connection is more than just being in the same space as your child. It is doing activities that the child enjoys, even if you don’t always enjoy that activity.
Connection is when a child feels their parent, teacher or friend really understands her.
After a child begins to feel safe and connected with those around them, he can start working on becoming confident in his abilities and develop pride in his work.
Keep in mind: it’s more important to praise a child for the accomplishments she cares about, not just the ones that look impressive from the outside.
Some activities to try to protect your teen’s mental health
During an emotionally charged conversation, imagine having put duct tape over your mouth for at least 2 minutes, but stay engaged, attentive and continue to communicate by listening in any way you could without speaking.
Write a note and leave it to be found. Emphasize your relationship and feelings about your child as a person, with less emphasis on their specific behaviors, choices or accomplishments. A written note shows extra thought and effort and can be saved, re-read, and treasured for a long time to come.
Sometime when you’ve spent a significant amount of time together with a child, just take some time to reflect and review what you did that day. Negative memories are said to be more “sticky” than positive ones, so people often need help remembering their good deeds, successes, or accomplishments. Just reviewing the events at the end of a typical day can improve their ability to reflect and reinforce successes.