The teenage years are some of the most difficult times in a person’s life, with the transition from childhood to adulthood, causing a lot of emotional upheaval. In addition to physical changes as they enter puberty, and the subsequent mood changes caused by hormonal shifts, teens have to deal with finding an identity for themselves amongst the clamor of peer pressure from those at school and online. Considering all this, it’s no wonder that an increasing number of teenagers are experiencing issues relating to substance abuse, mental health difficulties, and a growing addiction to a life lived online. Fortunately, there are things we can do to help and guide teens through this difficult period of their lives, ensuring that they emerge from the other side as healthy, confident, and happy young adults.
Limit screen time
Teenagers in 2020 are part of the first generation to have grown up surrounded by screens, with cell phones, computers, and the internet being a permanent fixture throughout their lives. While being an essential tool for modern life, providing shopping, news, and communication at the click of a button, social media and the internet does, unfortunately, also have a lot of downsides. Being part of an online community of people with very strong opinions further bolstered by the physical disconnect can sometimes feel like you’re entering a gladiator area, and the constant stream of news, whether fake or reliable, can be draining. At a time of their life when they are experimenting with their identity and opinions, this makes teens perhaps more susceptible to the toxicity of social media. Add to this the fact that many teens see vloggers and YouTubers as role models, and they might start to see their entire life as a potential performance for Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube.
What can you do to help a teenager deal with the disconnect between online and real life? There’s growing evidence that social media addiction is a real thing, and if you suspect that to be the case, then professional medical help should be sought. Otherwise, you can reinforce that they are not a “brand,” and do not need to record every second of their life and constantly work on their online persona. Most importantly, limit screen time. Many smartphones have an inbuilt monitoring system to help parents monitor their child’s usage. Limiting social media use will encourage a teenager to find more rounded pastimes and discover the joy in a life spent offline and in the moment.
Find a treatment center to tackle addiction issues
Adolescence is a time of rebellion and pushing against boundaries set by parents and society—you might remember attending a few secret house parties yourself while at high school. However, normal acts of rebellion could develop into behavior and habits that, if remained unchecked, could be detrimental to their health and put them at risk of getting into trouble with the law. The teen could start using drugs and alcohol on a regular basis, perhaps as a result of peer pressure from friends who also use them, or as a confidence booster to help deal with social anxiety in the tricky world of teen relationships. However, drugs and alcohol can also be used as an unsuitable coping mechanism for alleviating the pressures of adolescence, as well as any underlying mental health conditions.
Finding out that a teenager is struggling with drug and alcohol addictions is worrying and sad, but you can rest assured that there are many effective treatment options available. A teenage rehabilitation center will provide an intensive program to ensure that the teen leaves completely drug and alcohol free. While they will go through a full physical detox, to cleanse the body and return it to a healthy condition, the underlying mental reasons for addiction will also be treated. The teen will work with the center’s doctors, nurses, and counselors to understand the reasons why they became addicted to drugs and alcohol. Armed with this understanding, the teen can, with the help of counselors, build improved coping methods and skills to help them deal with life’s adversities and avoid falling into drug and alcohol addiction again in the future.
Talk openly about mental health
The requirements for physical health are, generally, well-known: eat a balanced diet and exercise in moderation. However, mental health needs are not quite as discussed, despite being just as important for health and well-being. This is perhaps due to there having been a stigma and lack of understanding surrounding mental health issues for many years, which is only just beginning to be broken down. As adolescence is a time of emotional and physical change and upheaval, set against the all-encompassing backdrop of social media, teenagers are susceptible to mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and eating disorders. These can seriously harm a person’s physical health and overall quality of life, and could eventually lead to self-harm and even suicide.
To help a teenager handle their turbulent emotions, you should show them that it’s OK to talk about mental health, that to do so doesn’t make them “crazy” or “weak.” The best way to do this is by example. While there are certain things that, as a parent, are not appropriate to discuss with your children, let them know when you’re feeling down and why that is. Having regular, open discussions about mental health will demonstrate that the teen has a safe, supportive environment in which to discuss any problems they might be having, and ensuring that issues can be dealt with quickly before they get out of hand. With talking therapy being a major treatment for mental health conditions, open family discussions provide a fantastic exercise to ensure optimal mental health, allowing the teen to talk through any issues and develop healthy coping mechanisms. However, it’s also important to recognize that certain conditions, such as clinical depression, require treatment through medication and professional counseling. If you suspect a teen to be suffering from this, make sure to consult a medical professional.