Last week addressed the rise in mental health issues in teens, in part two of this three-part series, Dr. Adam S. Faizi with Atrium Health Levine Children’s Charlotte Pediatric Clinic-South Park gives us insight into how we can help and when it's time to seek help.
A Parent’s Role
Other bits and pieces of what affects teens come from within the teens themselves: hormones. Adolescence seems to be quite a bit of a roller coaster of emotions for parents and teens and this is because of the constant change taking place.
While it’s easy to note those changes which we can see, we have to remember to note those which we cannot. The brain is impacted strongly by this time in life, forming many processes that can either help or hinder a teen’s emotional growth.
Parents play a larger role in this than they may think. While teens may urge parents to get out of their rooms or leave them alone, parents have the opportunity to help teenagers develop healthy thoughts, core beliefs, and responses. Kick the knee-jerk reaction of lashing out and demanding respect but instead show love, dignity, and understanding.
Most of these reactions are a cry for help. Our responses as parents will prepare teens to better cope moving through their lives. If they see us responding negatively, they will inherently take on these responses. We must all be able to take a look at how we are processing our own emotions in order to better help our children process theirs.
Mental health is viewed differently from when today’s parents were teenagers. The stigmas that befell our generation and the supposed weakness that was associated with mental health issues is fading. The avoidance of care is a thing of the past, with more and more teens and their families seeking mental health services, even if simply on a more maintenance-based level.
It is important for parents to take responsibility for the role they may play in their child’s well-being, making changes to maintain a positive home environment while also releasing the guilt that the issues with their teen may be solely their fault.
When and Where to Seek Help
This fear can be a barrier for us helping our children when we are afraid of looking at ourselves and what role we may have played. One of the best things we can do for our children’s mental health is caring for our own and taking responsibility and action when necessary.
Dr. Faizi says a great first step is checking in with your child’s primary care physician for screenings for your teen. Untreated mental illness, we know now, affects teens’ lives long-term and this can be avoided with a simple trip to a physician for a referral and insight.
These screenings will be the same for both teenaged boys and girls. While girls are more likely to suffer from an eating disorder, boys are more likely to bottle up emotions. This comes from the societal pressures of gender norms.
Females are encouraged to have a certain body type in order to have worth, while males are praised for being logical and less emotional than females. Males’ mental health problems will often present as anger, aggression or, in extreme cases, violence, at rates higher than their female peers.
Dr. Faizi encourages us to look a little deeper than what is presenting on the surface. As with most internal conflict, there are unanswered core questions. In these cases, those questions have to do with self-worth, and, again, that reminder it is not external but internal. It is about one’s value and identity. “Am I loved? Am I valued? Am I wanted?” Teens want to know who they are but may not yet have the cognitive functioning or language to express it well.
As a parent, keeping these things in mind makes it much easier to approach a struggling teen, if you seem them more as searching for meaning as opposed to defiant or any other negative connotation one may have with such behaviors.
Next week we will look at the impact of social media on teens mental health and offer some local resources for teens and parents.
Adam Faizi, DO is a pediatrician at Charlotte Pediatric Clinic – SouthPark. Originally from Charlotte, NC, he and his family recently moved from Texas, where he was a physician in the military. Dr. Faizi enjoys sports and spending time outdoors, and is most passionate about spending time with his family.
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