Building Positive Mental Health With Your Tween or Teen

Like many parents, I feel lucky if I get a response that’s more than “fine,” or “normal, just a normal day,” when my three boys – ages seven, 11 and 14 – arrive home from school, and I ask them how it all went. 

Yet more often than not, hunger, tiredness, disappointment, or something else prompts an outpouring of emotions and unresolved issues, tied back to stressors that happened earlier in the day.

This routine of pent up emotions bursting forth is a symptom, providing information on something that needs to be addressed in our kids and families. 

As a mom, former teacher, and a therapist, I’m always curious about how to help young people become attuned to their own mental health: aware of their moods, thoughts, actions, feelings, and energy levels so that they communicate their needs, bounce back from stressors, and thrive rather than sink into crisis.  

It’s needed now more than ever. 

According to 2020 research, the rate of mental health related emergency room visits in the US increased by 24% for kids ages 5-1,1 and 31% for kids ages 12-17, in just one year. And suicide is the leading cause of death for 14-15 year olds.    

The good news is that establishing good self care and mental health habits early in life promotes life-long well being. 

The pandemic increased awareness of the importance of mental health; young people are TikTok-ing, DM-ing, SnapChatting, BeRealing about mental health issues; they have a level of sophisticated understanding about mental health issues that we adults can learn from. 

Even with all this knowledge and access to information, parents still play a huge role in teaching activities that promote good mental health to their kids. 

Three Tips For Supporting Mental Health in Tweens and Teens

  1. Teach positive mental health. 

We teach math, science, reading, etc. – let’s teach mental health as well. Talk about how it feels and looks to be healthy, including mentally. Make a list of potential triggers and ways to manage them. 

  1. Together, make a list of activities that promote mental health. 

This allows kids to choose what works for them.  

  • Self Care Menus are a fun, visual way to create a list of activities. 
  • Dedicate time for these activities on a regular basis. 
  1. Model, model, model. 

I’m not talking about being perfect. I’m talking about modeling appropriate ways to handle stress or how to learn from mistakes.

  • Let’s say it’s the middle of a sports season and you are a hard-working (full time) WORKING soccer mom and you’re late (again) for practice. Before starting the car, model how to sit in the driver’s seat and take three deep breaths. 
  • Here is a fantastic resource for different calming activities. Using calming activities even some of the time makes you a wonderful role model for positive mental health! 
  • And mistakes are great teachable moments as well–tweens and teens love when we are authentic and admit that we could have used a coping strategy but didn’t.

Now that you are ready to start, here some specific activities for promoting positive mental health: 

Three Activities for Promoting Mental Health

  1. Outdoor Activities: Time spent outdoors is essential for building positive mental health. It can be time spent sitting and journaling. It can be time spent walking in silence or combined with a sport or other physical activity. Nothing calms the nervous system like walking in the woods.
  1. Music: Consider it a good thing if your kids are fighting over who gets to use the Spotify account because music can remind people of what really matters–connection to self and others. Many artists are talking about mental health themes and normalizing how we all struggle sometimes.
  1. Mindfulness: Practice slowing down. Scan your body, raise awareness to your thoughts, your state of regulation, and your response to your environment. As adults we might think that mindfulness requires deep meditation or some unattainable level of yoga practice. 

But young people are learning the concept in a new way – they know that mindfulness practice can be quick and easy. There are lots of resources out there to teach mindfulness in fun, interactive ways. This guide is one of my favorites: Free Mindfulness Activities.

These activities might even lead to a young person discovering an interest or a talent that shapes their future. And what’s more, engaging in these activities WITH your tween and teen benefits everyone.

If you know that your tween or teen is struggling and you aren’t sure how to help, Tween or Teen Therapy will help you find practical tools and strategies right away. I would be honored to help you and your tween or teen find a sense of hope and joy again. 

To find the help you and your tween or teen deserve, follow these steps: 

Contact Della Pope 

Meet with Della Pope and start building tools and strategies right away.