What teens want their parents to ask
Even silence might be a cry for help.
Dear Parents and Caretakers,
Something needs to be brought to your attention: your child needs you. This might seem obvious, but I think more time needs to be spent contemplating this statement. It is well known that Gen Zs are significant recipients of mental health struggles. Increased pressures – both academic and societal – as well as conflict in the home are some of the challenges that teens and young adults are facing. Almost every parent has heard “I don’t want to go to school.” Are your children just making up excuses?
No. This is an area where your involvement can have a drastic impact in your child’s life. Talk to your child about why they don’t want to attend school. You are no longer a child and will not know or understand what is happening in their life. Take time to ask them how they are doing. Your child may feel embarrassed to tell you how they are doing without prompting; for you to take that first step allows your child to understand that you care and are interested in their well being. Their response may be a simple “I’m tired.” It might be more complex than that. It could be an abstract emotion or state of being. Either way, allow them the space and time to tell you. We aren’t always capable of fully explaining how we feel and need someone to help us. If they don’t feel comfortable talking with you, please help them find someone to work through it with.
Along with counselling options or talking with your family doctor, another option for your teen might be mental health days. As someone who has struggled with mental health challenges my entire life, mental health days are essential. They aren’t a fix, as Stephanie Ruggerio at the Child Mind Institute says: “Mental health days are more likely to be a band-aid than a solution.” But that doesn’t mean they don’t help! Would you push through a day where you are deeply fatigued and sick? It’s the same with mental health: to push through may do more harm than good. Mental health days need to be used intentionally to make a difference, however. It’s not a day off to catch up on missed assignments and schoolwork or to fall into the rabbit hole of social media, but to benefit and to protect our mental health (Ruggerio). Some examples could include spending time in nature, calming activities, exercising and mindfulness activities. “If we’re taking a mental health day, we should be thinking about that day in a mental health way,” says Dr. Bubrick, also from Child Mind Institute.
Mental health days may not work for everyone, but one thing I encourage all parents to do is to check up on their kids. Don’t push or pry when they are not ready but be available and supportive.
Your child needs you.