The Jed FoundationParent Guide: How to Talk to Your Teen About Mental Health
Engaging in an activity while talking is a good way to break the tension. Walking together can be effective because you’re not face to face and the physical exercise reduces stress. If a walk doesn’t work, you can talk while playing cards or video games, baking or cooking, or any other activity your teen enjoys.
Phrase your questions so they require more than a one-word answer. Instead of asking “Are things okay with your friend Sharon?” ask “How are things going with your friend Sharon lately? I noticed that you haven’t been talking to her as much.”
It’s extremely important that you validate your child’s emotions. For example, if your child says he or she feels extremely hurt because of not being invited to a recent party, you may be inclined to say something like, “It’s just one party—don’t be upset.” These kinds of comments will only make your teen feel like you don’t understand how they feel and will result in them talking to you less. Don't rush to solve the problem before you have fully explored what is happening and how your child feels.
Your teen may insist they’re fine even when you see signs that they aren’t. Resist the urge to prove you know they’re struggling, since that will make them more likely to insist nothing is wrong. It’s better to keep checking in and stay curious.
If your teen starts talking but seems to shut down when you offer a solution, try asking, “Do you want me to listen or to try to help you fix the situation?” Your teen’s response will help you figure out how to best manage yours.
Don’t worry about having all the answers right away. Talking about mental health is an opportunity to learn together. The important thing to remember is that each conversation builds on the previous one. And remember to talk about the good times they are having and connect with them around the things they like to do. They will be more likely to share when things are hard if you’ve shown interest when things are going well.