Mental Health for Teenagers | Great Health Guide
Mental Health for Teenagers

Mental Health for Teenagers

Written by Jane Kilkenny accredited athletics coach

It has been a year of challenges in 2020. Every corner of the globe has been impacted by COVID-19 and the long-term impacts on our health are still relatively unknown. But this is not the time to dwell on the chaos, it’s time to look to the future. It’s time to take back control of our lives and our wellbeing.

Their education, social lives, sporting aspirations and family life have all been affected. Those in their final years of school are looking for guidance on their future careers, studying for exams, learning to drive, going to events, (parties, concerts, formals) and trying to find their way in the world. These issues are tough enough, without the added uncertainty and disruption created by COVID-19.

“Teenagers have been impacted significantly by this pandemic.”

The teenage years are always a challenge for kids and parents alike. It’s the time when kids go through a complex phase of physical, emotional and neurological growth which often creates uncertainty, anxiety and fatigue. It involves physiological and emotional factors that need support and understanding, not silence and frustration. So, what are the best ways to support our teens into the future?

1. Honest communication is vital.

Even if teenagers struggle to open up about their thoughts and feelings, we can never stop trying to be helpful. Our number one priority must be to LISTEN. Make time to discuss their issues, don’t judge and be open to compromise. We all feel the need to be heard, it’s a fundamental aspect of human nature. So, lead by example, be supportive, caring and respectful of their needs and opinions.

2. Strong bodies facilitate strong minds.

This is where we can have the greatest impact. Encouraging our teenagers to be fit, strong and healthy will set them up for future success and happiness. The reasons for this are simple. When we are physically fit and strong, we can overcome any obstacle. This physical ability and the endorphins that we release from vigorous exercise, help to improve our mood, reduce anxiety and improve concentration. We get the exercise buzz!

Learning to have control over our physical capabilities also supports our emotional wellbeing and decision-making abilities. A great example of this concept is skill acquisition, practice and refinement. Regardless of the sport or activity, when we practice and train, we will see improvements. Those improvements result in greater confidence and a willingness to try that little bit harder next time. It is a self-perpetuating cycle that has lasting impacts on our mind and body.

Always remember that this requires physical and emotional effort. You don’t get these gains by taking it easy and barely trying. This takes commitment, sweat and perseverance. Be brave and take control of your own abilities. That is the secret of champions.

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3. Accept change and embrace challenge.

Most people struggle with this concept as it requires a growth mindset and a willingness to fail. We don’t like to fail, so often we just don’t try, it’s safer, easier and avoids embarrassment. But if we have learned one thing from this past year, it’s that change is inevitable, so learn to accept the challenge.

When life throws us a curve ball, we have two choices. We can drop the catch, complain and blame the thrower or we can step outside our comfort zone, make the catch and run with it. Now which option do you think is easier? Of course, it’s easier to blame someone else, but when we focus on stepping up and challenging ourselves, that’s when we enjoy the rewards!

Raising teenagers is hard. Successful parenting should be defined by raising an independent thinking, strong and compassionate individual. Encourage them to look forward to future opportunities and always focus on health and wellbeing. Embrace the journey together.

Author of this article:

Jane Kilkenny has over 25 years’ experience in health and fitness. She specialises in exercise for kids and teenagers having trained at the Children’s Hospital Institute of Sports Medicine (CHISM) Westmead NSW in 2004. She is also a High-Performance specialist and a Level 4 IAAF athletics coach. Jane can be contacted via her website.

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