Updated: Oct 24, 2022
OK - tween/teen mental health is on the rise. As parents, we likely know this. We likely also know as a parent of a tween/teen there can be SO MANY roadblocks to our kids asking for help - like:
They may find it embarrassing to lean on someone they know personally, often thinking no one ever has felt the same way as they do or gone through a similar situation
They do not want to speak to a parent/guardian about the issue and thoughts they are faced with in fear it will trigger further worry, or parental judgment and involvement
And they simply may not know how to identify what it is they are feeling/thinking, so they suppress or misdirect emotions
Knowing this, and all of the changes and learnings that come at the tween/teen age, the question really becomes how can we support our kids as they go through this stage of life, without getting in their face about it?
Today I want to share some easily accessible and free mental health tools and resources your kids can turn to and benefit from when they need guidance (that they just aren't comfy asking for from...well, you).
Arming them with this post can help your child navigate their world, and actually help them open up to you, when they're ready.
But first, I must note that this is based on my own experience using tools/resources that I have trusted in my home with myself/my family; I am not a doctor or professional therapist and these ideas are not intended to replace traditional therapy. Rather they are designed to mindfully support you/your family as you grow together.
ONE: DUMP YOUR THOUGHTS
I've said it before. Journaling can majorly boost your mindset and overall mental health. There are many, many ways to journal. For times when thoughts are spiralling out of control, a thought dump can be the quickest way for teens to get out what they are feeling inside. Expressive writing, which is writing to yourself about how you feel about an experience you are going through (i.e. a friendship issue or an upcoming exam) has been studied and proven to help with intrusive or depressive thoughts that appear. Studies have even suggested that journaling helps with better sleep by slowing down the natural ruminating patterns of thought before bedtime. So the deal is that the actual release of experiences, feelings, worry and fear onto the page will help with your child's overall mental state and well-being. I'll also suggest that it helps the child make individual connections - like how they feel in specific situations. It can be a great way to log when they feel good and when they don't feel their best. This becomes great self-awareness and a resource to refer back to as we encourage our kids to follow the moments, people and places that allow them to feel like their bright loving self.
TWO: THE ONLINE GOODS
Now, our kids are pros at navigating the internet/social channels...but we know that they don't always get the good stuff. That doesn't mean it's not out there. There are many channels that speak positively about mental health, teen relationships, body image and more that can up-level the mind in minutes.
Here are a few channels to flip on for a mindful reset.
From lessons on friendship, relationships, schoolwork, personal development, and I can't forget that they have some serious pop-culture round-ups, this IG account is just what every girl needs for a quick elevation from peers who get them. It's a great page to scroll when they want to know that their feelings are not only valid but felt by many. They offer a lot of simple videos and animations that are relatable to tweens/teens, making the page likeable by many and the content easy to digest.
Need a self-check-in guide? This girl is fire! You know those counsellors that just speak at you, hoping you'll get the message? Well, she's not that. Julie is a beautiful blend of mindfulness and motivation, teaching lessons on boundaries, worth, shame and many more topics our kids can connect with today. What I love most about her channel is that she gives you the punch you need to stand up for yourself, with confidence and love, in any social situation. While she's not dedicated to kids, with topics like "Stop Justifying Yourself" and "Don't Let Them Walk All Over You" teens will resonate with her content and (generally) find the videos simple to follow and act upon immediately!
Whether your child is stuck in a big feeling or is seeking proactive support managing emotions, jump on TikTok or IG and simply search Jesse Katches because he has got you covered. Jesse has a ton of tangible tools at the ready for anyone going through the big stuff. What I love about Jesse's content most is that he helps you move through the experience, not suppress it, and he absolutely makes you know that you are not alone! He's got simple messages, like empowering social media breaks, to helping with intrusive thoughts, chronic anxiety and negative self-talk. A lot of the content demonstrates him having a conversation with himself, which is a major self-compassion tool he's captured.
THREE: KNOW THE EMOTIONAL GUIDANCE SCALE
In my opinion, this is a huge piece of the inner world we can help children see: there is a scale of emotions that range from joy to boredom (heard that one before) to hate to fear and many more in between that we are guided by within. At many points in our life we will experience all of these emotions, some even at the same time. And all of it is good because they give us information. But when it comes to helping our kids work through it all, we can arm them with the Emotional Guidance Scale which helps us do two important things. 1) Name (identify or label) what emotion we are in. The first step to understanding how we feel is to be able to name it. That's it. Just bring awareness to our emotion. Then we can move onto step 2) tame it, by reaching for better-feeling emotions/thoughts. That's knowing that we have a choice to feel better. Feeling better can be taking an action - like talking to someone, taking a walk, listening to music - or just thinking of the situation differently. Now taming won't come with a massive jump up the scale, so don't expect to go from fear (lowest) to love (the highest). The scale actually helps us understand that to move out of whatever emotions we are in, we may need to gradually deal with other difficult emotions too. So if we move from fear to anger, that's a win! Just simply knowing that we have the choice to move up this scale all the time gives them a guide on how to get back to the highest feelings, and it empowers them to slowly follow their own guidance up their own way.
FOUR: CIRCLE OF CONTROL
How many times have you worried about something that is outside of your control?! For me, So Many Times! When it comes to our our tweens/teens, it can be other people's opinions, grades, schools we get into, social media posts, and more that easily get them down. But when we teach them how to mentally empower themselves from within, they can begin to see that there is a lot they can control! One of the best tools I have learned is how to write out the circle of control - best because it's easy and motivating. When kids are in a difficult situation and their mind is ruminating, they can easily draw two circles on a page and at the top of one circle write, "What is in my control" and the other circle write, "What is not in my control." Then start filling both circles out so that they can begin to see the role they play in the situation. Not only will this help your child better manage their own thoughts and future actions, it can help them process their own emotions in a very simple way too.
Let me share a pretty general example. The child is worried about a friend treating him/her poorly:
IN: how they feel; how they respond or react to the behaviour (standing up for themselves, walking away); whether they hang out with them at recess or outside of school; how they care for themselves when they are hurt by the friend; if they need to ask for help; if they need to distance contact (can be limits on social, personal access)...and more.
OUT: how the friend treats them; who this friend hangs out with; what the friend says to them or others; if the friend is in their class; what they post online...and more.
We want our kids to feel empowered and focused on what IS in their control, so that they can turn inward to their own guidance (like above, moving up the emotional scale to feeling better). This exercise helps them first understand that their feelings and actions are a choice and that they can choose again to feel better about themselves. Self-love power at it's best! We know, and soon they will see that they got this.
FIVE: FIND COMMUNITY SUPPORT
Sometimes our kids need someone outside of their circle to talk to. There are many groups and counsellors available online that your child may be interested in speaking with. Make sure they know what's available to them and that you approve on calling someone else should they need to. Trying to reach out to a community support group may be a great way for your child to gain community and connection when they need it most. Here are some resources for Canada/Toronto (not extensive). A simple google search should find many resources in your local neighbourhood.
CANADIAN CENTRE FOR MENTAL HEALTH AND SUPPORT - extensive list of providers
THE LOFT - youth services.
KIDS HELP PHONE - 24/7 access!
YOUTH ZONE - Canadian Mental Health Association groups and programs local listings
SICK KIDS HOSPITAL- many services available
MIND YOUR MIND - Check out their Be Safe app that helps identify resources when in a crisis and set up a proactive safety plan
Please remember, you are not alone. As a parent or a child, we all experience daily emotions, feelings and thoughts that can bring us down.
You are important, worthy and always valued here. Drop me a message any time you need support. Self-compassion is a huge skill and beautiful compass that can help guide you and your tween/teen towards their inner magic.