Tips to Help Your Teen’s Mental Health in High School

Being a teenager has never been easy. The rush of hormones, combined with the physical changes and emotional turmoil they experience can be overwhelming. This true of both the teenagers and their parents.

When kids begin high school, these changes are magnified by the issues teens face today. These problems include things that teens didn’t face in the past. These things include cyberbullying and social isolation.

We are going to look at some tips that can help you as a parent assist your teenager to enjoy their high school years.

Chronic Stress

It is certainly no surprise to parents that their kids are stressed about their reputation. However, a recent study conducted by New York University suggests that students are under far more chronic stress than ever before.

Chronic stress is highly linked to the development of mental health issues in children. In a paper written in 2003 by E. Costello, et. al., listed the initial onset of mental health disorders beginning at the age of nine.

Mental Health Issues Teenagers Face

By the age of sixteen years, as much as 37.7% of children have already met the criteria of at least one mental health disorder. These include conduct disorder and attention-deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD). 

These statistics translate into teens in high school who are affected by a mental health disorder. Mixing this with a giant increase in a teen’s stress level and you have a recipe for disaster.

Peer Pressure

Peer pressure is best defined as high school students being pressured into doing something they wouldn’t do.

They do these things to feel accepted and valued by other students. This strong influence can be both negative and positive.

Some examples of positive peer pressure may be those that steer a student to attend school functions like the band or becoming a cheerleader.

These activities improve the social contact of adolescents and their self-esteem. This type of peer pressure also helps teens to become more assertive.

In contrast, negative peer pressure can make your teenager try out things that are not safe. These activities may include breaking the law. Teens feel peer pressure to take part in sexual activity, smoke or to use alcohol and drugs.

Tips to Help Your Teen Cope with Negative Peer Pressure

The first and most important defensive move parents can take is to keep the lines of communication open.

Staying connected to your child’s fears and struggles will help you gauge when your student needs help.

By doing this you can suggest ways for them to say no when approached about drugs or sex.

Being in a group of other teens makes for an extremely difficult situation for kids. Like all teenagers, they deeply desire to fit into the crowd.

Here’s a fantastic tip to help your kids when faced with negative peer pressure.

Give your kids a way out of any uncomfortable situation facing them. Arrange with your high school student a code phrase they can text or call that tells you they are feeling unsafe.

The phrase could be something simple like, “How is Grandma?” When you receive that text or call you can tell your child that Grandma is worse and you will be right there to pick her/him up.

In this way, your teen can show the messages to their friends and say they have to go home immediately. They can then leave without anyone putting more pressure on them.

Social Isolation

Humans have evolved to be highly social creatures. From birth, we seek out the comfort and company of others.

Being accepted as a part of a social group like family or friends is vital for humans to have a healthy self-esteem.

From time to time all humans experience loneliness. Loneliness is best defined as a temporary lack of interaction between ourselves and society.

Social isolation is different.

It encompasses a complete or nearly complete lack of contact with society.

High school students can become socially isolated by their socializing online through computers, pads and cell phones.

What may appear to be a harmless pastime, can have dire consequences. People require in-person contact to remain healthy, and teens are no exception.

For this reason, adolescents are very vulnerable to detrimental developmental brain changes caused by lack of physical contact.

There is a lot to be said for your teen sitting and laughing in the living room chatting with friends. But the use of social media and electronics has taken away this basic human need.

The Teen Brain and Social Isolation

The effect on the brain by social isolation can be devastating. This is because the protein cells needed to develop the nervous system are disrupted in their growth.

A high school student may have long-lasting behavioral issues due to these brain changes. These may include serious thinking and social problems. Also, they may even have long-lasting memory problems.

Not only is there the danger of physical changes to a teens brain from social isolation, but also to their mental health.

The most terrifying mental health outcome from social isolation is major depression that can lead to death by suicide.

No one wants to think of young people taking their own lives.

However, it does happen, and social isolation can be a trigger. If you suspect your child is experiencing social isolation and depression seek out help immediately.

The life of your child could be at stake.

Tips to End Your Child’s Social Isolation

This tip may sound unnecessary. But I can assure you it will change the life of your adolescent if you follow it.

Make it a regular part of your day to sit down for a meal together as a family. This includes your moody teenager.

During the meal discuss the healthy use of cell phones and social websites. Do a lot of listening without judgment to what your kids have to say.

Express your concerns that you have about your child becoming socially isolated. Even if they get angry or deny it they are listening. It will mean a lot to them that you care.

Some Signs Your Teen Is Experiencing Social Isolation

Being aware of the following signs will help you know when to act.

According to lifeline.org, these signs may include the following:

  • Physical Signs—aches, pains, headaches, or worsening medical conditions
  • Mental Health Conditions—increased depression, anxiety, paranoia or panic attacks
  • Low Energy—tiredness or lack of motivation
  • Sleep Problems—difficulty getting to sleep, waking frequently or sleeping too much
  • Diet Problems—loss of appetite, sudden weight gain or loss
  • Substance Problems—consumption of alcohol, smoking, drug use
  • Negative Feelings—feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness or expressions of thinking about suicide

Granted, some of these signs are not uncommon among adolescent high school students.  However, if these problems persist as an active problem, then you need to act.

The following tip may be the most controversial and useful one that you may be forced to use.

Remove the cause of the isolation by either strictly limiting the time your teen can spend on the internet. If this does not work, remove the device altogether.

Cyberbullying

As children grow they tend to form clichés. They pick on the children who do not fit their version of what is acceptable.

However, this behavior can lead to the painful act of bullying other kids.

There is a new type of bullying that takes place on digital devices like cell phones, computers, and tablets. Cyberbullying.

Cyberbullying can take place through text messages, or online social media platforms. These include sites like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat.

Cyberbullies will release onto the internet false, negative and/or mean statements about someone’s personal life. These personal attacks cause embarrassment or humiliation to the victim.

According to stopbullying.gov, there are some very dire consequences for cyberbullying.

These include the teen’s social presence online affecting their ability to gain employment in the future. It can even harm their ability to go to the college of their choice.

But the most heinous effect of cyberbullying can be the mental health destruction it brings to its victims.

These include depression, withdrawal and the worst nightmare of any parent, death by suicide.

Tips to Help Your Teen Cope with Cyberbullying

Parents cannot always monitor what is going on in their child’s online life. But there are things you can do to prevent cyberbullying.

Monitor your teen’s social media site, apps and browsing history. This may seem invasive and your teen will not like it. However, being aware of what is going on gives you the upper hand in helping your child should they be cyberbullied.

Reset your child’s phone location and privacy settings regularly. This helps you to know that the settings you put in place remain functioning.

Follow your child on their social media sites. In this way, you can keep tabs on who is saying what to your child.

Establish firm rules about appropriate digital behavior, content, and apps. These may include time limits on use and requiring age-appropriate apps.

Talk to your teen about how to react when they are the target of cyberbullying.

Also, discuss how they should respond if they see someone else on the receiving end.

No parent can completely protect their teenager. And this is especially in the middle of experiencing the turbulent years of high school.

However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t be a force for good in your child’s mental health and assure they are successfully adjusting to becoming adults.

Remaining alert and taking steps to prevent problems, your teens can experience high school as a time of fun and growth.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this post are the personal views of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the views of PatientNextDoor. Any omissions or errors are the author’s and PatientNextDoor does not assume any liability or responsibility for them.

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