The adolescent mind is constantly changing; it’s growing and developing from childhood through to adulthood. Neurons form new synaptic connections in the brain everyday and are shaped by interpersonal experiences, which make life as an adolescent (and parent) evermore confusing.
As a parent, sometimes it is difficult to tell the difference between normal adolescent behaviour and emerging mental health problems. You might ask yourself ‘is my son’s moodiness and irritability normal?’ or ‘should I be concerned about my daughter withdrawing from friends and family?’
Mental health problems range from very common mild anxiety and depressive symptoms to severe mental illness. When someone’s daily life is affected by their emotional state or behaviour, there may be an emerging mental health problem. There are often changes in behaviour (e.g. appetite, sleep, avoidance of school/work, poor motivation, social withdrawal, self harm), emotions (e.g. sadness, irritability, fear/anxiety, anger), and thinking (e.g. poor concentration, drop in school performance, constant worrying, preoccupation with some thoughts, hearing or seeing things that are not there).
Maintaining a healthy mind
Maintaining a healthy adolescent mind means having good emotional and social wellbeing, and the ability to cope well with the challenging aspects of teenage life. Regular exercise, healthy diet, and a good sleep routine are all very important for maintaining a healthy mind. Adolescent development also requires supportive and healthy interpersonal relationships, including family.
Get help early!
Early psychological intervention (or therapy) improves the speed and effectiveness of the healing process. Therapy can help to build skills for managing relationships, improving mood and regulation of the developing mind, and to learn new and more helpful ways of coping.