By Melissa Silbaugh, MSW, APSW, School-Based Therapist, Christian Family Solutions
Talking with parents about mental health can be a really difficult experience that can lead to a lot of loneliness and added stress. Your family’s culture as it relates to mental health and expressing emotions definitely has an impact on you as you grow and mature.
If you are a teen in a family that is uncomfortable addressing mental health topics, you may feel isolated, especially if you are the only one who is comfortable and willing to discuss mental health. Think of it this way: YOU could be the one to change some unhealthy patterns in your family tree. Take the negative things you’ve learned or adapted from your family culture and turn them into positives for your future, and for the benefit of future family members.
Here’s some advice for how to move the conversation forward.
Did you go through something similar when you were my age?
Hopefully this stirs some empathy between parent and teen, which ultimately encourages a stronger bond.
I’m having some trouble figuring out a problem, and I would really like support in trying to figure it out. Do you think you could talk about it for 10 minutes?
This is a gentler way to approach a parent who might not want to talk about a big and uncomfortable issue. You are focused on a problem-solving task, which might be easier for some parents to handle. You can sneak things into the conversation, such as, I worry a lot about this or I felt mad when … These phrases can get the ball rolling in the direction of how you feel about the problem, not exactly what you want done about the problem.
How did your own parents help you with any struggles you had as a teen?
This question can help reveal things about your extended family culture. Parents can only teach us what they know, and knowing how your own parents were raised can help you make sense of the parenting tactics they have adopted and are implementing with you.
These answers aren’t comprehensive … They are a start. If you or someone you know needs counseling please call Christian Family Solutions Counseling Care & Services at 800-438-1772.
If you are experiencing a health emergency of any kind, please dial 911.
If you are having suicidal thoughts or know someone who is, call or text the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988.