When your teen is struggling with behavior issues or mental illness, one of the things that may be overlooked is their health. Among all parent worries, teen health is a problem for troubled teens. When they are struggling to make school, relationships and jobs work, personal health and safety take a back seat most of the time. As a parent with a troubled teen, you can help support them by making sure they are taking care of their health and intervening when necessary.
If you are the parent of a troubled teen, here are some things you can do to help your teen with health and wellness during this difficult time in their lives:
- Take them in for a checkup with their doctor. Teens may want to see a different doctor than their long-time pediatrician as a reflection of them growing up and wanting to be seen as more of an adult. Everyone needs a medical professional they know and trust, and often teens may listen to a doctor instead of a parent when it comes to health and wellness habits. Don’t forget to send them in alone so they can discuss personal issues.
- Communicate about normal growth and development that teens experience. Teens may hear all kinds of crazy things about puberty from their peer and the movies, so they need to get real facts from you. If you feel uncomfortable, there are several good books on the subject that are meant to start conversations between parents and teens.
- Build your teen’s confidence by acknowledging when they do something positive for their health, whether it’s doing something physical or making a good food choice. Pay attention when they want to talk and really focus on creating a space where they can ask questions, wonder out loud and express themselves.
- Set clear boundaries with your troubled teen about smoking, drinking, and drugs. Many teens experiment with these, especially if they are struggling with challenges in their lives. In fact, teens with problems like depression or anxiety may be more likely to use these substances. Make sure they are educated about the consequences if they violate the house rules.
- Recognize the signs of serious mental health issues, like adolescent depression, suicidal thoughts, cutting, eating disorders and more. You need to be observant so you can spot when your teen may need outside intervention for a serious problem. Of course, talk to your teen about his or her emotional health and see what they reveal.
- Make healthy options available to your teen, including healthy food, personal hygiene items and more. Even if your teen doesn’t ask for things because they are embarrassed, such as deodorant or acne medicine, you can often provide it and place items in their bedroom or bathroom and they will most likely start to use them. When healthy, tasty snacks are available, teens will generally eat them rather than go hungry.
Even if your teenager is struggling with certain behavioral or mental health issues, you can help them stay on track when it comes to health and wellness. Don’t let larger issues distract your teen or yourself from keeping the body strong, clean and healthy.