Our children are experiencing anger, angst and suicidal thoughts and actions at alarming rates. Parents and the community at large are integral for pursuing solutions for the betterment of everyone. “Tweens and teens need us,” says Cary Hamilton, licensed mental health counselor, child mental health specialist and owner of Olympia Therapy. “About one-third are doing okay, one-third are lost and want to do good but are struggling. The other third has completely checked out.”
Changing the landscape of anxiety shifts as we grow our awareness and willingness to engage with youth. Unfortunately, many adults are unaware that their children are experiencing fierce mental challenges. Parents may be tired and frustrated themselves. Hamilton believes it is possible to improve the entire picture through growing community engagement. The situation is bleak but not hopeless. It helps to have mental health professionals on your team.
More Than 70% of Suicidal Teens Don’t Get the Mental Health Services They Need
A report from Seattle Children’s Hospital underscores the need for action. ER doctors are overwhelmed with youth with serious mental health issues. They are not trained for this type of care. “Primary health doctors are struggling, too,” explains Cary. “Medication alone is not the best treatment option.”
School teachers are not health care professionals, either. How do teachers cope with moving the class forward when there are such diverse needs? “The system is telling students and teachers to just do it,” explains Cary. “Get it done. It may be meeting a standard of achievement, such as being able to graduate.” Yes, it’s important to graduate, but when youth are coping with getting through the day, attention is needed toward that issue.
The students who are doing alright are feeling like they are not getting a good enough education for pursuing top notch colleges. Cary hears: “I want more. I am not learning anything.” It seems to them like the other students are getting much more attention. “It creates unintentional hopelessness,” says Cary.
Reality of the challenges of school is brought to the forefront with teacher/parent conferences. New pressures comes down when parents learn about missing assignments, test scores or absences. This can lead to parents pushing even harder for kids to get it done. Pressure builds, and still, no one is talking about mental health or solutions.
COVID Caused Even More Anxiety in Teens, Therapy Can Help
The pre- and teenage years have a normal about of increased anxiety as they grow their identity and self-confidence. These usual developmental challenges were exacerbated with COVID when life turned upside down. Everything changed. Levels of the previous normalcy may have returned, but COVID is not gone.
Politics are contentious There is war in more than one place on the globe and the planet is getting hotter. This is the world our children inhabit. It’s no wonder our children have added anxieties. Parents, too, are dealing with job and life uncertainties. Unfortunately, ignoring issues, pretending they aren’t there, or denying them doesn’t make them go away.
Visits with a professional mental healthcare provider at Olympia Therapy can help.
Olympia Therapy Advice: Practice Listening and Spend Time Together
It’s hard to be a parent that listens well. It’s easy to go to the lecture mode. “Don’t compare your teenager years to theirs,” cautions Cary. That closes communication rather than opening it. You’ll need to practice, accept rejection and practice some more. The parent’s role is to figure out ways to spend time together with their children in ways the kids want. That means you may be doing bead work on the floor together in silence. “Parents learn to lean in, so your kids know you are there,” she adds. “The kid’s job is supposed to be pushing away.” Accept that.
For parents who love to ask questions, Cary suggests that the phrase, “Tell me about school, your friends, etc.,” works better. It opens a door instead of eliciting reactivity. Especially when families have strife, it takes time and practice to have these processes work. “Don’t give up!” encourages Cary.
Fundamental Strategies for Mental Health Support From Olympia Therapy
You’ve likely heard these before, but how are you doing with them? As parents, being a role model goes farther than, “Do what I say, not what I do.”
Getting Enough Sleep
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends the following daily amounts:
- Ages six to 12 years: 9 to 12 hours
- Teenagers up to 18: 8 to 10 hours
- Adults: 7-9 hours
Making sleep a priority makes a difference. Sleeping time gives the brain time to do the work it cannot do while you are awake. Then you are better able to cope with the next day.
Food for Optimal Health
Your brain and your body rely on the fuel you give it to have stamina, build immunity, develop cognitive skills and enjoy life. Filling up on processed, sweetened foods hinders brain development, accelerates diseases like diabetes and high blood pressure while adding extra weight. Ultimately, you feel worse. Healthful meals can be simple, colorful, tasty and provide a time to sit together as a family.
Moving Your Bodies
Your body need to move every day, preferably outside. Walking can get you benefits without needing lots of equipment or membership.
Join Olympia Therapy’s Free Parent Session Online
Olympia Therapy wants to be part of the solution. Sign up online the free parenting session on January 8, 2024, at 12 p.m. If you sign up but are unable to attend, you will be sent a copy of the presentation.
Learn more about all services at the Olympia Therapy website.