by James Bryant | Contributor
Being a parent is one of life’s most fulfilling experiences. Parents spend most of their children’s lives serving as protectors to provide a healthy upbringing, leading to productive adult years. Ensuring that children grow up safe seems like a never-ending challenge and can be a constant struggle for parents.
With toddlers, parents have more control over their children’s surroundings and can easily protect them from harm. They go in car seats, electrical outlets are covered, and cabinets are locked. As children grow into their adolescent years, the dangers continually expand outward from home into seemingly every corner of their environment. This presents new challenges for parents as they are not always around to protect them from harm. During the teen years, most parents begin to worry about their children being bullied, online activities, school challenges, peer pressure, and countless other issues.
As teens gain independence, parents should remember that they remain the biggest influence on their children’s behavior. Inevitably, teens will need assistance when they are facing a crisis and it is crucial to have a support system in place. Parental support can be the difference between a child feeling hopeful or hopeless about a situation.
One of the best ways for a parent to ensure safety for their teenager is to develop and maintain open lines of communication. The most important action parents can take is to just talk with their teens. This, more than anything, will help provide a barometer on the mindset of a child. Open communication will help lay the groundwork for those times when a teen’s coping mechanisms are no longer effective and they reach out for help.
If teens don’t have healthy coping skills or support at home, a small crisis can quickly spiral out of control. Stress can drive teens to risky negative behaviors as a way to cope. It is not uncommon for teens to abuse substances, self-harm, or use violent outbursts as a way to address their problems. Ultimately this might lead to depression and other serious mental health concerns, including suicidal behavior.
Parents sometimes are reluctant to discuss challenging issues with their teens because they don’t know what to do. Thankfully there are plenty of resources for parents that can help educate and provide guidance, not only for themselves but for their children as well.
Don’t be hesitant to talk with your child. If you don’t, who will?
James Bryant is Director of Programs at Grant Halliburton Foundation, a Dallas non-profit organization committed to teen and young adult mental health and suicide prevention.
RESOURCES TO HELP PARENTS AND TEENS
Grant Halliburton Foundation offers educational presentations, conferences and resources that help teens and parents know how to recognize and respond appropriately to signs of unhealthy or unsafe behaviors, which can negatively impact a person’s mental health and well-being.
Contact info@GrantHalliburton.org for information on how to bring these and other programs to your school or community.
SAFE! Issues That Affect Today’s Teens and How Parents Can Help is a presentation designed to help parents understand and address adolescent stress, social media concerns, peer pressure, teen mental health, bullying and warning signs for suicide.
#SAFE: Join the Conversation is an interactive program offered through schools to help students understand stress, develop positive coping skills, recognize signs of depression and suicidal crisis, and help a friend in crisis to connect with help.
HereForYouth.Com is a new website with a searchable database of mental health providers and resources for children, teens and young adults in North Texas. Visit www.hereforyouth.com
What Parents Should Know is a collection of helpful articles for parents, including 10 Things Parents Can Do to Prevent Suicide, How to Protect Your Child from Cyberbullying, and more.
Peer Support Groups offer an opportunity for teens with mental illness, as well as their parents, to share information, resources and encouragement. All groups are free of charge.
Coffee Days meets on the first day of every month and is open to mothers of children, teens, or young adults with mental health issues. Details at www.GrantHalliburton.org/coffeedays.html
Dad2Dad meets monthly on Saturday mornings. Fathers with a personal stake in the mental health of a young person are welcome to come and connect with others for coffee and conversation. Dates and details at www.GrantHalliburton.org/dad2dad.html
The Living Room is a peer support group for teens who have mental illness. Information on these groups at www.GrantHalliburton.org/livingroom.html
Find more helpful resources at www.GrantHalliburton.org