How Parents of Anxiety-Ridden Teens Can Take Care of Their Own Mental Health

Monday, July 17 2023

It’s been headline news for some time now — anxiety and depression is on the rise for teenagers across the U.S., motivating parents, caregivers, educators, and communities to want to take a deeper look at the causes of teen’s increasing mental health challenges and learn how to best support them. 

But what hasn’t made the headlines — until now — is the effects poor teenage mental health has had on parents themselves. 

Read on to learn more about how parents have been impacted by declining teen mental health and get tips for how parents can take care of their own mental well-being— from coping strategies to how therapy from SonderMind can help you and your teen get the unique mental health support you need to feel better. 

How does declining teen mental health affect parents? 

Every parent experiences their own unique challenges raising a child, but trying to navigate your way through the challenges of a teenager can be particularly overwhelming, especially if they’re experiencing a mental health concern. If your teen is struggling with their mental health and you’re feeling the effects of it, know that you’re not alone. 

According to a study from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, poor mental health among teens has a significant impact on parents — it reports that parents are suffering from anxiety and depression at about the same rate as teens. 

The study shares that while 18% of teens reported suffering anxiety, about 20% of mothers and 15% of fathers also did, too. The numbers were similar for depression – 15% of teens reported depression, as did 16% of mothers and 10% of fathers. 

Moreover, the study estimated that over 1/3 of teens had at least one parent who reported anxiety or depression, and almost 40% of teens also reported being at least “somewhat worried” about the mental health of at least one of their parents. 

All of these stats point to just how deeply connected parents’ and teens’ emotional health is to each other. Parents are worried about their teens, and in turn, teens are worried about their parents — underscoring the need for mental health support for families as a whole. 

What can parents do to take care of their mental health?

From better communicating with your teen to practicing self-care, here are a few things you can do to support your own mental health while also navigating your teen’s challenges: 

1. Listen with empathy to support your teen (and your own well-being) 

Since your teen’s well-being is so closely tied to yours, a great first step in supporting your own mental health is making progress with your teen’s mental health. This starts with listening and understanding what your teen is going through. 

This isn’t always as easy as it seems. In fact, the study reported that depressed and anxious teens are much more likely to reach out to their friends than their parents for emotional support. That’s why it’s important to not only listen to your teen, but to practice empathic listening skills that can help you become a trusted sounding board and advisor to them. This will allow you to best support them in improving their well-being (and, in turn, help improve yours).  Here’s how to practice empathetic listening: 

  • Be nonjudgmental: Focus on having an open mind. 
  • Be attentive: Give your teen your undivided attention. Remove distractions and avoid looking at your phone. 
  • Be aware: It’s important to not listen only to what your teen is saying, but also to their tone of voice, body language, and anything else that can help you understand their emotions. 
  • Be comfortable with silence: Your teen may not know how to put their feelings into words. Don’t try to fill the space and let them open up as they feel comfortable. 
  • Seek understanding: When responding to your teen, paraphrase what you heard and ask open-ended questions to keep the conversation going. Consider asking them about how they felt when something happened so you can better understand their experiences and reactions. It’s okay to ask for clarification on comments if needed. 

Empathic listening can lead to trust and meaningful action. When your teen trusts you, they’re more likely to welcome your advice and support. Once you develop that trust with one another, encouraging your teen to seek professional support for their mental health concerns can be a big step in helping them see change and feel better. If your teen is ready to seek professional mental health support, SonderMind can help connect them with a licensed therapist who can help them through their unique challenges. 

2. Join a parent support group 

Remember, you’re not alone. Parents across the U.S. are experiencing mental health concerns due to the challenges their teens are facing. Connecting with support groups specifically for parents of teenagers can help. They provide a safe environment where you can connect with other parents who are going through similar experiences. 

Parenting support groups give you the opportunity to share stories, listen to others, and feel supported. They also provide a platform for informal education that can help you develop effective parenting strategies and coping mechanisms. Attending these groups can help you build strong relationships, share resources, and gain a sense of empowerment that can positively impact your mental health. 

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) offers family support groups online or in-person. Find a NAMI support group for parents here

3. Take time for yourself 

As a parent, your first instinct is to put the well-being of your child first. That being said, parents need to take care of their own mental health, too, so they can better help their teens navigate through mental health challenges. That’s why it’s so important to take the time to care for yourself. 

Consider making self-care part of your daily routine. Or, take up a hobby that you find fulfilling, whether it's gardening, painting, or cooking. It’s okay to make time for friends and dinner dates that don’t involve your teen, too. Taking time for yourself can help take your mind off your worries and provide a much-needed outlet for relaxation. 

4. Practice mindfulness

Mindfulness is becoming increasingly popular for a reason: it helps. Mindfulness can help you center yourself and be present in the moment. Try taking up a regular meditation practice or do a simple breathing exercise when feeling stressed. It can help you gain perspective and keep yourself from spiraling into anxiety.

5. Seek professional mental health support  

Therapy can be a great asset for parents of teenagers experiencing anxiety, depression, or any other mental health concern. Talk therapy can help give you a fresh perspective and provide you with coping strategies and practical advice on handling specific situations that may arise with your teen and in your family environment. 

Remember that seeking help is not a sign of weakness. In fact, it shows incredible strength and self-awareness. With a little support and guidance, you can better support your teen and can come out the other side stronger and more resilient.

SonderMind is here for parents and teens 

SonderMind therapists specialize in family relationships and teen and adolescent mental health and can help you and your teen get the support you need to see meaningful change. If you’d like to seek support from a licensed mental health professional for yourself or your teen, SonderMind can help connect you with someone who's right for your needs. Just let us know a little more about what you’re looking for, and we’ll connect you with someone who meets your preferences within 48 hours.

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