How can meaningful connections support your teen's mental health?
Despite the rise in online social media platforms such as TikTok, according to 'Support in Mind, Scotland', as many as 1 in 4 young people say they feel socially anxious, lonely and overwhelmed. According to their research,
feeling lonely or isolated can have a direct impact of a young person's mental health and could even effect their outcomes as an adult.
Why do meaningful connections have a positive impact on mental health?
This year, Place2Be's Mental Health Week (6th-13th February) centres around the theme of Meaningful Connections, and for good reason. When children feel connected to their families, friends, and communities, they are more likely to thrive and grow into adults able to regulate and have positive relationships.
Supporting children with their sense of belonging helps them to build resilience, develop healthy communication skills, and learn to trust their own instincts. As adults, supporting children to navigate friendships and connections with friends, family members and peers can provide them with the opportunity to gain confidence, feel safe and secure in their environment, as well as create meaningful connections.
How can I help my teen foster meaningful relationships?
Support them with emotional literacy
Emotional literacy is important at all ages because it gives us the ability to recognise, understand, handle and appropriately express emotions. Although some children are instinctively in tune with their feelings and emotions, and are able to deal with new or different situations and people more easily, others may need a bit more help.
Here are some ways you can nurture and encourage your child's emotional literacy,
Acknowledge their emotional responses without judgement.
Help them to label how they are feeling. This can be the first step towards understanding how they feel, and finding positive or healthy ways to deal with this.
Encourage them to talk about their feelings – but don’t push them to speak if they aren’t ready. Let them know that you (or any other adult that they know and trust) are always willing to listen and help when they feel ready.
Model healthy ways of handling your emotions. Children often learn more from what we do than what we say. Find out more about how you can build emotional intelligence.
Promote honest relationships
Trusting our friends and feeling relaxed and happy to be ourselves is so important when it comes to positive relationships.
Encourage your teen to nurture friendships with people who make them feel relaxed and able to be themselves and won’t pressure them, blame them or make them feel anxious.
Point out positive qualities in others
Even when our children have reached the age they seem to have stopped listening to almost all we say, make no mistake that they will be looking to you to guide them!
Pointing out qualities that we admire in other people can have a powerful effect on the peers our teens choose to spend time with, so when you see their peers doing something positive, talk about it with them.
Explain why you admire this kind of behaviour and also talk about other qualities that build good, strong friendships like listening and being understanding, trusting and keeping confidences and supporting and being respectful.
Support them with their preferred way to socialise
Young or old, we all enjoy socialising in different ways and your teen is no different.
Consider your child's unique character and support them to socialise in their preferred way. For example, if they like chatting with their friends, encourage them to arrange going for lunch with someone they like or if they prefer doing physical activities, encourage them to go and do something with a mate like bike riding, hiking or kicking a footy around.