How Gentle Parenting can support teens suffering from mental illness
Mental Health Awareness Week comes at a timely point in the United States, especially for teens. With 32% of teens suffering from anxiety, 13% suffering from depression, and these rates climbing, it is important we address how we can support our youth. Gentle parenting may alleviate the symptoms of mental illness in teens.
Gentle parenting, having gained popularity due to its evidence-backed peaceful approach to child-rearing, requires parents to be kinder and more understanding of themselves and their children, while being highly involved in helping their child build healthy relationships within themselves and compassion for others. Gentle parenting is based upon empathy, respect, understanding, and boundaries.
“Gentle parenting focuses on fostering the qualities you want in your child by being compassionate and enforcing consistent boundaries. Unlike some more lenient parenting methods, gentle parenting also encourages discipline, but in an age-appropriate way. Discipline methods focus on teaching valuable life lessons rather than focusing on punishments.” – verywellfamily.com
The focus on healthy inter and intra personal connection acts as the support many teens need when suffering from mental illness. In this way, we are modeling these relationships for our teens as parents.
With teens suffering from mental illness, the empathy involved in gentle parenting is most impactful. Empathy manifests itself as inviting teens to share their emotions, good and bad. Whatever the feeling, it is important for parents to “acknowledge and understand emotions they might be experiencing, even if it feels uncomfortable. When they open up […] respond with “I understand”, “it sounds like a difficult situation” or “that makes sense”.
Taking time to support teens also shows empathy and allows them to feel safe enough to show vulnerability. Supporting your teen can look like working together to reach daily goals, or doing activities they like and collaborating with them on excursion ideas.
As parents, it may be hard to work through conflict with teens suffering from mental illness. The solution is patience and working through this conflict with them. Unicef shares a few tips as follows:
- Let your teen feel heard. Listen to what they have to say in a calm manner.
- Do not discuss and issue while angry. Take a moment to calm down, in order to be present and actively listen during the conversation.
- In a world where teens are looking to feel control over their evolving minds and bodies, avoid power struggles. Instead, empathize with their desire to assert control in a scary time, rather than attempting to fight back or overpower it.
- Be honest. you can let them know if you’re stressed or going through something tough. t Showing them how you deal with your own difficult feelings can help them know their feelings are okay, and be inclined to share their own struggles with you.
- When there is conflict, take some time to reflect on how you and your teen can resolve it. You can discuss these reflections with your teen, so they see how you are processing ideas.
- – unicef.org
It is not easy being a parent. It can be even harder as a parent to teens suffering from mental illness. It involves vulnerability, empathy, and understanding that can push parents in ways they’ve never imagined. Although a great tool, gentle parenting is not an easy method to adopt into a daily routine. This style of parenting focuses parents to face themselves and be completely honest, patient, and transparent with their teens, but the payoff can be worth it. Teens feel valued, have a stronger relationship with their parents, a stronger sense of self, and a point of reference for healthy relationships both with others and themselves. Gentle parenting can hone feelings of self-kindness when dealing with challenging emotions and in turn, life situations. Sometimes all we need is a little kindness to change our world view.