Have you heard the song Stressed Out by 21 Pilots? If not, take a listen. I changed the radio station for about a week before I listened, but when I did the lyrics hit me and immediately made me think about teenagers today. It made me sad to think that so many adolescents face the pressures and stresses talked about in this song.
”Used to play pretend give each other different names…used to dream of outer space but now they’re laughing at our face saying ‘wake up, you need to make money”…“Wish we could turn back time to the good old days when our mommas sang us to sleep but now were stressed out.” 21 Pilots – Stressed Out
Growing up is definitely stressful. Change and transition mean we need to learn new skills and adapt, but is the stress and anxiety around change and social expectations starting too soon? Are youth being robbed of their “the good old days”, a Summer of ’69 if you will, when carefree days were endless and dreaming was required? The stats say “YES!” and show that the mental health of our youth is in crisis. In Canada, six to 10 ten per cent of youth are affected by an anxiety disorder and 3.2 million 12-19 year olds are at risk for developing depression.
But why? How did this happen? On paper it looks like the opportunities for young people are endless – so many of the barriers that once limited them (race, gender, sexual orientation) have been broken down, and yet today youth report feeling like they have less control over their own future than ever before. Emotional wellness and resiliency in youth is taking a hit from the growing pressures of high parental expectations, grades, peer relationships, material rewards and the judgement of others. Personal goal setting and discovering the meaning to life have taken a back seat and more youth admit that they base their self-worth on the judgement of others, potential income brackets and status.
“My name is blurry face and I care what you think…” 21 Pilots – Stressed Out
So, #Let’sTalk. As parents we play a key role in our child’s mental health, and therefore we need to be strong role models. Personal goal setting and positive stress management need to take priority, so our children learn to set individual goals, plan ahead and be resilient. As parents, it’s also important to check-in and review our expectations and measures of success. Promote optimism and DREAMING BIG! Place value in personal achievement or overcoming the odds. Encourage your child take responsibility for their journey and listen to the voice that says ‘yes I can!’. And finally, highlight the rewards of the journey for your teen, so that one day they too can look back on the paths they walked as great times in the “good old days.”
Here are a few more ways parents can support teens and promote positive mental health in youth:
- Stay connected to your child and make their mental wellness a priority.
- Talk openly with your teen about stress, anxiety and depression to make it less scary.
- Ask for help if you notice your child struggling to bounce back after a challenge.
- See your child and their efforts before you look at their grades – remind them how proud you are of their hard work.
- Know that you are not alone. Mental Health Nurses are available in schools to provide direct support to students and families and community agencies like ROCK have walk-in support available.
- Encourage time for free play, creativity and reflection.
Remember: It takes a village to raise a child. Connect with us and share your stories about parenting a teen in Halton.
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For parenting information or to speak with a Public Health Nurse (every Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) simply dial 311 or 905-825-6000.