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Being there for your child is the most important thing you can do to help protect their mental health. The teenage years are a difficult time for everyone, but there are things you can do to help them have more ups than downs.

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Teen emotions and feelings

In this short video, Child Psychologist Cathy Richards discusses teen emotions and feelings.

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Tips for supporting your teen's mental health

Tip #1: Let them know that all feelings are okay

The teenage years are full of emotions. It can be a bit overwhelming for teenagers to deal with them all. One way to support them is to help them work out what they’re feeling and then help them accept these feelings. Let them know that all feelings are okay, even bad ones.

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Tip #2: Pause and slow down

Asking them to take 10 minutes away from their screens and anything else they may be doing to use as ‘thinking time’ can help them deal with their emotions. They could spend this time reflecting on their day, thinking about what’s gone well and what hasn’t gone so well. They could think about things they’re grateful for, or practise breathing exercises. There are lots of suggestions on the MIND and Aye Feel websites on how to do this.

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Tip #3: Help teens work through their problems

Knowing you’re there to help them work through any problems (rather than tell them what to do) helps them feel supported. If your teen is anxious about something, try working with them to figure it out. Ask them what they think they should do and what might happen. Try out the plan and then chat together about how it went. Be curious – what went well, what was a surprise and what would they like to try next time? This will help them remember how they solved the problem, so next time they’ll have more confidence.

At this age, the part of the brain that deals with future thinking isn’t fully formed yet, so by helping them think through problems and consider the possible outcomes of their actions, you’ll be helping them develop their brain.

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Tip #4: Help them find other outlets for their feelings

Teens often struggle to communicate their feelings. Writing, drawing, or making music are good ways to help them express themselves. They also promote creativity and can give them an outlet in their life that they can enjoy. Our page on creative activities for teens has lots of suggestions of things they could try.

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Tip #5: Encourage them to get outside

Getting outside is important for everyone's wellbeing. So try and ensure they stick their noses outside at least once a day, even if it’s only for a quick walk round the park. Our page on physical activity and getting outdoors has more suggestions.

If your teen has been withdrawn or angry, Matt Henderson from Learning through Landscapes explains how getting outside for a walk, a bike ride or a game can make a world of difference.

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Supporting your teen's mental health

For a more in-depth look at how you can support your teen’s mental health, you can sign up for a free course from NHS Scotland and SilverCloud. The course ‘Supporting an anxious teen’ helps parents and carers support teenagers to deal with worry and anxiety, while also learning helpful strategies to tackle their own anxiety. In the course you’ll learn how anxiety affects teens, and how to help them manage anxiety. It also includes practical tools like breathing exercises and relaxation activities.

You can find out more about the courses available here and sign up for free using the code Scotland2020.

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