Did you know that 1 in 7 teenagers worldwide experience mental health disorders? According to the World Health Organization (WHO), depression, anxiety, and behavioral issues are very common among teenagers, accounting for 13% of the global impact in this age group. Considering this, the well-being of our teenagers is more crucial than ever.
As parents, we play a vital role in nurturing the emotional well-being of our teenagers. Adolescence is a critical stage of development, marked by complex emotions and a quest for identity.
But how can we raise emotionally healthy teenagers in a rapidly changing world?
In this article, we will explore 10 essential parenting tips to empower your child with the emotional resilience they need to thrive in an ever-changing world.
What Does “Emotionally Healthy” Mean?
Have you ever wondered why your teenager seems emotionally unavailable or distant at times? Maybe you’re worried that their emotional well-being is at stake.
It’s natural for parents to feel concerned when their teenager appears emotionally distant or struggles to open up. Our fast-paced rhythm of life may cause us parents to focus more on our children’s behavior, rather than their underlying emotions. As a result, it’s easy to overlook the emotional well-being of our children–especially when they are “acting out.”
Teenagers often face a multitude of internal and external pressures, such as academic stress, peer relationships, and self-discovery. Therefore, it’s important to understand that these periods of emotional withdrawal do not necessarily mean they are emotionally unhealthy.
But what does it mean to be emotionally healthy?
Being emotionally healthy as a teenager involves developing resilience, self-awareness, and effective coping strategies to navigate the challenges of adolescence. It means having the capacity to understand, process, and navigate a range of emotions in a constructive and adaptive manner and creating a healthy balance between positive and negative emotions (Keyes, 2007).
Emotional well-being enables teenagers to express themselves authentically and leads to improved life satisfaction and a sense of meaning and purpose (Sabri & Clark, 2018).
10 Tips to Raise Emotionally Healthy Teenagers
1) Express unconditional love
Show your teenager love and full acceptance, regardless of their successes or failures. According to Carl Rogers (1951), the founder of the humanistic approach in psychology, expressing unconditional positive regard for your children fulfills their fundamental needs for experiencing positive regard from others and developing a positive sense of self-worth.
Accordingly, a 2011 study shows that expressing unconditional love toward your children can help you enhance their emotional well-being. In fact, children who experience high levels of care and affection from their parents during their early years tend to have lower levels of distress in adulthood (Maselko et al., 2011).
So, try to express unconditional love and offer unwavering support, care, and affection regardless of your teenager’s actions, achievements, or mistakes. *Note: This does not mean that you don’t enforce boundaries or consequences. It means that the way you enforce boundaries and consequences is based in honest and unconditional love.
2) Be a positive role model
Have you ever heard of Albert Bandura‘s social learning theory? It suggests that individuals learn by observing and imitating the behaviors they see in others, particularly significant role models in their lives. This theory holds great relevance when it comes to raising emotionally healthy teenagers.
As a parent, your behavior serves as a powerful influence on your teenager’s emotional development. Modeling positive behaviors, such as effective communication, empathy, and self-care, sets a valuable example for them to follow.
Remember, your teenager is watching and learning from you. By being a positive role model, you not only foster their emotional well-being but also equip them with the tools they need to navigate the complexities of life. Note: There are multiple research studies that demonstrate that lectures and “fear tactics” are not effective in altering your teenager’s behavior.
3) Allow age-appropriate freedom and encourage them to make choices
Granting age-appropriate freedom to your teenager and encouraging them to make choices fosters their independence, critical thinking, and decision-making skills. A 2022 study about parental autonomy support in children’s development shows that when parents support their children’s independence, they directly empower them to act as active agents in shaping their lives (Han et al., 2022).
Encourage them to make decisions, take responsibility for their actions, and explore their own interests and passions to promote emotionally healthy and independent behaviors in your teenagers. Note: If you, as a parent, shield your teenager from the natural consequences of their actions, you may be accidentally enforcing harmful beliefs and behaviors that likely may cause their behaviors to become worse in the future (because they haven’t learned from minor mistakes from their behaviors).
4) Acknowledge and validate their feelings
It is crucial to show empathy and understanding when your teenager expresses their emotions.
By actively listening and validating their feelings, you create a safe and supportive environment for emotional expression.
Avoid dismissing or trivializing their emotions, as this can undermine their trust and emotional well-being. Instead, encourage open dialogue and help them develop emotional resilience by teaching healthy coping strategies.
Parents who raise children with high emotional intelligence actively engage in conversations and foster an environment where their teenagers feel comfortable expressing their feelings without fear of judgment or rejection. Note: This means that you do not “avoid” difficult topics with your children. There may be an inclination for parents to shelter their teenager from the troubles of the world and the dark side of human nature–but if you shelter your teenager too much, they may stay naive when they finally leave the home and that is putting them at a disadvantage in life.
5) Celebrate their achievements and strengths to build their self-esteem
Research conducted by Teresa Amabile (2011) from Harvard Business School suggests that tracking small achievements on a daily basis can boost a sense of self-confidence. That’s why it is essential to celebrate your teenager’s achievements and strengths as a means of building their self-esteem.
When parents acknowledge and record their accomplishments, teenagers can appreciate their progress and feel confident. Celebrating their achievements, no matter how small, encourages them to continue striving for success and contributes to their overall emotional well-being. It is important to use positive reinforcement behavioral techniques with your teenager as it helps them gain a sense of mastery over time.
6) Try to have meaningful interactions with your teenager daily
Another important step in raising emotionally healthy teenagers is to have meaningful interactions on a daily basis. Engaging in genuine conversations allows you to connect on a deeper level, understand their thoughts and feelings, and foster a strong parent-child bond.
For this, you should listen to them actively, show interest, and ask open-ended questions to create a space for authentic communication. These meaningful interactions provide emotional support, validate their experiences, and help teenagers develop a sense of belonging. As a parent, we may overlook how important quality time with our children is. Teenagers need this quality time as they are more likely to feel safe, secure, and valued just from parents intentionally putting in the time to have positive conversations daily.
7) Support their interests and passions, even if they differ from your own
It is common for parents to have their own aspirations and desires for their children. However, supporting your teenager’s interests and passions, even if they differ from your own, is crucial for their emotional well-being. So guess what?
You need to help them be themselves. Encourage self-discovery and self-expression without imposing your expectations or desires on them. Supporting their pursuits outside of your own preferences nurtures their self-confidence, resilience, and overall emotional growth. Note: Your teenagers are likely to have different tastes in music, activities, film, books, fashion–just to name a few areas. It is in your best interest to allow your teenager to explore their identity through different avenues without you shutting them down or criticizing their preferences.
8) Explain that it’s okay to feel negative emotions
Believe it or not, accepting your negative emotions can help your teenager maintain mental and emotional health. According to a 2017 study, individuals who accept their negative thoughts and emotions instead of judging them have better psychological health (Ford et al., 2017). The reason is that acceptance helps individuals avoid reacting to their negative mental experiences in unhealthy ways.
Therefore, it’s important to communicate to your teenager that experiencing negative emotions is a normal part of life and that it’s okay to feel them. As parents, we must become aware of our own negative emotions and own them, feel them, and talk about them openly with our children.
9) Watch out for signs of stress
Nevertheless, while experiencing negative emotions is a normal part of life, you still need to watch out for signs of stress in your kids. Stress can have a significant impact on their emotional well-being and overall health.
So, keep an eye out for behavioral changes, such as increased irritability, withdrawal from activities, changes in sleep or appetite patterns, or a decline in academic performance. Physical symptoms like headaches or stomach aches can also indicate heightened stress levels (e.g., Stubberud et al., 2021).
If you notice any of these signs, don’t hesitate to initiate conversations with them, offer support, and help your teenager develop effective stress management strategies. When in doubt, put your teenager in counseling with a professional therapist who has skills.
10) Respect their individual boundaries
Finally, respecting your teenager’s individual boundaries is a vital aspect of raising emotionally healthy teenagers. Adolescence is a time of self-discovery and identity formation, and teenagers need space to explore and define their personal boundaries.
Respecting your child’s boundaries means that you trust and value their autonomy. It communicates that their feelings, thoughts, and personal space are respected and honored. This validation of their individuality builds a strong sense of self, assertiveness, and healthy boundaries in their interactions with others. This does not mean that you let them break your family or “house rules.” However, it does mean that you have set up rules for safety and their well-being–not just rules for a sense of control or attempting to dictate what your teeanger should like or dislike.
As you can see, raising emotionally healthy teenagers requires a thoughtful and intentional approach. But implementing these ten parenting tips can help you create an environment that fosters emotional well-being, resilience, and self-discovery in your teenager’s life.
However, if you still find parenting so challenging that you’re unable to balance your children’s and your own needs, then seeking professional guidance might make a difference. Our team of professional therapists at Health for Life Counseling understands the unique challenges of parenting and the importance of nurturing your teenager’s emotional health. We provide a warm and supportive environment for you and your teenager to explore their emotions, develop healthy coping strategies, and strengthen family relationships.
So, don’t hesitate to reach out to our licensed counselors at our offices in Grand Rapids, MI, or Ada, MI, or talk to us online. Together, we can create a positive and supportive environment where your teenager can thrive emotionally and reach their full potential.