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How to Have a Mental Health Check-in With Your Teen or Preteen

From the Parent Cue
Is your teen or tween behaving more differently than usual? I know, this probably seems like a trick question. The emphasis is on the word more. For example, has your usually uber-responsible fourteen-year-old neglected to take the dog out again, forgot two class assignments in a row, and just failed an exam in his easiest subject? Or has your outgoing, mild-tempered eleven-year-old started to disappear into her room for hours at a time and when she does come out, she is increasingly prone to tearful and aggressive outbursts?

Whether your child is a preteen or a teen, mental health symptoms are widespread around this age. Studies show that mental health and substance use had been rising among adolescents even prior to the pandemic. According to the CDC, 7.1% of children ages 3-17 have been diagnosed with anxiety and 3.2% with depression. In addition, the National Alliance on Mental Illness says that one in five teenagers from 13-18 will experience a “severe mental disorder,” as well as 13% of kids from 5-15 years old.

So, the COVID-19 pandemic didn’t cause the decline in youth and adolescent mental health, but it certainly didn’t help.  

The puzzling changes that your child is going through will not go away if you ignore them. And with the strange 18 months we’ve all experienced, we need to check-in on our child’s mental health now more than ever.

If you are struggling with how to check-in on your child’s mental health, here are some tips to get you started.