Talking to your teen boy about mental illness can be difficult to do, and many parents get stuck in putting it off again and again. While talking with your teenage son about mental health and mental illnesses may not be easy, it is an essential part of a teen’s life and can affect whether or not your teen can recognize when someone needs therapeutic help, whether for himself, a friend or a family member.
Here are 5 things that can help you talk to your teen son about mental illness:
1. Start Early
The sooner you start talking about mental illness, the better your teen will understand it. Of course, you must keep the discussion age appropriate, but by the teen years, your son is old enough for a detailed talk to help him understand different aspects of mental illness. Allow the conversation to come up more than once to allow for more well rounded discussion on the topic.
2. Use Life As A Catalyst
Many parents find success in using events around them to begin conversations with their teens about mental health. Talking about some family members and friends who are going through some mental health issues can open the door to discussions and make the conversation more relevant. Movies, television shows, songs, celebrity biographies and more can also be a catalyst for talking with your teenage son about mental health and wellness.
3. Be Authentic
Share your viewpoints and experiences with mental illness with your teen, whether it’s revealing your own condition or that of someone they know well. Do research together. Mental illness affects so many people. It’s safe to assume that your son will encounter people struggling with behavioral, emotional or mental health issues in his own life.
4. Correct Myths and Misinformation
Your teen has probably heard all kinds of things about mental health and mental illnesses from peers and in the media, and he may believe some untrue and exaggerated things. It’s important to correct any myths and misinformation he may be holding onto, and if you don’t know the answer to something, help him find the answer.
5. Educate Yourself Using Reputable Sources
There are plenty of books, articles, and public information organizations on mental illness, and many have material specifically targeted to teens. It’s a good idea to use these sources as additional places to get real, factual information about mental illness. You and your teen son can read all the material together, and then get together to discuss them or to ask and answer questions about mental illness.
It’s ok to admit to your teen that it’s hard to talk about mental illness, but the more you talk about it, the easier it is to open up. Your teenage boy will soon understand the importance of the topic and how it affects his life. When you have conversations with your son, always take the time to listen to what he has to say. Listening and sharing ideas and information builds bonds of trust, and that’s the most important thing to do with your teen son.