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How to Open Communication with Mentally Ill Teens

May 30, 2018 Susan Traugh

Communication with our mentally ill teenagers must flow both ways. Get tips to open healthy lines of communication with mentally ill teenagers at HealthyPlace.

Developing open communication with mentally ill teens can be the difference between successfully treating the symptoms of her disease or not. Open communication about mental illness symptoms, fears, and successes can help teens discover what works in maintaining mental stability and healthiness when dealing with a mental illness. Parents can lead the way in opening communication with mentally ill teens by following some simple techniques.

How to Open Communication with Mentally Ill Teenagers

Let Your Child Lead Conversations About Mental Health

While difficult, it is important that parents allow their child to lead discussions about their mental illness. Parents can ask questions and respond to their child, but parent-led discussions can too easily morph into lectures that your child simply tunes out. Instead, ask open-ended questions like:

  • What does it feel like when you begin falling into a depression?
  • How do your meds make you feel?
  • Did your new bedtime help with . . . ?
  • Are you more stable when you . . . ?

Then explore the answers together with your child to help her discern a plan to create stability.

Avoid Judgment of Teen-Led Mental Health Topics

As you open the doors of communication with a mentally ill teen, topics will inevitably come up that you might not want to hear. Parents need to use these moments to take a deep breath and remain as neutral as possible.

When my daughter declared that she would no longer take one of her medications due to the side effects, I wanted to force her to do so. Instead, I listened to her reasoning and agreed that she had a point. With her doctor, we decided to take a month off and see if she remained stable. She did not. But, when her doctor prescribed a replacement medication, my daughter was willing to suffer through the initial side effects because she understood the necessity of maintaining her stability.

In the long run, that month of instability allowed my daughter to choose mental health and compliance. Most importantly, she chose. Not me. In addition, it assured her that I was a partner in her stability and respectful of her blossoming maturity.

Create Safety Plans for Crisis Management

“Mom, I hate to tell you,” my daughter said, “I’m starting to rapid cycle again. You better lock up your credit cards.”

Because my daughter and I have open communication and clear mental health safety plans in place, we can prepare for crises and protect ourselves without drama or hysterics. My daughter knows that she can be honest about what’s going on and, together, we can institute the procedures that will keep her, and our family, safe. Because she doesn’t fear recriminations, she can approach me in the first crucial moments of a bout of mania while her own judgment is still intact and her self-control hasn’t gone off the rails.

In so doing, I can make sure the house, and family finances, are safe from her illness and that we begin the procedures that will usher my child safely through an episode and into the stability that lies on the other side.

Open Communication with Mentally Ill Teens Offers Life Lessons

The teenage years are the countdown to adulthood and independence. That independence carries more responsibility for our teens with mental illness than it does for others and we parents need to ensure that they are ready to take on those responsibilities when they move out on their own. Open communication with mentally ill teens is a good way to build the skills needed to rise to that responsibility.

APA Reference
Traugh, S. (2018, May 30). How to Open Communication with Mentally Ill Teens, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, June 5 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/parentingchildwithmentalillness/2018/5/how-to-open-communication-with-mentally-ill-teens



Author: Susan Traugh

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