Tips for coping with your teenager

Dick Moore’s recent talk about mental health issues in teenagers was thought-provoking and personal. Having lived through a heartbreaking experience himself Dick decided that, with his 30 years of teaching experience, a life-changing family tragedy and being a father to four teenagers, he would visit schools to raise awareness of mental health issues.

Nurturing emotional wellbeing during the turbulent teenage years is particularly important as this stage in people’s lives is when mental health disorders most often develop. To put this into context, in a school with 1600 pupils (based on UK figures but likely to be similar in Thailand):

  • Over 400 pupils would suffer from depression at some point in their lives, many before they leave the school
  • Well over 160 students would be suffering from a diagnosable mental health disorder
  • About 70 would suffer from an anxiety or stress disorder
  • Around 70 girls and boys would develop a concerning relationship with food and/or exercise
  • Over 200 pupils would have self-harmed by the time they complete their IGCSEs

During adolescence, the teenage years, the limbic system - the emotional area of the brain – is dominant so coping with life’s challenges can be hard. To try and help your teen, and you, through this tricky stage in their lives Dick offered these top tips:

1.  Communicate with anyone at school who has a positive relationship with your child school about any issues you may have noticed.

2.  Talk to your child, even if they don’t talk to you. Negative comments have 3 times the impact of positive comments

3.  Listen to your child, even if they don’t listen to you and don’t judge them

4.  Speak to a doctor, or other professional, if you feel your child’s emotional well-being is in danger and be pushy if you need to

5.  Avoid imposing your aspirations on your child

6.  Focus on what’s really important

7.  Seek to build resilience. Encourage emotional discussions, especially with boys. Prepare them for failure.

8.  Take a deep breath and don’t insist on having the last word

Dick Moore’s website https://www.dickmoore.org/ gives more useful information and background reading about mental health issues in young people.

Adapted from a series of workshops given by Dick Moore at Harrow International School Bangkok in August 2018.