The teen years can be a turbulent period for many young people. Teenagers may find themselves dealing with academic stress from school,  relationship and friendship problems, and even pressures from keeping up appearances on social media.

While teen angst is part of growing up, for some youths it might be  overwhelming. A 2016 nationwide mental health study found that 1 in 7 Singaporeans has experienced a mental disorder in their lifetime, with depression and other mood disorders being the most common. Youths between 18 to 34 years were the most vulnerable group.

Not just growing pains

It takes a trained eye to spot mental health warning signs. It can be easy for parents to view their troubled teen’s errant behaviour as part of youthful rebellion and dismiss them as just ‘growing pains’. 

Some possible warning signs that parents should look out for in their teens are:
Poor sleep, loss of appetite and social withdrawal
Lack of interest in hobbies or activities that the child used to enjoy​
Drop in school performance or behavioural problems in school
Frequent physical complaints such as stomachaches or headaches
Unusually aggressive or reckless behavior 

If you feel that your child needs help, do consult a mental health professional early.

Supporting your teen’s mental health

If you think your teen is having a tough time, it is important to show your child that you love and support them.

Here are 4 things you can do to help your teen navigate that bumpy period:

1. Help them set and follow a routine

A well-established routine adds structure to your child’s day. Set up a schedule with clearly defined periods for schoolwork, sufficient rest and leisure activities. Find opportunities for social connections in your teen’s schedule: It could having dinner together as a family in the evenings or weekend recreation spent in the company of family and friends.  

2. Stay emotionally connected

Look for ways to check in with your teen. Ask him about his day as you prepare family meals together or chat with him if you commute to work or school together. If he has done something well, recognise his efforts and be generous with your praise. When he opens up to you, acknowledge his emotions and show understanding. Remind your child that you’re always there for them, no matter what. 

3. Ensure that they keep a healthy lifestyle

A healthy body begets a healthy mind. It’s not unusual for your teen to have prolonged periods of inactivity as they study and play in front of their screens during this pandemic period. As the restrictions ease up, find fun ways to involve your child in outdoorsy activities like cycling or going on nature walks.

4. Encourage them to find something meaningful to do

Engaging in meaningful pursuits can provide your child a sense of purpose. Find opportunities for him to help the people around him or to volunteer his time. It could be helping a younger sibling do better in school or a relative get her home business off the ground. Alternatively, encourage your teen to pick up a new hobby or skill like learning a different language or home baking. Be a supportive cheerleader by showing interest and giving your time to help them further their new pursuits.

Getting help
National Care Hotline: 1800-202-6868 (8am - 12am)
Fei Yue’s Online Counselling Service: website (Mon to Fri, 10am to 12pm, 2pm to 5pm)
Institute of Mental Health’s Mental Health Helpline: 6389-2222 (24 hours)
Samaritans of Singapore: 1800-221-4444 (24 hours) /1-767 (24 hours)
Singapore Association for Mental Health: 1800-283-7019 (Mon to Fri, 9am to 6pm)
Silver Ribbon Singapore: 6386-1928/6509-0271 (Mon to Fri, 9am to 6pm)
Tinkle Friend: 1800-274-4788 (Mon to Fri, 2.30pm to 5pm)/
Tinkle Friend website  (Mon to Thu, 2.30pm to 7pm and Fri, 2.30pm to 5pm)