The Disconnect Between Behavior and Health
Written by Eric Yunker,
in Section Articles
Many parents are not aware that troubled teens often turn their mental health issues inward, often resulting in struggles with their physical health as well. From intense mood swings to frequently engaging in risk taking behaviors, parenting a troubled teen can be a difficult job. The following will examine the disconnect between behavior and health, as well as look at ways you can help your child through this challenging time in their lives.
It’s important to understand that a teen’s brain is still developing. As a result, they process information differently than mature adults. For example, the frontal cortex, the part of the brain that is responsible for controlling emotions, making decisions, controlling inhibitions, and reasoning, doesn’t reach full maturity until the mid-20’s.
In addition, the hormones produced during the physical changes of adolescence can make things even more difficult. While these things do not excuse your teen's bad behavior, it does make it easier to understand why they tend to rebellious, display social anxiety, and impulsive.
The Link Between Mental and Physical Health
While any teen is likely to internalize their emotional feelings, this is especially true of troubled teens. For example, there is a strong relationship between depression and high risk behaviors that can have serious consequences on their physical health. Fighting, experimenting with drugs and alcohol, and engaging in unprotected sex can be the result.
Helping Your Troubled Teens
Be there for your child. Insist on having meals together without the TV or other distractions and attempt to start a conversation. While your teen may not be interested in your gestures, it is important for them to realize you are available for them. This way if your teen does decide to open up, he or she will have the chance to.
Listen without offering advice or passing judgment. If your teen does decide to open to you, direct your complete attention to them. Put down your phone so that your child realizes how important they are to you. Most of all, do not criticize, interrupt, or offer advice. Simply allow them to talk.
Create a structured environment. This includes regular bedtimes, sitting down for meals together, and limiting their screen time. Your troubled teen may rebel, but it will also make them feel safe, secure, and more comfortable confiding in you.
Encourage exercise and healthy eating. Exercise can improve your child’s self esteem, as well as improve their mood and energy, and relieve stress. On the other hand, healthy eating can help even out their mood and stabilize their mood. A teen who feels good about themselves, has a stable mood, and isn’t under immense stress is less likely to act out and potentially damage their physical health.
Don’t forget about yourself. Parenting a troubled teen is hard, but you have to take care of yourself in order to take care of your child. Take time to relax and de-stress daily, talk over your issues with friends, and remember that this will not last forever.