Every parent hates hearing the words “You just don’t understand” from their children. Because 99% of the time, of course they understand. Parents have been through more than their children generally give them credit for. Just because they’re technically from a different generation doesn’t make them clueless on the challenges of growing up in the modern world. Especially when those challenges include various struggles due to mental illness inherited through birth, such as depression. Sometimes, our parents know better than anyone else the battle of being handed a certain collection of genes that we may not be too fond of, because they share the same genes.
However, social media has drastically changed today’s culture, and for some of the older generations, it is hard for them to comprehend the acceptance and understanding of mental illnesses amongst today’s youth. The internet has created a whole virtual world of “support” for young adults who feel they are struggling with anything from questioning their sexuality to dealing with an eating disorder. Anyone with internet access can log into chat rooms, connect with social media groups, and so much more, with people all over the world who are being faced with similar road bumps on the journey of life. While this can be a helpful benefit of today’s technology, nothing beats the one on one support of a child that a parent can provide.
Unlike in the past, when people would get embarrassed and clam up with the mere mention of mental illness, today’s youth is much more outspoken and straightforward when it comes to the said topic. So, parents today should not be afraid to call their kid out if they feel something is wrong but their child won’t come to them for help, because it is likely that their friends at school/ sports/ clubs/ etc. are already talking freely about their own problems. Therefore, taking a blunt and straightforward approach, which may have been frowned upon in the past and viewed as “inappropriate” or “invasive,” is very fitting for helping a growing child in a world that is rapidly adapting to helping those with mental illnesses.
Coming from someone who has struggled with depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and more since the age of 14, it is extremely scary, but mostly confusing. Growing up, I was never sure of my feelings, my thoughts, and my actions. I had so many questions throughout my daily routine and I would obsess over little moments every day, wondering if I had said or done the right thing. I wish my mom had sat me down, related to me the best she could, and welcomed my problems with open arms, ready to hear whatever I had to say. She tried the best she knew how, and would ask me daily how I was doing, checking in to make sure I was okay. But, to say the least, I was stubborn and of course wanted none of the help and support my mom was offering. Because I was young.
I didn’t know up from down in my life, no matter how much I thought I had figured out, I may as well have been going through every day blind and deaf. My hormones were way off, not only due to going through puberty but also due to a chemical imbalance within my brain. What may have seemed like just a moody teenager who thinks she knows everything, was really just a confused, sick young girl, needing an outlet for all her questions and concerns. Looking back now, I can see that my mom had tried the best she knew how to help me at the time by just trying to be there for me whenever I needed her. But, like I said, I was young and unable to comprehend her potential to truly help me conquer whatever battles I was fighting. At the time, I needed her to sit me down and basically force me to talk to her. That might sound aggressive but it’s truly not; it’s strong guidance from a person of importance in a young one’s life.
Today, I can talk freely with both of my parents about my ups and downs, how I’m working on balancing medications, and how I’m getting through my day to day life. It took a lot of growing up but I am finally reaching an age where I am mature enough to come to my parents when I need help, on my own. I’ve talked with my parents about the past and explained to them what I was missing from them in my teenage years. I’ve even given them some tips to help keep an eye on my younger siblings as they grow through their young adult years as well.
If there is one conclusive piece of advice I would’ve given my parents years ago to help my younger self, it would be this: don’t be afraid and don’t give up. Kids are hard to raise, especially teenagers, but parents, don’t let a moody teenager that claims they “hate” you scare you off or make you question your parenting. Give undying love and support and make it clear to your kids that you get it; you were there too once. Tell them stories, relate and connect with your kids on a more personal level so that they aren’t constantly faced with answering the questions “how are you?/how was your day?” because a lot of the time kids/teenagers truly don’t know their answers to such broad questions. For someone young, trying to figure out themselves, their growing bodies, and where they fit into the world, a question like “how was your day?” can instantly shut them down because their day was full of so much, that they don’t even know where to begin answering that question. A teenager’s day may be going great all the way until the last 5 minutes of school when something put them in a bad mood, but those 5 minutes can dictate how they feel about their whole day.
So, don’t be afraid to dig deep and get personal with your kids, parents; just keep trying and give them time. I promise, we’ll thank you someday.
[Photo by www.IAmSethCharles.com.]