We are all stuck inside here in Michigan. The kids have had off school for the past four days due to the extremely cold and blistering weather. YEA! The excitement overwhelms me as I try to combat our two youngest children who seem to be finding new ways to make messes. By the third day, our teenage son Grey said, “enough is enough already” and hopes we have school the last day of the week. I took this time to bother Grey about his opinion of what “mental health” meant to a near 15-year-old boy.
To start, I asked Grey, what he thought when I asked him what, “mental health” meant.
G: Something to do with your mind or state of emotions. Basically, it’s stuff that is in your mind and how you react to certain things.
Nosy Mom: Personally, how do you feel that your mental health has been?
G: Right now, things are going well. In 8th grade, things were rocky because some days I would feel good and then there were days where I felt low and sulked in bed.
I can attest to this myself. During his 8th grade year I noticed something different about our son. He is the eldest of four, so all the adventures we were having with him were the first of our lives as parents, so when his demeanor began to change, I was concerned. I began to weigh out what was the change of his hormones due to puberty and what was the change due to the circumstances in his life. Our cute little boy was turning into a teenager and that I understood, but he seemed angry a lot and sad. He never wanted to be around anyone and rarely spoke more than a few words to us unless he had to. He slacked on his chores (more than normal for a teenage boy) and he would scratch up his arms.
Nosy Mom: What helped you make it through your 8th grade year?
G: Having supportive parents, having people to talk to and realizing that I did not have to be sad anymore because I had support
Nosy Mom: Was there any situation in your life that made things seem worse?
G: Um…yeah, when grandma was living with us and that kinda made me have more anger. I knew she had dementia, but I just got really angry because she was there.
Now what I must mention and what I think parents need to keep in mind is this, circumstances and timing matter to your preteens. When my mother came into the home, we cut our son’s room in half because of the little space we had (seven people in a three-bedroom home). Grey was barely into his middle school life when she came into our home and this is also when “the change” began to happen. Gosh, I cannot believe I used that word as it sounds so goofy mom like, but it’s true. Our son was on the cusp of becoming more of an individual and here came his grandmother, taking his space and his mother’s time and attention.
Nosy mom: What would you tell other kids/teens your age if they feel what you are feeling?
G: It really depends on how their past goes. If they have good parents who will listen to them, trust your parents. Still try to talk to them, but I would say ask for help. Don’t do stuff alone. Ask friends for help.
Nosy Mom: Do you think that you could be helpful to a friend
G: Yeah, I could be helpful.
Nosy Mom: What would you tell parents?
G: Well, you should help your kids…try to figure them out, don’t rush them, have patience…if they are not letting up or getting better, push them a little. Don’t push to the point where you push them away. Time is the most important.
Nosy Mom: What’s the funniest think you can think of regarding mental health
G: I never thought of the funniest thing about mental health, but I guess it’s that one day you can be there then you can be down. Mood swings are a big thing.
Nosy Mom: What do you think about the aspect of not having control of your mind, body and emotions?
G: I’d say, you may think that you do have control…you have control…I think that a lot of kids my age think that they don’t have control. I know most people would say that you don’t really have issues with depression if you can control it, but you can reach out for help. Getting help from others is a good step in gaining control. People may not understand “at first” but give them a chance to try to help and understand. If they aren’t listening or helping, then reach out to a teacher or friend. Do not stop until you have reached someone that can help.
This is where I add the truth about medication. Now, first and foremost, you must speak with your primary care doctor about your child’s behavior and actions. YOU KNOW your child the best and if something is off with their behavior and actions; you know whether something is normal for them. I am not saying automatically get on medication, but you need to talk to your doctor about what is going on in order to make sure that something medically is not happening. True, mental health is medical, but we have a section in our manuals that leaves room for “due to other medical conditions” that may contribute to behaviors and thoughts that mimic other mental health disorders. From there, seek mental health advice from a therapist/counselor that specializes in working with adolescents. If medication is deemed necessary, don’t scoff this and work with your child’s doctor and counselor to make sure that your child is on the right regimen. This is a situation that all eyes should be on your child (yours, doctors and therapist’s). If you feel like something is missing in your child’s care, be the advocate. Be the example for your child that they should advocate for their health, by caring about their health by listening to them when things do not seem to be going right.
Nosy Mom: What do you think about your mom being a therapist?
G: I think it’s actually really good…cause if your mom is a therapist you can just go to her instead of paying someone else. You can just like walk in and go to her and be like, “okay, here’s what is going on.”
Many parents do not have the advantage of being a mental health professional, nurse or doctor but that does not mean that you should not have patience and seek out the advice of others. I mean, I wouldn’t attempt to fix my own vehicle, I would be lucky enough to go to my husband who happens to be a technician, and he’d fix it. Same as my husband defers to me when it comes to issue pertaining to our children’s behaviors, emotions and thoughts.
Asking for help IS NOT a weakness. IT IS a strength.