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Talking mental health with young people at secondary school: Some advice for parents and carers

As parents and carers, it can be hard to know whether your child’s feelings and behaviour are normal or becoming a problem. This is especially during adolescence when young people can feel a great deal of pressure and increasingly want to loosen their family ties. Young people’s need for independence is partly due to changes in brain development. This makes reading and understanding others more difficult than when they were younger. This can leave parents feeling that young people are in a world of their own, when actually they can be struggling to understand themselves and others!

A rollercoaster of changing emotions and feelings that come and go is completely normal at this age. Feelings and moods that become a problem are those which last a long time, become overwhelming, and stop your child from doing what they want to in their lives. We know that having strong relationships lies at the heart of good mental health. As parents and carers we also have our own stresses such as money, job security and juggling family demands. These can put pressure on our capacity to respond sensitively to our children.

Talking can be a helpful way for young people to manage their wellbeing as it helps them to make sense of and manage difficult experiences and feelings.