Mental health: What do young people want from their caregivers?

Jana Breznik_Kinderbild_Team
Jana Breznik

Young people go through a number of different phases during adolescence. They try to slowly become independent and are keen to gradually increase the level of autonomy in their lives. Along the way, they are constantly confronted with various hurdles and problems that they cannot always overcome on their own. In conjunction with UNICEF, young people have developed a guide to show parents and caregivers how they can support their children.

Image Credit Youth Mediathon

When children reach puberty, they are confronted with various changes. The desire for independence makes young people even keener to make their own decisions. This goes hand in hand with a greater focus on oneself, new interests and the social environment. During adolescence, teenagers develop a unique personality and seek more responsibility.

This search is not always easy for young people, as they are often plagued by worries and problems along the way. Their body also undergoes more and more changes during this phase of development, and many teenagers feel not only emotionally but also visually uncomfortable in their skin. During adolescence, they may be moody, experience ups and downs, be anxious or lack self-confidence. 

In these times of transition, a positive relationship with parents and caregivers is crucial. This is because caring and supportive parenting is a protective factor in young people’s mental wellbeing.

Image Credit Youth Mediathon

Dear adults, listen to us.

This is precisely why UNICEF wanted to know what young people want from their parents and caregivers when they want to talk about mental health. To this end, members of Voices of Youth, the international UNICEF platform for young people, by young people, teamed up with doctor Hina Talib. The result is a three-point guide designed to facilitate intergenerational discussions on mental health.

1. Take care of us

Parents and caregivers should let us know that they care about our mental health. Most of the time, young people hide their true feelings from their parents. That’s why it’s important to actively inquire about our wellbeing. That doesn’t mean parents need to know every detail of our lives. They should respect our privacy, but at the same time they need to know if we’re OK. 

Image Credit Youth Mediathon

2. Helps us build a healthy parent-child relationship

We want to be able to trust our parents and caregivers. Listen to us. Create a safe space so your children can rely on you. Try to understand the way we think. Be empathetic, so that we can open up and share our problems with you. Be aware of us. Try to understand what’s bothering us. If you feel that our mental health is suffering, ask about it in a caring way. Check whether we need help, and make sure we know that you’re serious. 

Image Credit Youth Mediathon

3. Try to understand us 

Parents should know that we have our own point of view and personality. Sometimes parents don’t take teenagers’ problems seriously. You should therefore try to be more empathetic. Listen to us without interrupting, and put yourselves in our shoes. Try to understand what we’re going through right now. We do not always expect advice and solutions. Sometimes we just want you to listen to us while we tell you about things that are worrying us. 

Promoting mental health together

An important step towards maintaining their own mental health is for young people to talk to their families and create a safe space where they can open up. Parents and caregivers should be aware that it is not always easy for children to talk about their own feelings. Respectful, open communication can help foster a positive parent-child relationship and thus promote mental health.

You can find the original Voices of Youth article here