May is Mental Health Month: Helping our older children and teens

While it is important to talk early and often with our young children about emotional health, it is also important to continue those conversations as our children get older. Starting these conversations with our older children and teens may seem difficult. Here are some questions to start the conversation:

  • What has been stressing you out lately?
  • What is something exciting that you have been looking forward to?
  • What is the hardest thing about being you right now?
  • How are things going right now with your friends? Do you get to see/talk to them often?
  • Tell me about something you are worried about.
  • Make sure they know how much you love and care about them. Let them also know that you are aware this has been a tough year, and ask questions like “How can I help/encourage you going forward?”

When talking with our older children or teens there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Be Genuine. It is normal to feel uncomfortable with having these conversations. If you feel uncomfortable, own it. You may want to say something like “It is difficult for me to talk about these things, so I understand if it is difficult for you too.”
  • Allow for silence. It may be hard for youth to express what they want to say. Though silent moments may feel awkward, interrupting silent moments may prevent someone from having enough time to form their thoughts. Be patient.
  • Switch up the setting. Where you have a conversation could make all the difference. Some adults find these conversations easier to have while doing another activity such as driving in the car, washing dishes, or walking the dog. Sometimes talking during an activity that requires little eye contact can make the discussion more comfortable.
  • Do not make light of their feelings. Emotional challenges can occur at any age, and it is important to validate their feelings and situations regardless of age.

Youth express emotional challenges in different ways. Here are a few things you should keep an eye on:

  • Lack of interest in activities they once enjoyed and do not replace those interests with new hobbies.
  • Their grades start slipping, especially in classes they enjoy.
  • They avoid discussing future events or things they would normally look forward to doing. This could be a sign of depression and may signal suicidal ideation. Reach out to Hopeline at 1-800-577-7849 if you are worried that anyone you know may be considering suicide.  You can also text 4hope to 741 741 or go to to take a free and anonymous screening or find where you can access help here in Ashtabula County.
  • Withdrawal from friends, family, or social activities. Withdrawing from family to spend more time with friends is average teen behavior, but if they start withdrawing from all social situations it could be a warning sign of depression or anxiety.

It can be hard for anyone to reach out and ask for help when they need it, and in the vulnerable teen years, it can be even more difficult. It is critical that any adult who regularly interacts with young people has the skills to recognize these and other warning signs. If you are concerned about your child’s emotional health, it is important to get appropriate help. Visit the MHRS Board website at for information on local resources. You are not alone; we are here to help.