December 3, 2023

By Chijioke Iremeka

Mental health experts have advised parents to teach their adolescents how to cope with challenges to avoid coming down with mental health issues when they are faced with difficult situations.

The experts said they needed to develop positive skills and coping mechanisms while dealing with their challenges to ensure that their mental health is not compromised.

Adolescence is the phase of life between childhood and adulthood, from ages 10 to 19, a stage of human development and time to lay the foundations of good health.

Citing the current economic hardship and stress in the country as stressors, the physicians urged parents to model good coping skills for their adolescents, advising them to seek professional help when necessary.

A clinical psychologist at the Federal Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital, Benin Cty, Edo State, Dr. Joy Ariyo, said coping mechanisms are the strategies people often use in the face of stress and or trauma to help manage painful or difficult emotions.

Speaking during a webinar on ‘Psychological Well-being of Adolescent and Youth: A Priority,’ on Saturday, the physician said coping mechanisms can also help people adjust to stressful events while helping them maintain emotional well-being.

The psychologist said, “The parents should know their limits and seek help when necessary. They can’t do everything alone. Some professionals are trained to handle certain conditions so that the desired outcome can be achieved.

“In trying to teach their children coping mechanisms,  parents will also be able to show them good examples when dealing with their situations so that the adolescents would not show any maladaptive behaviour.

“A parent that wants to do this will not fight when he or she is facing challenges because the children will pick it as the right way to behave during stress. Also, for a parent who quarrels when there is stress, the children who are watching them will develop such a lifestyle as the appropriate way to respond to stress.

“Having said that, we need to always answer our children’s questions, regardless of the situation. If not, someone else will give them the answer that we may not like or the ones we may not want them to know. We should be able to ask them questions when there is any change in the usual pattern in their lives, if not we will live to ask ourselves the question, ‘What have we done wrong?”

Ariyo also encouraged parents to create structures in their homes that the children will follow, saying that adolescents will always want to do things their way because they do not have a sense of consequence, but when there is a structure, they will ask questions when someone else tells them otherwise.”

She noted, “Teach your children how to self-regulate so that they will be responsible for their actions.”

Also speaking, a Consultant Psychiatrist, Child and Adolescent Unit, Federal Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital, Yaba, Lagos, Dr. Mashudat Bello-Mojeed, said that adolescents face several stresses in life and that society needs to learn how to identify their trauma and reach out to them.

Bello-Mojeed said that the pandemic has taught the world how to live peaceably and share with people in love, saying that parents should be able to learn and relearn to reduce the stress that the adolescents are going through and their vulnerability.

Speaking about the things that would reduce the stressors, she said, “We need to pay attention to what they eat and drink. We need to ensure that they sleep well and eat well because these help their brain function well. They need to share good things and give out to help others. This helps their psychological development.

“A good lifestyle will help to improve their mood. Exercise and walking can be useful in reducing their stress. Encourage them to read, spend time with people, and seek professional help at all times. They need the right environment to cope. All these will improve their psychological well-being.”

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