Teens sitting together.

Twelve Talks to
Have With Teens

Hopefulness & Coping

The teen years are a time of rapid social, emotional and physical development. You can support the teen you love by talking to them about their strategies for dealing with the ups and downs, as well as talking to them about their hopes for next week, next year and even years from now.

Right now, our teens are dealing with the added stress of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

 

  • Teens often feel a great deal of pressure. They may have to navigate academic and social pressures, bullying and harassment, sexual assault, depression and anxiety, family instability, substance abuse, identifying as LGBTQIA+, relationship issues or so many other issues causing them stress. 

  • Even just asking  your teen about how they feel can help guide them toward finding their own hopefulness and coping strategies. When adults validate and normalize a variety of emotions like anger, happiness, sadness, hope and frustration, teens learn that it’s normal to have many different emotions (and some all at the same time) and they don’t need to be hidden or dealt with alone.

 

  • Teens (and adults) need to practice healthy self-care and coping. Identifying and prioritizing healthy activities like getting enough sleep, eating healthy foods, exercising, listening to music, laughing with friends and doing things that your teen really enjoys can make a huge difference on how they feel emotionally. 

  • By offering consistent modeling and support to our youth, adults can help increase youth hopefulness and the use of healthy coping strategies

 

  • Experts find that when adults support teens in managing their emotions and using coping skills, instead of trying to fix the teen’s problem for them, they learn resiliency. Let them know you are proud of them when they deal with challenges.

  • In 2017, 11 out of 30 students in Jefferson County Communities That Care focus area experienced depressive symptoms and 2 of every 30 students reported that they had attempted suicide in the past year. Communicate to your teen that seeking mental health care for depression or suicidality is a sign of strength. 

When you think about your future, what makes you hopeful?

Jefferson County High School Age Youth

Healthy Kids Colorado Survey, 2019

Conversation starters

  • Look for an opener when someone you know, or a person on TV or the radio, mentions either positive or negative coping. Ask your teen: 

    • How are they using that as a coping strategy?

    • I wonder if that's working for them or not? If possible, follow up by asking them about their coping strategies and how well they work.

  • Ask questions that show you are thinking about them, such as:

    • You seem kind of stressed. What do you need?” Then, follow up with an appealing offer based on what they need such as: "Should we sit here and talk?" “Can I get you some food?” “Need a hug?” “Want to go for a drive/walk/ride?”

  • A video can be a great conversation starter. This video, Resilience, provides an interesting perspective from author Alyson Reid-Laradem, who talks about different types of coping and how stress levels change in the teenage years.

Ask yourself

  • Are you role modeling healthy coping? You have had ups and downs in your life — it's normal and okay to talk about these issues with teens.​

  • Are you a role model for healthy coping? If you are not "filling your own bucket" you should! You will not only be better able to help your teen, you will also be a great role model for you teen. If you are engaging in healthy coping, then point out your own positive coping strategies in lighthearted ways like: 

    • "Yeah, you may or may not have noticed that if I don't exercise, I become rather unfriendly... and so, I'm going out for a run."

    • "Sometimes baking cookies is almost like a ladder to climb out of my own bad mood."

    • "For me, talking to my best friend/doctor/therapist/religious leader helps me figure out stuff. I just kind of have trouble figuring out on my own."

  • Does your teen know the link between basic self-care and feeling great? Basic self-care includes: eating healthy food, staying hydrated, getting enough sleep, exercising, grooming and doing fun, meaningful activities.

 

  • Are you saying-- out loud-- that asking for help is a sign of strength? Remind your teen that getting help, including help with mental health issues, shows strength and courage.

  • Are you saying-- out loud-- that you are proud of your teen? Tell your teen directly and multiple times (and even if they roll their eyes) that you are proud of what they have overcome using their determination, resilience, and other strengths.

Help & Resources

  • If you think your teen is having suicidal thoughts, ask them directly if they are thinking about suicide, and if they indicate that they are, please get help immediately. The Colorado Crisis Services Line provides confidential support, info and referrals to anyone in need. Text "TALK" to 38255 or call 1-844-493-8255

  • If you are looking for mental health care in Jefferson County, a good place to start is by calling Jefferson Center at 303-425-0300.

  • Learn to #BeThe1To offer support if someone you know struggles with hopelessness or thoughts of suicide. 

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Other Recommended Resources

 

  • At Health Huddle Physical Health, the Gold Crown Foundation and Children's Hospital Colorado provide resources and articles on healthy habits for teens, updated weekly.

     

Taking Action in your Community

Reduction of risk factors, and improvements in protective factors, can happen on multiple levels-- within an individual, among friends and family, by adjusting systems in places like schools or businesses, and on the policy level for towns, counties or states.  When improvements happen on all levels, our teens are most likely to thrive. Here are some policy and systems you and/or your teens might be able to influence:

  • Many Jeffco Public Schools implement Sources of Strength, an evidence-based suicide prevention program led primarily by students, along with other social-emotional learning and mental health promotion efforts. 

    • Ask your school or teachers what trainings they receive and how they are implementing these types of programs and efforts to support all students in the school.

    • Advocate for funding and resources to be allocated for these important needs in schools. 

    • Ask your school how they are implementing health education (which includes social-emotional learning) for all students. Ask if the school knows about the district’s Health Education Policy and related resources. Ask/promote your teen to take a high school health education elective.

    • Ask your school what school health professionals are available to students and how students get access to these staff members. 

 

  • The social-emotional learning and health education students receive (including information about mental and behavioral health) varies by school. 

    •  Ask your school how they are implementing health education for all students. Ask if the school knows about the district’s Health Education Policy and related resources. Ask/promote your teen to take a high school health education elective.

 

  • Jeffco Communities that Care has efforts that promote positive youth development and address hopelessness and anxiety in youth.  

    • Join Jeffco CTC to address local efforts that support youth.

    • Youth with opportunities to get involved in their community through internships, town halls and fun activities are healthier and happier. Tell your teen about the @jeffco_ctc Instagram account that posts about positive coping and youth involvement opportunities (many are paid!).