Supporting your Daughters Mental Health

In Week 3, I had the opportunity to present ‘Understanding and Responding to Teen Mental Health” at the P&F Meeting. I felt it was important to share this information with our wider community.

As a school, we cannot highlight enough the importance of tuning into your daughter’s world. Slow down and take note of emotional, cognitive or behavioural changes that may be beyond that expected of teens. It is important that as parents you are open to feedback from teachers, who have the opportunity to see students through a different lens. We encourage you to work closely with us so that as a team we have a united, consistent and proactive approach in nurturing your child’s mental health. Forming an alliance with us will give your daughter a sense of belonging and understanding, and the collaborative support may strengthen her sense of self and her confidence and willpower to get back on track.

Start the Conversation with your Daughter

Parents, if you are concerned about your daughter, here is some advice:

  1. Let them know that you are concerned/worried about them and give them the opportunity to talk to you about it – “I’ve noticed that you seem to have a lot on your mind lately. I’m happy to talk or listen and see if I can help” or “You seem [anxious/sad], what is happening for you? We can work it out together.”
  2. Think about a good time and place to talk about sensitive subjects. For example, would they find it easier to talk while driving or going for a walk?
  3. Listen to them – stop what you are doing and take the time to listen to them and to understand their experiences.
  4. Some experiences may not seem significant for you, but they are for her.
  5. Avoid telling them to ‘just relax’ or ‘calm down’ – it’s not that easy. Instead, reassure your daughter that they are not alone and let them know they can talk to you about what’s going on.
  6. Practise patience – If the young person denies there is a problem, try to be patient. Some people need time or space before they feel ready to accept help. Be available without being intrusive.
  7. Spend regular time with them – even doing just one activity a week together can help to keep the lines of communication open.
  8. Show that you are interested in what’s happening in their life and try not to focus on things that you think are a problem.
  9. Encourage them to try some ways to overcome challenges i.e. keeping things in perspective or guiding them or problem solve.
  10. Advise and give guidance. DON’T try to fix their problem. We want to teach these girls to be strong, independent and resilient.
  11. Think about how you can talk about and manage your own feelings. Often young people are worried about their parents being upset, anxious, overwhelmed, shocked, angry, blaming, etc. If a young person can see that their parent might be able to respond calmly and listen they are more likely to begin a conversation. If you’re not sure how to respond you can contact support services to seek advice about how to do this.
  12. Let them know if they don’t want to talk to you, they could talk to other trusted adults, as long as they know there is help available.
  13. Support them in seeking information, looking for help and/or talking to a health professional – it may be useful for you as a parent to also learn more about what may be going on for your daughter.
  14. Encourage a regular routine (i.e. keeping in contact with peers, getting up in the morning, eating three meals a day, switching technology off, going to bed at a decent time etc).
  15. Encourage them to get involved in activities or projects and join in when you can (e.g. paint the walls in their bedroom)
  16. Involve them in decisions and give them responsibility at home (i.e. deciding what to eat for dinner and help prepare it.

Adolescence is a journey of self discovery. Teens are developing a sense of who they are and what they want from the world around them. It is important that we facilitate a nurturing and supportive environment, whilst allowing our teens the ability to be resilient and independent young women. Balancing the two can be tricky as our natural response is to protect. However, we need to guide (not fix) our teen girls to: problem solve; think independently; embrace their strengths; bounce back from setbacks and challenges (which are a normal part of life); have realistic perspective; and build self confidence. Without these skills, teens can become critical of themselves and it can jeopardise their sense of safety in the world around them. In the long term, it could increase their vulnerability in developing a mental health problem.

If you are concerned about your daughter, please contact the College Counsellor, Headspace or your GP. There are lots of services out there, it is just about taking action when you first notice any signs that your daughter may be struggling with her mental well-being.


Katerina Stratilas

College Counsellor