The crisis of teen mental health is deepening as more and more young people struggle with depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses. But what role does parenting and family life play in this crisis?
Dr. Natanya Wachtel has dedicated her career to exploring behavioral sciences and decoding the myths and difficulties surrounding mental health. Capitalizing on her expertise, she offers valuable insight into how we can create safe and supportive environments in which our teens can thrive.
To make a substantial difference in teens’ mental health practices, she co-founded the AI empathy application evrmore.io to help teenagers handle the stress of the modern world. Her efforts also encompass breaking the myths and doubts around modern parenting as it carries a significant impact on teen mental health.
As a former therapist, Dr. Natanya has seen firsthand how people struggle with mental health issues without seeking help, a silent battle that leaves them feeling isolated and alone. The situation is worse for teenagers.
Adults often treat teens’ mental health issues as insubstantial and unreal. When shown evidence of the increasing epidemic of mental illnesses, they retort with insensitive statements such as ‘It’s all in your head’ or ‘Everyone claims to be mentally ill to get attention nowadays.’
Dr. Natanya counters this ignorant attitude with statistical information – in an episode of the podcast Normalize the Conversation, she shares that in 2021, approximately 44% of high school students displayed signs of depression when just a decade ago, it was nearly 26%. This is double the amount in such a short period. Given this disturbing situation, Dr. Natanya suggests imperative interventions to control the situation.
One way is to change the modern parenting style. Dr. Natanya notes that for Gen X, open conversation around feelings and emotions was impossible. A gulf exists between parents and their children, where honest two-way communication cannot occur.
Problems and Myths Around Modern Parenting
For Gen Z, there are other problems when it comes to the family structure. In today’s hyper-capitalistic age, with an emphasis on establishing a successful career, parents are more focused on giving their children the best education possible, protecting them excessively from the outside world while putting pressure on them to be perfect.
Dr. Natanya breaks the myth that this modern parenting style benefits a child’s mental health and growth. Continued exposure to such an attitude can damage a child’s resilience and adjustment to any unpleasant situation.
A child protected by such obsessive love and burdened with the pressure of perfection is often more scared of failure, easily overwhelmed, and vulnerable to anxiety and depression.
In their concern to protect the child, parents transfer their worries to them, rendering them incapable of dealing with the inevitable changes characteristic of human existence.
Reforming the Parenting Style
Dr. Natanya suggests some remedies for this parenting style. She encourages parents to let teenagers get a job. Participating in chores can make teens more responsible and help them in branching out. It can also enable them to deal with inevitable, unpredictable life changes as they experience the world outside of their parents’ overprotective cocoon. It will equip them to deal with failures and rejection without serious mental implications.
She also recommends replacing online socializing with real-life interactions. It can lead to more meaningful communication about any issues that teens are going through. Here, parents should play a pivotal role and create an open environment to express negative feelings and experiences. Start by simply asking about their day – the child will eventually recognize your concern and share more.
Dr. Nayanya further advises parents to share their failures with their children. It will shatter the idea of ‘the perfect parents’ and make them seem more human, opening avenues for an honest two-way conversation. Parents should also research the issues of modern teenagers to better understand the context of their child’s problems.
Although parenting style is still not as open as it should be, we are sure that with professionals like Dr. Natanya raising awareness, family units will undergo a major improvement. This development will create an emotionally healthy environment for both teenagers and parents.
To keep up with her plans, follow Dr. Natanya on her LinkedIn.