Dr. Gayani DeSilva MD
Family and Relationships
Gayani DeSilva is a Child Adolescent Psychiatrist with 20 years experience. She is the author of A Psychiatrists Guide: Helping Parents Reach Their Depressed Tween, and A Psychiatrists Guide: Stop Teen Addiction Before It Starts.
I am a Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist caring for the severely mentally ill in San Bernadino County, California. I primarily supervise Psychiatry trainees and medical students as they learn how to care for children and adults who need mental health treatment. I have worked in numerous settings from school based clinics, to juvenile prisons, to community clinics, inpatient units and private practice.
There are many challenges facing parents today. Their teens are growing up in the social media age, faced with peer pressure that parents have not experienced. Teens have online and in-person relationships and friendships. Marijuana is legalized in many states and impacts teens’ perspectives about substance use. Then there are the usual teen developmental milestone’s of separating and individuating. How do parents help their teens manage these challenges? Some of it requires parents to learn with their teens. If they can approach each challenge with confidence that together they will figure it out, it will leave the teen feeling like they have more “buy in” because they are in alliance with their parents. I advocate for lots of honest, vulnerable, collaborative communication. Work through challenges together.
First, parents need to prioritize self-care for themselves. This gives teens a tangible example of how important self-care is. I believe that self-care is the foundation, the safety net, that allows for one to take risks and grow.
Second, parents can take an encouraging stance to self-care. Not making commands or giving directions, but instead to approach the discussion as a sharing of their experiences practicing self-care. For instance, I talk to my son and will say. “I am so glad I went to yoga today. It was kinda hard today and I nearly didn’t make it the whole 90mins, but I stuck it out and now I feel strong and happy. Let’s get going in our day. “
Third, ask teens what they need. Take the stance of being interested in their experiences, ideas and needs.
1. Offer to share self-care experiences. Invite your teen to yoga, a walk, stand-up paddle boarding, the spa, taking breaks, breathing fresh air, going to bed on time, eating healthy snacks, etc..
2. Take care of your own mental health. Don’t keep the fact that you see a therapist a secret.
3. Start a practice of doing something each day that is self-care oriented and sharing time to communicate. For instance, make a nutritious meal together, read the same book at the same time, sit in nature together, take short walks after meals together
4. Ask your teen how they feel. A simple, “how are you feeling today” can start a meaningful conversation and bring attention to their well-being.
5. Be curious if their moods or behavior changes. Ask them about what’s going on. Ask them if they’d like to see a therapist or doctor.
6. Be non-reactive, but interested.
7. Maintain routines such as a regular bedtime and eating nutritious meals.
8. Walking the talk is most effective with teens. Don’t tell them to focus on self-care if you don’t. You have to do it too, and teens will naturally follow. Start early, before they are teens.
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