For anyone, having access to a community of supportive people and environments are crucial aspects of healthy living. This is especially true when it comes to teenagers. This is because adolescence is a crucial time in development in terms daily habits, balanced mental health, decision-making and social skills. Having an available support system can make a monumental difference in the outcome of youth adolescence.
What is a support system?
By definition, a “support system” refers to a network of people who provide a person with both practical and emotional support. This means having an environment that consists of supports (people and systems) that not only help with physical needs, but needs as they relate to the emotional and social aspects of an individual.
Healthy communities around teen mental health
A key element to promoting mental health in teens is the development of healthy communities. As children develop into teens, and emerge as young adults, they often look to the adults in their lives to model healthy behaviors, and to provide opportunities for growth, skill-building, and emotional support. Essentially, teens look to adults to promote their positive development. These adults may be from a variety of community entities including family, school, religious organizations, etc., which can all be central to the positive development of teenagers. Factors within healthy communities that promote positive development in teens typically include:
- Skill building
- Standards of behavior
What is a safe and supportive environment?
Healthy communities promote youth mental health and well-being. And while the above-mentioned factors are central to the creation of these healthy communities, they do not necessarily address the issue facing teens today (alcohol and/or drugs use, violence, bullying, teen pregnancy, etc.)
Essentially, healthy communities also require sustaining environments that promote addressing the day-to-day struggles of teens. And in order to do so, teenagers must have a sense of:
- Physical safety – this means providing your teen access to environments and settings which are free from physical threats or harm
- Emotional safety – as with physical safety, emotional safety means your teens feels safe from bullying, humiliation, and harassment, as well as being able to openly express emotions and feelings.
- Trust – essential to the creation of a support system and safe environment is the presence of individuals your teen can trust.
- Care and nurturing – for teens to flourish, it is vital for them to feel cared for and nurtured. And while what is considered “caring” or “nurturing” may vary from teen to teen, in general, a caring and nurturing environment involves promoting healthy expression of feelings, modeling positive interpersonal interactions, and encouraging goal attainment.
- Respect – a crucial part of feeling safe and supported for teens (and in general) is the ability to be your authentic self without the fear of judgment or shame. Because adolescence is a time of exploration and “finding yourself,” teens often feel insecure and unsure of themselves. Having an environment in which they are respected regardless of how they dress, who they are sexually attracted to, etc. is hugely important.
Adolescence is a complicated time for most. Youth face many stressors, changes, and challenges throughout the teen years. Thus, promoting youth mental health, safety, and wellbeing through creating safe and supportive environments is vital.[ratings]