May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and I cannot imagine a more critical time to talk about the mental health and wellness of our teens and community.
Our teens are keenly aware of all that is happening around them. Their emotions and feelings range from boredom to anger to fear and anxiety to grief and loss, and many more. It is important to note that feeling and showing these emotions is, for the most part, healthy. As psychologist Lisa Damour notes in her most recent article for The New York Times, mental health includes the ability to feel emotions which match one’s situation and being able to handle the unpleasant emotions.
As parents, it is critical that we support our teens in this process. This is how they learn, build resilience, and ultimately grow. As difficult as it may be to watch and support teens through these emotions, it is essential for their long-term development that they are given the space and permission to feel and process in their own time and way. Parents can help teens build positive coping skills by encouraging them to continue to develop and maintain healthy habits: sleep, exercise, healthy eating, and consistent routines.
Most importantly, while our teens remain physically distanced from their peers, they can still build connection. It has been uplifting to watch the BBYO community grow and find ways to continue to come together during these challenging times. The key role that communities like ours plays in teen development and identity formation remains critical in the virtual world. Accessing and building connection in isolation allows our teens to continue to participate in Jewish traditions, fosters a sense of belonging, provides a safe and supportive environment, and helps them to continue to form their own sense of identity.
This is a month dedicated to raising awareness of mental health issues, breaking the stigma of mental illness, challenging assumptions, and building safe environments. I hope you will join us in this important conversation as we all work together to ensure that our teens are healthy, safe, and thriving.
Director of BBYO’s Center for Adolescent Wellness