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According to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in the first half of 2021, more than 44% of teens reported persistent feelings of sadness and hopelessness. The early 2022 report, which was based on an online survey, also found that nearly 20% had seriously considered suicide, and 9% attempted suicide. A report from the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine identified a variety of science-backed strategies for parents to use to ensure their teens remain mentally and emotionally healthy. Parents can serve as role models for teens’ coping and emotional development, which play a key role in the prevention and treatment of teenage mental health problems. 

What Is Reflective Parenting?

Parenting style can affect everything from a teen’s self-esteem and physical health to how they relate to others. Reflective Parenting, as explained by the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families, “is a model of parenting which focuses on the application of theoretical ideas from mentalization, attachment theory and reflective functioning in promoting positive outcomes for children’s emotional and behavioral wellbeing, where there are difficulties in the parent-child relationship.” The theory of Reflective Parenting was originally developed, by Peter Fonagy and his colleagues at the Tavistock Clinic in London, for children struggling with behavioral difficulties and/ or emotion dysregulation. Emotion dysregulation is a term used within the mental health field to denote irrational, poorly modulated emotional responses, which is highly common among teenagers. The theory suggests that a parent with reflective capacity and high reflective functioning can see their child as a separate, autonomous individual. Reflective capacity has three core elements, as indicated by Psychology Today:

  • Parents and children have separate minds with their own unique perspectives.
  • Behavior has meaning and is dictated by what is going on inside our minds.
  • Misunderstandings and conflict are normal and common.

Research indicates that children whose parents are reflective, “meaning that they recognize there is more going on inside a person than simply what is seen, are happier, more successful, and more resilient.” Reflective Parenting teaches parents to understand and respond to a child’s motivations instead of his or her actions. This is one example of a parenting technique that nurtures healthy mental, emotional, and behavioral development, laying the foundation for a productive adulthood. 

For Information and Support 

Every family in need of mental health treatment must select a program that will best suit the needs of their family. When one member of a family struggles, it impacts everyone in the family unit. To maximize the benefits of treatment we work closely with the entire family to ensure that everyone is receiving the support they need through these difficult times. Seeking help is never easy, but you are not alone! If you or someone you know needs mental health treatment, we strongly encourage you to reach out for help as quickly as possible. It is not uncommon for many mental health difficulties to impact a person’s life, long term. Pursuing support at the beginning of one’s journey can put the individual in the best position to learn how to manage themselves in a healthy way so they can go on to live happy and fulfilling lives.


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