Advice for Parents Whose Child Is Seeking Mental Health Treatment

Psychiatry Advisor: How do you address social media issues with parents?

Dr Hartselle: I tell parents that if they are going to allow their child to have a social media app, they have to have access to it. In the case of an older teen who is mentally stable and compliant with parental rules, parents can start to remove the scaffolding. But if a 17-year-old is unstable, has had a suicide attempt, or is taking drugs, parents must be more careful. I say, “Your job as a parent is to be a parent and not an equal friend, and to keep your child safe.”

I encourage parents to keep up with any fake apps that their child might be using to get around parental supervision. Parents can also exert control by taking away smart phones. Children do not need access to iPhones and laptops in their rooms at all times. These can be kept in the living room and the phones can be turned over to their parents at night before they go to sleep.

Psychiatry Advisor: What about parents who do not have the resources to engage in this type of close monitoring, like parents who are at work for long hours?

Dr Hartselle: They can tell their children that they will be subject to periodic check-ins to make sure they are complying with household rules, that there will be rewards for following the rules and consequences for ignoring them. Utilizing community resources and involving people outside the household such as friends, neighbors, churches, and community centers is also helpful. And pediatricians usually have a great wealth of knowledge and can suggest resources that parents do not always think of.

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