Inspiration

Mental Health

Mandy Kloppers

What Will My Child Experience in a Peer Youth Support Group

The teenage years can be a challenging time for both the kid and the parents. In this stage, they go through a lot of changes – physically, mentally, and emotionally. That’s why they may be volatile and respond to their environment differently than when they were younger.

A kid who used to be jolly and outgoing may withdraw and keep to themselves. It can also be the other way around, where a shy child comes out of their shell. However, this final stage of their metamorphosis usually happens when they’re nearing adulthood.

As a parent, you should encourage your child and support them through this phase. Establish open communication with them and make sure that you earn their trust so that they won’t hesitate to turn to you when they undergo negative experiences, such as the betrayal of their friends or other heartaches.

What’s A Peer Youth Support Group

If you have a teen who’s showing signs of depression or anxiety, give them the help they need by encouraging them to join a peer youth support group. This type of gathering is a dedicated assembly for teenagers who feel isolated and out of place in their respective circles. It’s an excellent way for them to see that they don’t have to suffer alone.

The group is facilitated by specialists who are trained for youth support. These professionals have already gone through a similar group therapy session, which means that they’ve already addressed their issues and can help others fully. Check this website https://www.pvfcinc.com/peer-youth-supports/ for more details on this process.

At first, your child may be hesitant to join this type of group, and they may even get angry at you for suggesting it. However, never force them to do something against their will since it’ll only hamper their progress. Teach them to take responsibility for their actions by respecting their decisions. Use the right balance of logic and emotion to show them the benefits of going to this type of assembly.

One way to encourage them is to give them an outline of what they can expect from a youth support group. 

Here are some things that they can experience:

  1. Talk to Friendly Strangers

The primary objective of group therapy is to provide strangers with a special place to congregate and share their struggles. Often, it’s more effective than talking to relatives or friends because there’s lesser fear of judgment since these people don’t know each other. They don’t have a background, and they most certainly can’t gossip about one another because they don’t have the same circle of friends.

With this, your child may find it a haven where they can freely express their thoughts and feelings. Don’t take it the wrong way, though. It’s not that they don’t trust you that’s why they won’t talk to you. It’s more likely that they’re embarrassed about their struggles or don’t want you to be burdened by what they think isn’t a critical problem.

Aside from getting support from their peers, here are other benefits of joining a youth group therapy include:

  • Therapist Monitoring: The best thing about this program is that teens get to feed off of each other’s energy while being facilitated by a specialist. 

Therapists are trained to ensure that communication is respectful and that no member is overlapped by another. They’re also adept at diffusing tense situations and bring the discourse back on track.

  • Safe Environment: As mentioned above, your child can consider this as a haven where they can freely express their thoughts and feelings without fear of judgment from other members. The assurance of confidentiality within the circle plays a significant role in making it a safe environment for everyone in the group.
  • Role Modelling: Even if it’s an all-teen group, there will be some participants who’ll find that they’re more adept at handling or providing solutions to certain types of problems. Your child may find a role model or become one to someone else among their peers.
  • Affordability: One benefit for parents is that a youth support group is affordable because the professional fee of the therapist and other facility costs are divided among the participants. With this, you can ensure that you can continue financially supporting your child and sending them to every recommended session.
peer support
Cropped image of young people’s hands on top of each other. Top view of young group with hands on stack.
  1. Understand Universal Experiences

Youth support groups can be fun. Facilitators typically prepare icebreakers at the start of the meeting to boost everyone’s energy and increase the feeling of camaraderie. Then, they’ll follow the program and take turns sharing their thoughts.

In this type of assembly, your teen can see that a lot of their peers have the same feelings and struggles. Anxious teenagers, for instance, easily stumble into the trap of thinking that other teens have their lives all figured out and that they’re falling behind.

However, as they listen to the plights of their peers, they can begin to see that everyone goes through the same troubles. This situation can help them feel less alone and isolated because they get to hear others’ similar experiences first-hand.

These are the common problems that most teenagers go through:

  • Low Self-Esteem: This lack of confidence makes teenagers feel bad about themselves, whether due to their physical appearance or their inability to perform well academically.

People with low self-esteem tend to think that they’re unlovable or incompetent, which is why they easily get affected and wounded by the words of others.

  • Stress: Some parents also fall into the trap of thinking that teens have an easy life without taking the time to understand the things that are stressing their kids out. The pressure to do well in school and significant life changes, such as relocating to another area, can add to the stress that your teen feels daily.
  • Bullying: Bullying is commonplace in school because, remember, these teenagers are all going through puberty, but not everyone understands the changes going on in their bodies. Some cope with the situation by making fun of others’ appearances and taking advantage of their peers’ lack of self-confidence.
  • Depression: Often, most bullies and their targets have mild bouts of melancholy. While getting diagnosed with depression can take months, ignoring these episodes can lead to the development of a debilitating disorder.
  • Peer Pressure: Peer pressure is another common problem among teenagers, no matter what clique they join. It would be good if they have friends who steer them in the right direction with consideration for their future. 

Unfortunately, teens often end up with troublesome friends who push them into trying out cigarettes, drugs, and sex. 

  1. Learn Positive Coping Mechanisms

As mentioned above, if they remain unguided, teenagers can develop unhealthy coping mechanisms to keep up with the changes that they’re going through. Moreover, if they stay with the same group of people, they can model their peers’ behavior, which may lead them to deeper trouble.

It can be so easy to succumb to the temptation of getting quick fixes through cigarettes or drugs, especially when everyone else in the group does the same thing. Thankfully, the facilitator in a peer support group can equip and train your child to develop coping mechanisms that are beneficial to them. 

The best coping strategies that your teen can use to manage stress are:

  • Exercising: Exercising helps your kid physically and mentally. It helps them develop grace and tone their physique, while releasing endorphins and dopamine that give them a natural high. 

Of course, there’s still a possibility of going overboard with working out, so remind them to keep it in moderation.

  • Breathing Techniques: This coping strategy is best for teens who have anxiety. The facilitator will teach your child how to regulate their breathing whenever they feel that they’re hyperventilating. 

There are different types of breathing exercises that your child can learn. They just have to find the one that works best for them.

  • Meditation: Meditation is to intensely focus on a particular thought or object to achieve a calm and stable mental as well as emotional state. 

This practice can be paired with breathing exercises to fully alleviate the symptoms of anxiety.

  • Mentorship: Your teen may also benefit from being paired with someone older who can give them advice on various life issues. Instead of going to their peers who may not give them the best guidance, it’s better if they have an adult whom they can turn to, apart from their parents, when they have questions.
  1. Get a Chance to Facilitate

Another experience that your teen can learn a lot from is facilitating. Some programs give participants a chance to take charge of one session and take over the facilitator’s role. They’ll gain important skills, such as active listening, clarifying, summarizing, interpreting, and questioning.

More than gaining these skills, they’ll also be empowered when they succeed in this responsibility. With this, they can gain confidence in their work and capabilities.

  1. Gain New Friends 

Participants shouldn’t fraternize with each other for the entire therapy schedule, even in the outside world. However, they can gain new friends after they’ve completed the sessions and keep in touch. 

With this, the participants can continue to encourage one another by using the right skills and coping mechanisms that they learned in therapy.

When Does My Teen Need a Peer Youth Support Group

As a parent, you should be mindful of red flags in your teen’s behavior. While differences in their mental and emotional states are normal as they grow older, you must discern whether the changes are a result of their silent struggles.

Here are some mental health red flags that parents should watch out for:

  • Excessive Sleeping: If your teen is always sleeping, more than the typical teenage fatigue, you should be alert for signs of depression or substance abuse. They may even be abusing over-the-counter (OTC) drugs. 

Avoid nagging them and encourage honest and open communication with them.

  • Withdrawing From Society: It’s normal for once lively kids to become shy when they enter their teenage years. However, if your kid becomes too withdrawn to the point that they can no longer function properly in society, then you should find the root of the problem. 

Try engaging them in their favorite hobbies and have them come out of their shell little by little. 

  • Dramatic Decline in School: You can also tell that something is wrong when a once straight-A student regresses and does a poor performance academically. If there isn’t any problem in your home, then they may be having trouble with their peers in school. 
  • Appetite Changes: Sudden weight loss or gain can be indicative of mental health problems, particularly with eating disorders. These issues typically stem from other issues, so it’ll require a bit more digging to get to the root of the problem.
  • Drastic Personality Shifts: Aggressiveness and violence in a normally timid child can be a sign of psychological or emotional problems. Always remember to look at the bigger picture when your teen is exhibiting excessive anger because it may be a cry for help. 

Of course, you shouldn’t just leave them be when they harm themselves or others, but avoid reprimanding them for something that even they don’t understand.

Conclusion

A peer youth group provides valuable support to teenagers who are suffering from depression, anxiety, or other issues. Make sure that you convince your child to join these therapy sessions wholeheartedly to ensure that the therapy would be effective.

Your child will be a part of a group of strangers who learn from each other. They may even be more comfortable with sharing their struggles in these sessions because there isn’t a fear of judgment or gossiping since the participants don’t move in the same circles. Moreover, there’s a confidentiality agreement to make sure that everything discussed in the group won’t be disclosed to other people.

They’ll also witness how universal their experiences are and how other people their age are having the same problems, which won’t make them feel so isolated or alone. They’ll be equipped with healthy coping mechanisms as well so that they can positively manage their melancholy or anxiety even after the group therapy has finished.

Moreover, your teen can get the chance to take charge and facilitate a session, which can do wonders for their confidence. Lastly, while they aren’t allowed to fraternize with other participants during the course of the therapy, they can emerge as friends afterward and continue to encourage each other.

 

 

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