The teenage years are tough on both teenagers and their parents. As your child navigates this tricky terrain between childhood and adulthood, they will start to try to define and assert their identity, which is stressful for both parties involved. While some strife and disobedience are to be expected during the teenage years, there comes a point where certain behaviors could point to another issue entirely.
What is Normal?
Normal teenage behavior generally consists of your teen developing their individual identity and testing the boundaries as they get closer to adulthood. Things like changing social groups, dying or cutting their hair, and changing their fashion choices are all part of your teen trying out new identities. Because they are trying to establish themselves, mild rebellion and moodiness can be quite common. However, at the same time they should also be improving their sense of self-discipline as they get older and should have an easier time with managing homework and household chores.
When Do I Need to Worry?
Certain behaviors may indicate that your child needs professional help to overcome something that they are dealing with. Nowadays, teenagers are faced with a lot of different things that they may not yet know how to deal with. Some possible reasons your teen may need help include: behavior problems, emotional problems, mental health issues, substance abuse problems, stress, relationship difficulties, and traumatic experiences.
Depending on the nature of the relationship with your child, they may or may not tell you that they are having problems. Even teenagers who have good relationships with their parents may struggle with asking for help. Part of this is because they may not understand why they feel the way they do, they may not know how to ask for help, or they may avoid asking for help because they feel ashamed.
Since so many teenagers won’t just come out and ask for help directly, it is up to you as the parent to notice signs that could indicate your teenager needs help. Some general warning signs to watch out for are: crying spells, disinterest in things they usually enjoy, physically fighting with others, interest in weapons, threatening to hurt people, and extensive secretiveness.
Some other warning signs that can warrant immediate attention include: signs of depression, running away, doing illegal activities, drug or alcohol use, failing school suddenly, acting out sexually, self-harm or cutting, eating problems like overeating or purging, inappropriate anger, becoming increasingly defiant, or significant changes in their normal mood or behavior. The American Psychological Association also urges parents to watch out for signs of youth violence.
What Do I Do?
If you think your teenager needs help, it is important to talk with them in a way that is supportive, understanding, and non-threatening. Many teens are afraid to ask for help because they feel ashamed, so you will want to take special care to not make your teenager feel ashamed because they need help. You will also want to make sure that you listen to their concerns and avoid forcing them into therapy. If they feel forced into therapy, they will not make progress as easily, if at all.
Finally, if you think your teenager needs help, don’t wait to get them the help they need. As their parent, you know them better than anyone else and if you think something is going on, you are probably right. If you are unsure about how to approach your child, give Family Psychiatrists & Therapy a call, and we can help walk you through the process.