Posted by: counselorcarmella | July 11, 2011

troubled Teens

The adolescent years can feel like a roller coaster. It can be difficult to know what is “normal” teen behavior and what  may signal trouble.  Teens are striving to figure out who they are and  to make their own decisions and  have  some freedom. Arguments about rules and  testing limits are  common.  Moodiness is to be expected, too.  The following symptoms may  mean there is a more serious problem.  The more symptoms your teen is displaying and how often they display these symptoms can give you an idea of how serious the problem might be.  


Some troubled teens act out and display behaviors that seem  defiant and hostile.  They break rules,  are argumentative, and  get in trouble a lot. Some display anger outbursts that include breaking things, threats to self or others,  screaming, or that occur frequently over seemingly small  requests or limits. There may be repeated problems with lying about where they are,  who they are with, or sneaking out of the house.  They may be  engaging in risky sexual behaviors or  experimenting with substances.  They may be skipping school or  being disruptive in class.  Some teens engage in  shoplifting or  acts of vandalism. These are  called “externalizing behaviors” and are one way  teens deal with feelings.


Displays of  clingy behaviors, tearfulness,  stating fears or seeming afraid may be signs of a problem with anxiety or bullying. Major changes in appearance, musical tastes, friends, beliefs, or attitude may be things you’ll want to ask about or at least be aware of. Refusal to  leave room, do chores, or participate in family activities can be red flags that  alert adults that a teen is withdrawing from others.  Too much time on the Internet or playing video games can be  a sign of trouble.


Pay attention to relationships that seem  consuming and too intense or that involve friends who are  older or have histories of   behavioral  problems. Younger teens can be easily  influenced or cohersed out of a wish to fit in with  older peers. Intimate partner abuse and violence are happening to middle and high schoolers  on an increasingly frequent basis.   Be suspicious of friends or  romantic interests who don’t seem to want to  meet you or who seem to want to isolate your child from loved ones and  friends. Keep in mind that yesterday’s friend can be   trying to make your child’s life hell today.  Peer relationships are the most important thing to most adolescents.


Some teens express  sad or angry feelings through  art or writings that seem disturbing to parents. If you notice scratches, cuts, or burns on skin, or  wearing long sleeves or pants in warm weather, your child could be self injuring to manage feelings. As always, problems eating or sleeping could signal trouble. Statements about  wanting to die, hating life, wanting to disappear or run away, or  of feeling hopeless should be taken seriously.  The same goes for comments about being “worthless,” unloved, or  alone.  These actions are not always just “teenaged drama.” Ask what they meant and how they feel. Ask what’s going on that’s  making them feel this way.   Its okay to ask if they’re having thoughts about harming themselves or  how often they feel these things. Ask them if they’d like to talk with someone outside the family about their feelings.


Many teen problems start in middle school. If your teen has recently faced a difficult transition, such as parental  divorce, moving,  the loss of  a loved one,  or  other major changes, these  symptoms could be signs that  the stress is overwhelming. Navigating change can be very hard on many teens.


The more solid and open a relationship is between parents and teens, the more likely it is that your teen will  tell you if there seems to be a major problem. Rather than jumping to conclusions or instantly getting angry, be curious about what may be going on with your teen.  Be open to the idea that  these may be more than just “bad behavior.”


If you just aren’t sure what to make of your teen’s moods or behaviors, a trained counselor can help to figure out what is going on.  Counselors can be  another “safe adult” for a teen to talk with. A counselor can also help with  relationship problems, decision making skills, and improving communication between teens and parents.  We can also help with suggestions for  effective parenting strategies and to provide an understanding of  a child’s behaviors.  It never hurts to  get help  figuring out a troubling concern and sometimes, counseling is a great ounce of prevention.


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