Parenting a teenager has never been an easy job. Almost overnight, parents see the child they've raised since he was a baby turn into a mouthy, angry, sullen, almost adult. Communications during this time can be extremely difficult and explosive, if they're possible at all.
Adding to this explosive emotional stew is the fact that teenagers think that they both know everything and are indestructible. Not surprisingly, this can lead to trouble at home, school and, worst of all, with the law. ?But, as most adults can recall, most teenagers are going to get in some kind of trouble, that's just part of growing up. So how can a parent tell the difference between troubled teens and normal adolescent struggles? And when should a parent reach out for help outside of the family?
Here are a few of the warning signs that indicate your teenager may be in trouble that is beyond normal teenage shenanigans and how to address them.
Has your child stopped hanging out with old friends and started hanging out with an entirely new set of friends? On its own, this may be a normal part of growing up. Make sure you meet your child's friends and, subtly, let them know that you are involved in your child's life. If your child won't let you meet their new group of friends, this could be a sign that they are trying to keep something from you. ?
Another major indication of trouble is a drop in grades and interest in school. This doesn't mean that you should begin drug testing if your child gets a "C" in calculus. But it's not normal if your enthusiastic and cooperative student suddenly stops turning in homework. Be sure to keep in contact with your teenager's teachers both at conference time and during the year.
Mood swings are another normal part of adolescence, but extreme mood swings are not. Extreme mood swings could be a sign of major depression. Signs of depression could include changes in eating or sleeping habits. Teenagers who suddenly drop out of social circles and extracurricular activities may also be experiencing problems.
Treating depression could be as simple as a few sessions with a therapist, or prescription anti-depression medication. In some severe cases, doctors may advise parents to look at therapeutic boarding schools.
The teenage years are frustrating for everyone involved. But parents who stay on top of their child's behavior and take action when they see signs of trouble will be thankful that they did.