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Counselors Explain 14 Signs of a Troubled Teen to Never Ignore


Adolescence can be a tumultuous time for both children and parents. There are normal teen behaviors and problems that all children struggle with during this season, but some children show deeper problems. Here is a list of 15 common signs of a troubled teenager.

What is the typical behavior of adolescents?

Obviously, no two teens are the same, but there are common teen behaviors. As a parent, you may wonder if what your child is going through is typical for their age. Common teenage struggles include these things:

  • Mood swings: Teens’ mood swings can seem irrational and mean to parents. The ups and downs of this season are normal for a teenager.
  • Peers Become Very Important: Most teens want to hang out with friends more than their family. Studies They discover that during this period of life, adolescents have a greater sensitivity to social evaluations and the approval of others. It’s as if your brain is overloaded, busy assigning values ​​to social information more than at any other time in your life.
  • Strong desire for independence and freedom – Children of this age yearn for freedom. They want to do what they want instead of being told what to do all the time. Ironically, too much freedom at this age can scare a teenager.
School counselors explain how to tell if your child is facing peer pressure.

Parents’ reactions to troubled teens

As a parent, it is difficult to watch your child struggle with things. You may be tempted to overreact or underreact when your child is having a difficult time. These are the two reactions parents show when they realize that their child is showing signs of trouble.

Fearful, reactionary

Parenting a teenager can seem like an out-of-control experience, especially if your child is struggling. It is confusing and frustrating. You may not know what to do. It’s easy to give in to fear and stress from everything your child does. You can overreact even to normal behavior by assuming the worst case scenario.

Ignoring the obvious signs

When your teenager is in trouble, you refuse to believe that it is a big problem for other parents. They ignore the warning signs, hoping their teenager will outgrow them. They write everything down until normal adolescent behavior when there are strident signs in front of them that their teen needs help.

As a parent, you hope that your child will never have problems, but it is important that if they do happen, they do not overreact or underreact to them.

Signs of a Troubled Teen

You feel like you know your child. After all, you have raised them since they were babies. But if your teen is struggling, you may feel like you have a stranger living in your home. It can be difficult to understand what they are going through, but it is important to watch out for these signs as a parent. Here are some common signs of a troubled teenager that you should never ignore.

1 – Suddenly reserved and deceptive

If your child is normally open and talkative but suddenly starts lying and hiding things from you, you should be concerned. Teens may have a hard time sharing their feelings with their parents, but secretive and deceptive behavior is not healthy. They could be involved with drugs or other behavior that makes them react this way.

2 – Sleeping all the time

Teens need more sleep. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention He says that teens ages 13 to 18 should get 8 to 10 hours of sleep every 24 hours. But if your teen sleeps all the time, he could be battling depression.

3 – Sudden disapprovals

A teenager who is a good student but suddenly begins to show disinterest in school or failing grades may struggle. It is important to get to the root of the problem. NIH indicates that this behavior may indicate a troubled teenager or depression.

4 – Sudden change in appetite or eating patterns

Skipping meals, avoiding food, bingeingor emotional eating are signs of trouble. Parents sometimes overlook these signs assuming that all children go through this, but if these eating patterns last for several months it should be cause for concern. Your child could be smoking marijuana, fasting, overeating, or battling anorexia, causing him to avoid food.

5 – Excessive insulation

Teens often like to hang out alone in their bedroom, but if your teen refuses to join the family for meals, going out, or chatting, it could be a sign that there is more to them.

A 2020 Article in BMC Psychiatry points out that once someone withdraws, they fall into a cycle of reduced mental health that is hard to break. This is an easy sign to miss, as it’s easy to lose track of how much time you spend alone. They could be struggling with depression, shame, or fear. Don’t ignore this sign.

Other common signs of a troubled teen include the following behaviors:

  • Stealing
  • Promiscuity
  • Ignoring personal hygiene
  • Truancy
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Withdrawal from things they normally love, such as sports, music, or extracurricular activities.
  • Body image problem
  • Self harm like cut, wanting to hurt and self-loathing
  • Bullying

If your teen shows any of these signs, it may be time to seek help. These can be signs of a drug or alcohol problem, mental illness, abuse problems, or an eating disorder.

Get help from a therapist

If your teen is struggling, it may be wise to find a good therapist to help him. Many therapists work only with adolescents. Here are some things to think about when looking for a therapist for your teenager.

  • Find a therapist who has experience working with teens. Find out how long they have been working with teens. Get referrals, if possible, from someone who knows this therapist and his work with teens.
  • If you are looking online in your area, read the reviews on their website. Learn all you can about this therapist and his practice. If it is not specific enough for you, call your practice and ask questions.
  • Check to see if they are a licensed therapist in your state. Even religious therapists should be licensed. That is not to say that you should not use resources other than the therapist for support, such as your pastor, youth minister, or school counselor.
  • Do your research to see if your insurance company will pay for the therapist sessions. This is important as therapy can cost thousands of dollars out of pocket when insurance does not cover the costs.
  • Understand what type of therapy they use. Get familiar with the different types of therapy and understand why they are using this therapy in this situation.
  • What qualities do you want in a therapist? Will your teenager respond better to someone who is more direct to the point? Will your teen be more comfortable with a woman or a man? Finally, will they do better with an older person or a younger person?

How to support your struggling teenager?

When you have a troubled teenager, life can seem heavy. You may feel like you don’t know what to do to help them. Here are some simple ways to support your teenager during this difficult season.

Encourage them to share their feelings with you.

Even if they are avoiding you and don’t want to talk, make an effort to talk to them. Check in with them daily. Ask about their day. What was the most difficult of the day? Invite them to lunch or to join you while you cook dinner. They may not want to be around you, but getting closer makes a difference. Do not give up. Keep trying. Remind them that you are always there for them and that you want to help them. You may feel your words falling on deaf ears, but they are listening.

Be understanding

Try to remember what it was like to be a teenager: peer pressure, peer pressure, and all the questions about life. When your teen shares, don’t get philosophical, but listen. You can say something like “That sounds difficult.” or “I understand, it must be difficult for you.”

See when they’re doing it right

It’s easy to focus on all the problems your teen is going through, but when he’s doing something good, tell him. Say something like “Thanks for playing with your little brother. I know it means a lot to him. “

Resolve conflicts when possible.

Listen to your teen’s opinions on things. If you have a conflict, try to resolve your differences or at least agree to disagree. Your teenager may be very attracted to something today, but in a week, a month, or a year, he may feel totally different. Remember, you are on a trip with your teenager and things don’t work out overnight. Be true to your convictions, without belittling what they believe. Try to avoid getting angry at your teenager. It will not help your relationship with them. Don’t get into power struggles with your teen. Of course, there are a few things worth fighting for, but for the most part, choose your battles with them.

Don’t forget to take care of yourself.

It is stressful for parents when their teenager shows signs of trouble. Your life can turn into sleepless nights, endless conflicts with your teen, and heartbreaking decisions about how to help him. Confusion can affect you and cause anxiety. Here are some ways you can take care of yourself.

Final Thoughts on Identifying and Helping Your Troubled Teen

The teenage years can be difficult for children and their parents. Most children go through mood swings, peer pressure, and a craving for independence. These are typical teenage behaviors, but some children struggle beyond this, generating troubling signs that parents should never ignore. If your child shows signs of worrisome behavior, don’t overreact or underreact. Take steps to help your teen overcome difficulties.


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