Parents everywhere wish there was some type of manual to help them raise their kids. The best strategy most have is their own upbringing or even advice from others. While this can be useful it has its limits because kids and our relationships with them are so varied.
So how does a parent know when there is trouble on the horizon with their teen? How do they even know what to look for? One important way to know if there is something going on with your teen is through observation. Pay attention to your child. This is going to be one of the key factors in knowing whether or not they have any problems going on. So now you know you need to be observant, but what specifically are you looking for?
Teens are notorious for being hormonal, moody and sometimes irritable. So observation here is key. Do you notice that your teen is more moody than usual? Perhaps they are showing lack of interest in things they would normally have been excited about. The specific thing to pay attention to is, does this mood or lack of interest in things persist over time?
Usually parents want their children to hang out with other like-minded kids. If we have parented in an effective manner, our kids will typically hang out with kids that make their lives easier. When teens start to have troubles, you will find the people they hang out with will tend to change. Their peers will often change for the worse rather than the better.
There is a general belief that teens often do not communicate too well. There may be some truth to this, but if you have worked hard to communicate with your kid while you’ve raised them, you should notice if there are issues with communication. Perhaps they go out of their way to avoid talking to you. Maybe they shut down completely, and you have no idea what is going on in their life. It’s important to pay attention to the level of communication to determine if there is a problem.
If you find that your once-sober child is starting to experiment with drugs or alcohol, then it’s a pretty good bet there are some issues that you need to discuss with them. Teens often turn to substances to deal with emotional issues. They don’t have the emotional maturity or knowledge on how to do it and turn to things that will help them deal with these natural emotions.
Learning self-control is something that parents should be teaching their children from the beginning. During the teen years, it is so important for a teen to have self-control. This is a time where parents are making an attempt to give more freedom, and self-control is something that creates trust between parents and their teens. When you have a child that lacks self-control with electronics, Internet, phone usage or even the kinds of things he or she talks about with friends -- you have a problem. A lack of self-control is a problem. A teen who lacks self-control is a huge problem. Teens should have some internalized self-control at their age. If they don’t, you need to figure that out.
While there could be more things that indicate your teen has a problem, these are some of the biggies. If you find any of these issues going on in your teen’s life, you should seek out help. Help could be a competent therapist trained to work with teens and families or even a pastor trained to help families. You only have your teen in your life for a short period of time. Getting them help for whatever challenges they are facing could change their lives forever.
(Dr. David Simonsen is a husband, father and therapist. He likes to learn, laugh and be creative. You can find out more about him and contact him at www.DavidSimonsen.net.)