As a result of the major developmental changes that are happening in the teen years, they are often filled with conflict in the family. Parents may be frustrated and angry that the teen seems to no longer respond to parental authority. Methods of discipline that worked well in earlier years may no longer have an effect. And, parents may feel frightened and helpless about the choices their teen is making. Parents also may feel a sense of loss as their teen ‘leaves the nest.’
The clashes during the teen years are common and may or may not signal the need for a mental health intervention. Typical areas of parent-teen conflict may include:
- Disputes over the teen’s curfew;
- The teen’s choice of friends;
- Spending time with the family versus with peers;
- School and work performance;
- Cars and driving privileges;
- Dating and sexuality;
- Clothing, hair styles and makeup;
- Self-destructive behaviors such as smoking, drinking and using drugs.
Dealing with the issues of adolescence can be trying for all concerned. But families are generally successful at helping their children accomplish the developmental goals of the teen years -- reducing dependence on parents, while becoming increasingly responsible and independent. In other words, most kids grow up just fine.
However, there are a number of warning signs that things are not going well and that the family may want to seek outside help. These include aggressive behavior or violence by the teen, drug or alcohol abuse, promiscuity, school truancy, brushes with the law or runaway behavior. Likewise, if you as a parent are losing control or resorting to violent behavior in order to maintain discipline, this is a strong danger sign. Teens who are losing control may benefit from mental health treatment.
Treatment works and can put your teen back on track. How do you know? Here are some warning signs that should not be ignored:
- Has your teen shown a drastic change in personality? Is your teen frequently angry, defiant or withdrawn, where before, he or she was cooperative?
- Has your teen’s school performance dropped significantly?
- Has your teen’s eating or sleeping habits changed drastically?
- Has your teen lost or gained a great deal of weight?
- Is your teen neglecting his or her hygiene?
- Do you suspect your teen is using drugs?
- Is your teen giving away special personal possessions?
- Has your teen run away from home?
- Is your teen preoccupied with death, or suicide, or makes comments like, "I wish I were dead."
- Has your teen been unable to get over a divorce, disappointment, or loss of a friend or pet?
- Does your teen get involved in dangerous or reckless behavior?
As a parent, you know your teen better than anyone else does. If you suspect that your teen is in need of professional help, and is exhibiting any of the signs listed above, contact a mental health professional who specializes in treating adolescents.