Parenting can feel like it’s one rollercoaster after another. Just when you feel like you’ve got a handle on the current phase, something changes. When the teen years hit, you’ll find yourself facing mood swings, withdrawing behavior, and other changes in your teen.
The constant changes can often make it difficult to recognize when you need to step outside of your comfort zone and get help for a troubled teen who is struggling.
Just when should you get help? Will getting help for your teen take a toll on your relationship with your teen? It’s understandable to have questions and concerns when it feels like things are getting out of control.
Signs that your teen is struggling
Your teen’s struggles might appear almost overnight, or they may start to creep up gradually. You know your teenager better than anyone, so you will be well aware of any changes that start to take place. Some of these changes and signs that your teen is struggling may include the following:
- Withdrawing from family and friends and no longer taking part in activities he once enjoyed.
- Changes in personality that include an increase in sadness, sleep concerns, anxiety, or depression.
- Breaking curfew or not coming home at all at night.
- Weight loss or weight gain without an apparent cause.
- Evidence of self-harm, which can include cutting and other self-inflicted injuries.
- At home, an increase in arguments and behavior considered rebellious.
- Getting into trouble at school, skipping school, getting into fights with other students, and even with teachers.
- Run-ins with law enforcement for a range of concerns that may include curfew violations, vandalism, or shoplifting.
- Changes in friends and peer groups, particularly if these new friends are those who encourage poor behavior.
- Spending more time retreating into playing video games or spending too much time online. Particularly if they become secretive about their behavior.
- Signs of smoking, drug and alcohol use, or abuse.
There are, of course, several other warning signs that your teen may be facing one or more struggles. Teenagers are, by nature, secretive as they grow up and seek more independence from their parents and the boundaries set by their parents. This can make it harder for a parent to try and get to the bottom of the behavior changes. For parents, this can be frustrating, upsetting, and confusing.
Connecting with your teen
How can you reconnect with your teen who is struggling? In the middle of an argument with him, it can feel difficult to believe but teens generally still long for the approval, acceptance, and unconditional love from their parents. So, how can you find your way back to him when he’s putting up emotional and mental walls? There are several things that you can try if you’ve found you can no longer connect.
- Engage with your teen when you’re both in a calm space. It’s all too easy to find ourselves arguing and fighting with a combative teen. But, in truth, face-to-face connections are going to go better and produce positive results when you’re both calm and focused.
- Remind your teen that your door is always open, without judgment. This can be challenging for both of you, particularly if you don’t approve of the things that your teen is now doing. If your teen feels attacked, however, he’s less likely to open up to you when he needs your guidance and support.
- Make a point to spend time with your teen doing things you both enjoy doing. You may need to default to things that he enjoys more so that you can avoid a blow-up argument, but if you can get him out of the house and away from devices for a while, it can prove very beneficial.
- Try to find some common ground with your teen. You may find yourself immediately drawn into an argument if you talk about his clothing or his friends, or his choice in music. But that doesn’t mean you can’t find some sort of common ground. Whether it’s about sport, a favorite documentary, movies, or perhaps there is music you both enjoy. The goal is to find even a small connection with one another so you can begin to forge those bigger connections.
Expect your teen to react to your connection efforts with irritation, anger, and even a raised voice. It’s normal and shouldn’t deter you from your efforts to connect with him. Give him the space he needs to cool off and stay calm. Don’t be baited into an argument with him. You can always try again later when he seems to be in a better mood. Connecting successfully with your teen is going to take time and patience.
Knowing when to seek professional help
How do you know just when is the right time to seek out professional help for your teen? Perhaps you’ve tried reconnecting with your teen and tried everything possible to help set your teen back on the right path. You may find yourself frustrated, pushed to your mental and emotional brink, and almost ready to simply give up trying to get your teen back on track.
Hopefully, things haven’t fallen to that point for you and your teen. But if they have, there’s no time like the present for you to seek professional help for you, your teen, and your whole family. Professional help can take on a few forms, and it may take a bit of trial and error to find the solution that is right for your family. Some of your options may include the following:
- Family counseling, particularly counseling that helps your family better communicate and support one another.
- Individual therapy with a therapist who has experience working with troubled teens.
- Medication can help address some of the issues your teen may be faced with, including depression, anxiety, or even ADHD. Medication is not always the right choice for every teen so it’s important to stay in contact with your teen’s doctor if he is placed on one or more medications.
- Residential treatment centers or therapeutic boarding schools. These are not always the first choice that comes to mind for parents. No one likes the idea of sending their teen away for any period of time. However, these types of facilities can offer troubled teens the intensive therapy and one-on-one treatment solutions they need.
Getting your teen help shouldn’t be a decision that you hesitate to make. Many troubled teens struggle to find their way back on the right positive path until they’ve been removed from the environment in which they first started to struggle. Keep an open mind about the professional help options that may prove beneficial for your struggling teen.
At HelpYourTeenNow we can connect parents and troubled teens with the resources they need. Whether you’re just starting to consider the options you have, or you’re ready to pick a therapeutic boarding school for your teen in crisis, we can help you connect with the resources that you need.