Is your child in trouble?
Most pre-teens and teens face common challenges—bullying, peer pressure, finding their identity, stress, poor body image, or low self-esteem. We all remember the struggles that come with growing up; life for middle and high schoolers gets harder and harder in a world that is pulling them in so many directions.
When an adolescent faces these complications, it’s easy for parents to dismiss the problems as “normal teenage behavior” and hope that their kids outgrow it.
While it’s true that much of their prickly behavior could be considered “normal” for teens, parents should always be on the alert for when “normal” behaviors become concerning. How will you know when trouble is brewing under the service for your child?
Watch for These Warning Signs
- Falling Grades. If a child’s grades are lower than normal, something is wrong. It might be a learning disability, laziness, need for better instruction. It could also mean depression or discontentment. Parents should get to the heart of the matter before resorting to punishment.
- Mood Swings. Every child will exhibit occasional moodiness. Teenagers with their exploding hormones are especially prone to emotional ups and downs. Parents must determine if the lows and highs are excessive, or if a child changes quickly from euphoria to depression without cause.
- Self-harm. Cutting the skin is the most common form of self-harm. Teens do this using their fingernails, razor blades, knives, or even pen caps. Self-harm can also be in the form of burns, skin picking, hair pulling, or even hitting oneself. Children with anxiety, depression, eating disorders, borderline personality disorder, and PTSD are prone to self-harm, as well as kids who’ve experienced trauma, neglect, or abuse.
- Lying and hiding things. When you find out your child has been hiding something, even if it’s trivial, it should tell you that they have adapted suspect behavior. At the very least, they are beginning a bad habit of dishonesty. It communicates that they are okay with bad behavior or they don’t trust you. Neither one of those is good.
- Withdrawal. This has nothing to do with being an introvert or an extrovert because obviously not every child likes to be around people a lot. However, if you see your child suddenly start withdrawing when they had never been that way before, it could be a sign of depression or low self-esteem.
- Sudden change of friends. Although making new friends is good, pay attention to when your child switches friend groups altogether. What are they drawn to in the new group and why did they leave the old group?
- Fluctuating weight. Many teens deal with stress through eating disorders, as a way to control feelings of fear, anxiety, and insecurity.
- Drastic change of dress. A sudden change in dress styles and image might be a sign of insecurity. If a teen is starting to wear more revealing clothes, it could be a step towards sexual activity, while baggy clothes can be a sign they are hiding something. For example, if a kid always wears long sleeves, even when it is hot, they may be hiding scars from self-cutting.
- Apathy. A child who begins to be consistently sad, hopeless or shows a loss of interest in things that they had previously loved to do might be dealing with something deeper that needs to be talked about.
- Suicidal thoughts or despair. At some point every child faces some kind of disappointment, rejection, and hurt. Sometimes this leads to despair. Despair is a loss of hope, believing that tomorrow won’t be any better than today. Despair is a powerful emotional state and a dangerous one if not healed and brought back to a place of hope again (Curate Hope).
I saw a couple of these warning signs in one of my kids; they were cutting themselves and talking about suicide. You better believe that I paid very close attention to their behavior, listened to them more intentionally and did a lot of praying.
One day one of my kids came home upset about a friend conflict and they went out to sit on the roof. Knowing this child had toyed with thoughts of suicide and had done self-harm before, I went out after them and sat down on the roof beside them. I sat there until they talked, listened until they were done and loved them until they were ready to go back inside.
We cannot easily dismiss any of these warning signs in teens. There are so many pressures on today’s kids pulling at them which can lead to deeper problems if we are not on high alert as parents.
If you’d like to talk with someone about your teen, please schedule a free intro call here.