As parents, it’s easy — and natural — to believe that we can solve all of our kids’ problems. After all, when they are small, a Band-Aid, a popsicle, and some extra snuggles were usually all it took to make everything better.
As kids get older, though, their problems become more complex, and the solutions aren’t always as simple as a “magic kiss” from Mommy. It doesn’t help that teens today are facing problems that many of their parents could not have even imagined when they were teens themselves. For many young people, the pressures of life, from school to friends to planning for the future — all become too much to bear, and they respond by engaging in destructive and harmful behaviors.
The problem for parents, though, is determining whether their child’s behavior is normal teenage angst, or something more serious that requires intervention. That intervention can range from counseling to enrolling at a therapeutic boarding school like Diamond Ranch where they can learn to manage their issues in a safe and structured environment. Some teens may realize on their own that they need some extra support and help from a professional, but if that’s not the case for your child, there are some signs that you need to take action.
Signs Intervention Is Necessary
Nearly every teen goes through a phase where he or she is moody, defiant, or unwilling to talk with their parents. A certain amount of sighing, eye rolling, and cries of “You just don’t understand!” is to be expected. After all, teens are going through some pretty significant hormonal and life changes, and aren’t always equipped to deal with them in a healthy and reasonable way.
However, when those typical behaviors are more extreme than usual, or seem to come out of nowhere, professional intervention is a must. Experts note that parents should seek counseling for their kids when:
- They show signs of depression lasting more than a few days that aren’t tied to a specific circumstance. Such as being sad or “down in the dumps” after not making the team is to be expected, while ongoing angry outbursts, sadness, disrupted sleep and eating patterns, and lack of interest in school or activities is cause for concern.
- They suspect their teen is engaging in self-harm. This includes cutting and other violent acts, but also substance abuse and sexual promiscuity.
- The have a sudden change in performance at school. In some cases, this is an academic issue that can be addressed with tutoring, but if it occurs along with other marked changes in behavior, something else is going on.
- They run away or disappear for days.
- They suddenly have a new group of friends without explanation. This is particularly concerning if the new friends are also engaged in bad behavior. Remember that teen friendships often change, so if your teen starts hanging around with new friends from a new club or sport, there’s probably no reason to worry.
- They have significant changes in eating habits. That is, eating more or less than usual, developing rituals around food, avoiding family meals.
- They are increasingly defiant, and often irrationally angry or irritable with you. If they lash out verbally or physically, counseling is in order.
Finding Someone to Help
Once you have determined that you need help with your teen, the next step is to find someone qualified to help. Ask for recommendations from your family doctor, school officials, and family and friends. Don’t avoid asking for help or just choose someone from a list because you’re embarrassed or in a rush. Choosing the right counselor from the start can make a big difference in the effectiveness of the therapy.
Teens do not generally respond to someone who doesn’t have a lot of experience working with people their age, who they think “can’t relate,” and aren’t likely to cooperate if they are shuttled around to different therapists while you try to find the right one.
Once you do find a qualified professional, getting your teen to go is the next hurdle. Expect them to bristle at the idea of seeing someone to discuss their problems. However, if you broach the subject in a loving, supportive manner, reiterating that you want them to be happy and healthy, you may have more success. A bit of bribery might work too — for example, if your teen agrees to go to three sessions, you’ll lift a punishment or give them an extra privilege.
Taking your teen for counseling can be a difficult decision for the family, but it can also be the best decision. Getting your child the help he or she needs now can stop bad behavior before it takes over and keep them on the right path to adulthood.
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