Being a teenager is hardly a walk in the park. It is challenging for both you and the teen.
The teenage years are the period in life where they become their own person, gain independence and start to figure out who they are.
There are lots of jokes about how hard it is to parent a teen, as it is a new stage in the lives of both the parent and the teenager, it can come with some excruciatingly difficult challenges.
Yet there is a huge difference between simply parenting a normal teen and the more serious struggles that come with trying to parent a teenager.
Before we start talking about how to cope with a troubled teen, let’s first look into what exactly a troubled teen is.
What Is Considered A Troubled Teen?
A troubled teen can be a teen who has substance abuse problems, mental health problems, or behavioral issues.
This could be a teen who has started drinking heavily, who may have anger issues, or if they are showing signs of depression or severe anxiety.
Whatever the case, intervention is needed for them to be able to recover and find themselves in this already difficult stage of life.
Here are a few signs that your child is struggling and may be troubled:
- Drop in grades
- Drop in attendance at school.
- Friendship changes.
- Change in appearance.
- Body image issues.
- Deception/ lying
- Self-harming behavior.
- Eating/ dietary changes.
- Quitting the sports/ team they loved.
- Withdrawing from family (and sometimes friends).
- Low self-image/ self-esteem.
Note that this list is not all-inclusive and that sometimes some of these issues can be minor, however, many of these can also be a sign that they are struggling.
It can feel very concerning, but you must not assume there is a problem even if your teen shows some of the above signs, remember teens will go through many stages and phases as they try to discover themselves.
While you may also be concerned, try to avoid forcing things out of them, pressuring them or getting angry/frustrated with these things.
What is there is a problem and the signs you have been seeing are actually indicators of something being wrong?
Try Connecting With Them
Firstly you will need to connect with them.
You can be tempted to turn away when your teen’s problems get worse, you might get frustrated and angry, or just feel like ignoring it all.
However, the best thing you can do is maintain a strong connection with your child.
Be stringent and effective in your communication to maintain and build a stable and safe relationship.
The relationship will not be perfect, but quality time is a good start and will show them that you are there, and you care for them, it will help for them to feel more open and talk to you more about the things that trouble them.
Gain A New Perspective
When things get tough, it is a good idea to take a page out of the psychologist’s book, and try to view the situation from one different to the one you have been usually viewing it from.
Doing this is known as reframing, as you shift your perspective, you may actually find insight into the things that trigger your teen’s troubled behaviors.
A new set of eyes can easily get teens and parents unstuck from a situation, all you need is a different and fresh way of thinking.
What is even better is that as you start responding differently to your teen’s situation, they have no choice but to act as well, so this can actually bring about progress in the situation and uncover things that need bringing to light.
Define If They Are In A Crisis
The best thing you need to be able to do is to identify when they are in trouble.
Being able to do this is the key in unlocking what things will contribute to the changes you have been seeing in your teens.
Professional psychologists and therapists who work with teens will often describe a teenager’s troubling behavior as ‘acting out’.
This means that the behavior is actually an outward expression or reaction to an underlying issue that needs to be resolved and addressed.
The behavior of a troubled teenager can take a multitude of forms, typically underlying concerns such as mental health issues may be present.
This includes depression, risk taking behavior, and defiance are often present.
In some situations a teen may also turn to alcohol, drugs, or other risky behaviors, even sex, in a desperate attempt to not feel their pain for a while.
You see, underneath all that troubled behavior, their angry, oppositional, and unpleasant behavior is usually a huge amount of pain and hurt.
Knowing this is key in helping your child. And, it prevents you from piling on top of it, thus making the whole situation worse.
Know When To Seek The Help Of A Professional
A large number of troubled teens will usually benefit from professional help in some way, usually a professional can key in on the reasons for their behavior and help you and your teen with dealing with them.
It is best to do this sooner rather than later as it will usually be more successful.
For many this is a hard step to take, with a fear that it shows weakness, but in fact it is more of a strength.
We often sigh and get frustrated when we are dealing with a troubled teenager, frustrated that they have become this person, but instead the truth is they need the opposite to us.
They need empathy, understanding, and unconditional care and love.
A troubled teen is usually one that is feeling a lot of pain, it is important that we help them manage their pain and do not add onto it by reacting negatively to them ‘acting out’.
Remember, while we are their parents and not their friends, we should still be a safe space for them.
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