How to Help Your Troubled Teen

Do you suspect your teen may be struggling? Do you fear they may be hiding their pain? Are you worried their well-being is at risk? If this is the case, be on the lookout for commonly overlooked troubled teen behavior. Hair dyeing and tattoos are all fairly common teen behaviors, but if your child starts to lose weight quickly, the situation could be more serious. Arguing at home is inevitable, but if your teen son or daughter becomes violent or rebellious in the household or begins skipping school, you may need to dig deeper to find out what’s really going on. Mood swings are another characteristic to look out for, specifically rapid personality changes, apathy, and declining grades. If you feel your teen may be troubled and drifting away, here are a few ways you can help:

Connect With Your Teen

Connecting with your teen does not necessarily mean sharing secrets or opening up about feelings immediately. In the beginning, it may only be sharing a meal and a few broken words. If your child seems distant, don’t be discouraged. Connecting with a troubled teen takes time, patience, and commitment. By being willing to put in the effort to connect, no matter how long it takes and no matter how they reply, your teen will feel they can trust you more, and begin to open up on their own terms. If they begin to open up, don’t be too quick to push for more. Start with casual conversations, find common ground, and be gentle. Know that you may be rejected, once, twice, or hundreds of times. But the effort is what counts. As they become more comfortable confiding in you, you may be tempted to give advice. Unfortunately, advice is a huge turn-off for teens. Listen patiently, validate their feelings, and only offer advice upon request. The process may seem tedious, but as you reconstruct your relationship with your troubled teen, you’ll realize that all of the effort was more than worth it.

Recognize the Signs

As a parent, it can be easy to immediately chastise and discipline certain behaviors. After all, it is your job to teach and prepare your teen for adulthood. Unfortunately, depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation often manifest themselves in the form of rebellious behaviors. If you suspect your child may be struggling, recognize the actions and behaviors that indicate this. Talk to your teen about these behaviors without judgment, encourage them to be better, and listen to their “excuses” and explanations. What seems now to be disrespect could be a twisted cry for help. Signs to look out for include decreased energy, lack of concentration, increased fear of failure, acute onset social anxiety, excessive Internet use, out-of-character or high-risk behavior, violence, low self-esteem, suicidal jokes and comments, and threats to run away.

West Ridge Academy provides programs for troubled teens in Salt Lake City and the surrounding area.

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