What to Look for in a Troubled Teen

You know your teen better than anyone. While the following list offers suggestions regarding what to watch for in your struggling adolescent, trust your own instincts as well and seek professional help when necessary.

1. Changes in appearance. Your teen might do some unique and creative things to his hair or body. Modifications to hair in style, color or cut are temporary, but changes to his body, such as piercings and tattoos are permanent. Consider asking him to delay permanent body modifications until he becomes an adult. Drastic changes in appearance can signify a more serious issue.

2. Hostility and rebellion. While your teen is spreading his wings and testing his independence, he can do so respectfully. If arguments constantly escalate, or if he gets into fights or skips school, you will know that the problems are becoming more serious.

3. Erratic moods. Teens are typically moody as physical changes mean he will struggle with managing his emotions. However, extreme mood swings could be another warning sign.

4. Fluctuations in personality. Dropping grades, anxiety or continued sadness could signal bullying, depression or mental health issue. Pay close attention if he starts talking about suicide.

5. Dabbling in alcohol or drugs. He will probably try a cigarette or beer at some point and may experiment with marijuana. Keep communication open about substances so that he knows he can freely talk with you. If use of any substances begins to escalate, do not hesitate to take immediate action. An intervention could save his life.

6. Lack of trust in you and greater influence from friends, especially those who engage in risky behaviors. While teens are becoming more independent and will withdraw to a certain extent, they should still be able to communicate with you. He should know that you will support him through his struggles. Most importantly, your teen should feel loved and accepted by you, no matter the situation.

7. Isolation. Isolation can signify possible problems and is just as concerning as spending time with negative peers.