Under the best of circumstances, parenting a teen can be challenging. All teens go through physical, emotional and mental changes, but you might wonder how you can know if your child has overstepped normal adolescent behaviors and is heading for some dangerous territory where he might need professional help, such as meeting with a counselor or therapist or even attending a school for troubled boys in Arizona.
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.
Professional Help when Your Child is Struggling
Your first step might be to contact your family physician, therapist, counselor or a mental health professional who understands your family and is local to you. However, in some cases, counseling isn’t successful unless you take more drastic measures. For example, you might need to completely remove him from his environment and consider placement in an Arizona boys’ ranch. A different environment can be just the ticket for a fresh start in a new setting where no one knows him. All of the students need to follow the rules and adhere to the same expectations, and he will not feel singled out when he is held to the same standards as everyone else. Your lost teen will eventually find his own way as a successful adult.