Watching our kids step into the teen years can be daunting, for parents. We have all heard the stories of rebellious and troubled teens. Are all teens rebellious? Will my teen experience wild mood swings and experiment with drugs or alcohol? How is a parent to know what is normal or when to find counseling for troubled teens?
This week I am excited to be working with BetterHelp to bring you this post on counseling. BetterHelp is an online platform that helps you find the right counselor that can work with your through text, video and phone interactions. As finding the right counselor can be a pivotal step in an emotionally healthy home, I am thankful for BetterHelp’s sponsorship of this post!
How To Know When to Find Counseling for Troubled Teens
Parenting teens can actual be fun, full of great conversations and adventures. But raising teenagers can also be filled with challenges and unexpected lows. In this post, we are going to try to break it down so as a mom you are better informed on what is typical, and what should cause you to seek help for your youth.
All the advice given is from my perspective as a mom and my years working with teens in groups. Always seek professional help if you have ongoing concerns.
What Behaviors are Normal During the Teen Years
There are 3 major factors, from this mom’s point of view, to consider when thinking about what is normal behavior during the teen year:
- Teens Are Emotional. Teenagers are going through real physical changes so their hormones are fluctuating. This is truth! So it is natural to expect that your adolescent will be more emotional. Teenagers will have mood swings.
- Teens are Processing Life. A teen is no longer just a child with a tiny worldview. Your teenager will begin to process all the life events they have experienced from a young adult’s perspective. As they seek to understand themselves, their family history, and their beliefs they may feel sadness, loss, anxiety, depression, anger or pain.
- Teenagers Will Express Independence. Teens are maturing and will one day become adults. It is natural that your teen will form stronger opinions and push back against household rules.
Thankfully, though our teenagers can be emotional, want to pick apart our parenting skills and tell us our house rules are dumb, we will all survive! We want our kids to do all of these normal behaviors so that they will be ready to land on their feet when it’s time to leave the nest.
Warning Signs of Troubled Teens
After learning more about what is normal from teenagers, most parents ask the next question, “What are the warning signs of a troubled teenager?” Here are some signs to help you know when to find counseling for a troubled teen!
1. Your Teenager Begins Withdrawing from Life
Wanting to crash in their room after a day at school or work is typical and healthy for most teenagers. Like us, they may need some down time to relax and think. But if your teenager begins to slowly withdrawal from friends, activities and family life, something else may be going on with them.
Ask your teenager how they are feeling or what they are excited about lately. If they can’t think of anything they are looking forward to or feeling hopeful about they may be experiencing a high level stress or depression. Depression can often cause a teen to pull back from life and no longer enjoy things they used to love.
Read here for ways to Comfort your Teen Struggling with Depression
2. Self-Harming is a Warning Sign in Teens
Have you caught your teenager harming themselves? A huge warning sign that your teenager is troubled is when they practice self-harming behaviors (cutting, branding, etc…) When teens feel extremely stressed, numb to life or like life is out of control they may self-harm.
Odd as it may sound, self-harming can make a person feel like they are regaining some control back over their life.
Unfortunately, this feeling of being in control is fleeting as the self-harming behavior becomes additive. Seeking a therapist’s help becomes critical to helping your troubled teenager stop self-harming.
3. Sleeping Patterns Change Drastically
Has your teenager’s sleeping patterns changed recently? Are they staying up all the time, complaining of being unable to sleep? Or are they just wanting to sleep all the time.
Your teenager may be dealing with physical changes that is causing the body to need more sleep or have trouble sleeping. Talking with your family doctor would be a good place to start.
If your teenager just wants to sleep all the time, almost seeming to hide from life, this may also be a sign of depression. It may be time to seek out a counselor.
4. Your Teen Expresses Constant Anxiety
Some teenagers are naturally more anxious, as they are prone to having a deeper thought life. For others teenagers, concern over school and friendships may cause them to feel anxious.
However, if your teenager always seems anxious, as if there body is constantly on high alert, we need to ask some questions. Talk with your teens to see if their concerns are centered on one area of life. Does your teenager feel anxious about not meeting your expectations that you all could discuss? Or is there something that has happened that may be contributing to the anxiety?
During my teenage years, my youth group had a weekend overnighter. While on the retreat, the leadership decided to simulate what it might be like to live in a foreign country where religion expression was controlled. Unbeknownst to us youth, the leaders had asked a group of men to come into our lodge, yelling and making threats.
What transpired was severally traumatic for those of us that were closest to the door, as the lights were off, and it was hard to comprehend what was happening. For months after the event, I suffered with severe anxiety. I developed a phobia and would start crying if I was startled. It was probably a year before I felt completely better.
5. If Your Teenager Begins Lying Find Help
If your child has had a habit of lying or omitting details lying may fall under what is normal for your household. However, most of the times lying (usually followed by stealing) is a big warning sign.
Lying may be a sign that your teen is in some trouble and doesn’t know how to get out of the situation. Or not telling the truth may be a sign that your teenager is in an addictive type behavior, and they are trying to hide the addiction.
Lying seems to be a common thread that weaves its way through a variety of destructive behaviors.
Unfortunately, in the last 15 years of leading groups for anger management, domestic violence, and truancy issues, lying seems to be a behavior that is used to propel a teen deeper and deeper into a negative cycle. So seek help quickly for your trouble youth.
6. Wild Mood Swings is a Warning Sign of Troubled Teens
As we already discussed, teens are going to be moody. You may be having a simple conversation (or at least you thought;) and you ask them a question. The next thing you know, they are wanting to know why you “never trust their judgement” or “always treat them like a child.” Life can feel tricky as a parent.
But if your teen starts having wild mood swings all the time, there may be other issues going on. Some common reasons for wild mood swings are that teens are trying to hide certain behaviors from their parents. Another reason is that teenagers may feel they have the right to scream obscenities at their parents when they don’t get their way due to lack of boundaries and consequences. Or there may be drugs or alcohol involved leading to teens feeling great one minute and horrible the next.
Seeking counseling for you and your teen can help your family uncover what is really going on, and if necessary learn how to set appropriate boundaries in the home.
7. Eating Habits Changing May Signal a Troubled Teen
If your teen’s eating habits change this may be cause for concern. Teens that struggle with eating disorders may try to restrict their food intake in some way. You may notice them asking to be excused from dinner almost immediately, wearing baggy clothes or saying often that they are not hungry. Teens that struggle with anorexia (eating too little) may also increase the amount of exercise they are doing.
Teens that grapple with eating disorders may be trying to change their body to achieve some dream appearance. Or a teen might be exerting control over their body in an attempt to feel in control of their life.
During my teenage years, I began processing through an event in my life. This brought up a lot of yucky feelings. Unknowingly, I began trying to regain control in my life by controlling more of what I ate. At first I didn’t even realize I was doing it, as I wasn’t trying to look thinner. Fortunately, I was working with a counselor at the time and they pointed out their concern.
When to Find Counseling for Troubled Teens
As parents, we are on the front lines with out teens. We know them the best. If your teen is exhibiting any of the behaviors above, we need to be aware and ask questions. Trust your instincts as a parent if you feel like something is off with your teenager.
Talk with your teen. Without expressing disappointment in them, share your concerns and ask how you can help. If your teenager won’t confide in you, you can ask them if they would like you to help them find someone whom they will feel safe.
Also remember just because your teen and you are close, doesn’t mean they will tell you everything. Children are VERY remiss to tell their parents anything that they think will negatively affect how you view them. So finding a safe person for them to talk to is so important.
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What to Look for in a Professional Counselor
Finding the right counselor is a very personal decision. One thing I have learned from working with counselors as a teenager, as a mom and as a professional is that counselors are people.
So while it is important to find a qualified counselor, that is knowledgeable, it is pivotal to work with a counselor with which your teenager clicks.
If the counselor is great, but your teenager doesn’t connect or feel understood by them, counseling won’t work well. As a mom, feel free to let a counselor know you are going to continue to look. Don’t feel like you have to settle for the first counselor you meet.
With counseling now available online at BetterHelp, through texting or in person, it is easier than ever to locate the right therapist for your family.
Counseling as a Career Choice
With all the new avenues and ways to seek counseling, counseling can also be a great field to explore as a career. Counselors now, through places like BetterHelp, can develop a practice virtually.
Read more here about the fascinating counseling jobs available at BetterHelp!
Are you in the process of exploring career fields with your teenager? Discuss the career opportunities that a job in counseling can open for them.
Or perhaps you are an almost empty-nester, wondering what the next stage in life has for you! Discover the flexibility and reward of creating an online counseling practice.
Counseling for Troubled Teens
While asking for help for your child can feel like a step backwards, it is actually a very brave thing to do as a parent. Instead of viewing counseling as a last resort, we should view counseling as just another element of an emotionally healthy home. Counselors can bring fresh perspective, knowledgeable information and another caring person for our teens.
Heather B. says
Hey girl! This article is full of great advice for helping to decipher what our teens may be going through. There’s can be a stigma surrounding seeking out counseling, but most individuals can benefit from talking about issues with a trained professional.
And how horrible about the trauma you experienced at the youth retreat! The youth leader’s plan sounds like it should’ve been thought out a little more or run by someone wise beforehand.
Yes, seeking out a counselor can often be thought of as a worst case scenario plan. But seeking help sooner can avoid big problems later. So we shouldn’t put off asking for help when it comes to our kids! Ugh, that youth retreat was traumatizing. Thankfully, that was the exception and not the rule:)