Teen behaviour issues: 10 warning signs

Having a teenager in the house can be a daunting time, even for the most calm of parent/child relationships. Hormones and changes in friends can lead to large shifts in the dynamic of your relationship with your teen, leading to confusion and a general sense of unease in the caring parent. Paying attention to your teen’s behaviour is an important part of understanding what’s normal, and what might need further attention.

Chances are that if you have sought help online for your teen, their behaviour has progressed beyond what you consider to be ‘normal’, and you are really worried for their wellbeing and safety.

To help you identify when it may be time to take the next steps in getting assistance to deal with your child, we have put together a list of 10 warning signs that your teen is in trouble.

Please note: all children are different, and your intuition as a parent can be a very strong warning signal that things are progressing in an unhealthy way for your teen. It’s vital to talk to them, and if they’re not responsive then getting them to speak with a professional privately may be your next best option.

Warning sign 1: Friendship changes

A dramatic shift in their friendship circle, and an unwillingness to allow you to meet their new friends. This may be a sign that they are being bullied at school, or they are hanging out with an undesirable crowd.

Warning sign 2: Decline in grades

Their school marks begin to drop significantly, and in a short space of time. A gradual decline in marks may indicate laziness or disinterest in school, but a sharp decline may be an indicator of outside influences and pressures that are having an effect on your teen’s ability to engage at school.

Warning sign 3: Money

The appearance/disappearance of money could mark a real problem in your child’s development. If they either suddenly have a lot of money and they can’t explain where it came from, or if you start seeing money disappear on a regular basis in your home, it is time to have a chat with them.

Warning sign 4: Risk taking

This is a behavioural pattern that is more predominant in males, however some girls may show signs of high risk behaviours if they are troubled. This may include riding in cars with strangers, experimenting with drugs and alcohol, and boldly lying to or deceiving authority figures, despite the understanding of a poor outcome for them being inevitable.

Warning sign 5: Excessive sleeping

Being a teenager often comes with the desire to sleep for large portions of time without reason. This seems to be a product of the growth spurts occurring during these years, in addition to needing a break from the changes they are feeling in their understanding and perception of the world around them. If your child seems withdrawn and retreats to their room to sleep rather than engaging with the family unit and/or their friends this could indicate a bigger problem.

Warning sign 6: Drugs

If you find drugs and/or alcohol in your child’s room or on their person make no mistake about it – there is a big problem. Using drugs or having a drink at a friends house or a party is one thing, but if they bring them into the home they are either seriously testing your parenting boundaries, or they are using the substance on a regular basis, both of which you need to get a head start on addressing right away.

Warning sign 7: Inappropriate partner

The day when your child will start dating will eventually happen, and often whilst your teen still lives at home with you. While it can be a confronting situation, it is not necessarily a warning sign that your teen is in trouble. There should be cause for concern, however, if the new partner is an inappropriate choice for your child. Your child may shown signs of withdrawal from the family unit or their friends if their new partner is controlling and manipulative, which can lead to your teen feeling reliant upon the partner for their sense of self. This is a really unhealthy place for them to be, and a really difficult situation for you to navigate without alienating your teen further.

Warning sign 8: History of drug and/or alcohol abuse in the family

If your child has grown up around unhealthy behaviours, this may put them at a higher risk to exhibit those behaviours themselves. If you were the perpetrator of the behaviour, you are also in a tough spot because they may feel less inclined to take your opinion on board. Make sure you have support available – other family members, friends, a specialist counsellor – when you address these issues with them.

Warning sign 9: Extreme changes in mood

If your adolescent’s moods have begin to swing like a pendulum from one extreme to the other, this may be a sign that there is something wrong. Moodiness in teenagers is all but inevitable, but drastic changes in their emotional state over short periods of time can indicate a larger problem that needs to be addressed before it has a wider impact on their lives.

Warning sign 10: They are hurting you or others

Threats of physical violence and violent outbursts directed towards other family members (and even pets) can be a sign of a serious hormonal or emotional imbalance. For males, surges in testosterone can catapult them into extreme rages that can be unsafe for younger siblings and family members to be around. They may require therapy about how to manage this cognitively, or medication may be recommended to re-balance their hormone levels.

We know that this can be a tough time for the family, and that you can run out of people to turn to for advice and guidance. We are here to help walk you through the steps to a happier home. You can call us to chat on 1300 735 030 or head to our Get Help page for more information on child and adolescent counselling and counselling for families.

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