Parenting troubled teenagers can be challenging or even overwhelming. One may experience significant stress in the parental journey if his or her teen is abusing drugs, experiencing depression, or committing acts of violence. Additionally, open defiance and failed attempts to communicate can add to one’s despair.
Don’t worry, though; most of these issues do not last forever. Parents can tackle the problems by learning how to identify red flag behaviors and seeking professional help. By doing so, parents can help teens overcome the challenges of adolescence and transition into well-balanced and happier young adults.
Understanding the Behavior of Teenagers
Why do teenagers display reckless conduct, act impulsively, experience intense emotions, or throw tantrums? Well, everyone is wired differently, and their teenage brains are still actively developing. That’s why they do not process information in the same way a mature adult’s brain does. For example, teenagers tend to rely on the amygdala, which is the part of the brain that triggers emotional reactions. Adults, on the other hand, use the prefrontal cortex for reading emotional cues.
Now that you know why teens act differently, it’s also important to note that teenagers are individuals with unique personalities. No matter how troubled your teen becomes or how emotionally distant they are, teenagers still need their parents’ attention and love.
Identifying Red Flag Behaviors in Teenagers
Parents can start by learning when to step in and assist their troubled teens. Below are some of the most common red flag behaviors to watch for:
- Peer influence: It is normal for friends to have a great influence on a teen’s choices. Parents should take note when there is a sudden change in peer groups, especially one that encourages negative behaviors.
- Experimenting with drugs or alcohol: Many teenagers smoke a cigarette (or even marijuana) and/or try alcohol at some point. Problems start arising when his or her drug or alcohol use becomes habitual, affecting school-related performance and life at home.
- Mood swings: Hormones and developmental changes can cause irritable behavior and mood swings. Your teen may be struggling to manage these emotions if they talk about suicide, have difficulty sleeping, ignore falling grades, and/or experience persistent sadness.
- Rebellious behavior: When teens start to seek independence, they may become opinionated and confrontational every so often. Parents should be concerned if they start to frequently get into fights or even have run-ins with the law.
How Can Parents Help Troubled Teenagers?
If a troubled teen displays one or more of the mentioned red flag behaviors, parents can consider seeking professional help, such as therapists, counselors, doctors, or other mental health professionals. After finding the appropriate treatment for your teen, it does not mean that your job is done. There are various actions you should take at home to improve the relationship between you and your teen. Here’s what you can do:
- Help your teen make healthy lifestyle changes: Create a schedule that your teen can follow with regular mealtimes, fixed bedtimes (at least 8.5 to 10 hours of sleep), etc. Consider reducing screen time as it is known to impact brain development as well. Next, ensure that your teen eats right and exercises regularly, which can improve his or her mood.
- Learn how to cope with teen anger and violence: Parents should establish boundaries, rules, and consequences but also give their teens enough space to retreat and relieve anger in a healthy manner, such as venting through art or dancing to music.
- Create opportunities to strengthen the parent-teen bond: Parents can open the lines of communication by being there for their teens, finding common ground, offering a listening ear without being judgmental, and providing sound advice.
- Remember to practice self-care: The stress of dealing with a troubled teen can take a toll on parents, which is why it is important to find support. You can seek help from a religious leader, sports coach, friend, or other family members. Ultimately, parents should remember to relax daily and de-stress when they start to feel overwhelmed.