First Steps for Parents
Do You and Your Teen Need Help?
There are very few teens who skirt through adolescence with no problems – no stress, no peer pressure, no self-consciousness, etc. We all know that when teens go through adolescence, their behavior can change dramatically. Biological factors (disposition, hormones, brain chemistry, etc.) along with factors in the teens’ environment such as divorce, grief, adoption and peer pressure all contribute greatly towards how a teen handles the tumultuous period of adolescence. The question most asked by parents is, “What is normal behavior for a teen?” Anyone who can answer that question will probably win a Nobel Prize! The easier question to answer may be, “What is not normal behavior for a teen?” There are some very good books that address teen behavior which shed some light on the (see Suggested Readings), but you may be wondering at this point, “where does my teen fall on the scale”? “At what point do I need to be concerned?” We hope that the information resources listed on this site can help you begin to find answers. If you don’t know where to go for help you can email us at [email protected] and we will try to point you in the right direction.
Listed below are some of the common troubling teen behaviors that may indicate the need for professional help.
Following the rules – Most teens will break the rules at some point – this is a natural part of learning and growing up. If your teen consistently breaks rules and shows no accountability for his actions, he (and you) may be at the point where outside help may be necessary. Quite often when a teen continually breaks rules, she is seeking attention for some reason and you will need professional help to identify the issues or problems that she is struggling with that are causing her to act out.
Anger – Teens will get angry – their hormones are raging and they will have wild mood swings. Anger in and of itself is healthy and normal. If that anger is expressed in inappropriate ways – violent outbursts, punching walls, breaking things, obscenity laced rants or any other behavior that you find upsetting, you should seek outside help. Quite often, after a violent “scene”, a teen will express remorse and parents will think it is a one-time occurrence and the teen will be fine. You should know that violent, angry outbursts are not “normal”. Sometimes parents/families become so accustomed to these outbursts that they begin to view the outbursts as a normal part of the family’s life. These outbursts are the result of some underlying problem with which the teen is struggling and he and you will need professional help to identify and deal with the problem/issue. For more on teen anger visit: Psych Central – Teen Anger or Family Education – Teen Anger.
Alcohol abuse – Despite the fact that underage drinking is illegal, and despite how hard we try to prevent our teens from drinking, it is quite likely that our teens will experiment at some point with alcohol. If you suspect that your child is consuming alcohol on a regular basis, you should be concerned. If you find alcohol in your teen’s room or if she is found to be under the influence at school, you should be concerned. Teens are very adept at lying – they tell us what we want to hear, “It was the first time I drank; I am holding the liquor for a friend.” Follow your gut and follow the idiom, “Fool me once, shame on you fool me twice, shame on me.” For more on teen alcohol use visit these government sponsored sites: CDC Fact Sheet – Underage drinking; We Don’t Serve Teens
Drug abuse – Clearly, if your child is abusing drugs, you should seek professional help. But what if your child is experimenting with marijuana and/or other drugs? How do you know if his use is a real problem? If your teen is using drugs during the school day, that is a problem. If you find your teen using drugs in your home and he tells you it is “the first time”, you should have some serious discussions with your child and consider seeking professional help. Often, teens with low self-esteem, depression, learning disabilities, social difficulties, family problems and many other problems will turn to drugs (often marijuana) to “self-medicate”. Teens who use drugs to self-medicate are typically trying to find a way to feel good and escape the problems and issues that they face. Although marijuana may not be physically addictive (a point which can be debated), it can certainly be emotionally and psychologically addictive. These teens (and their families) often need professional help to find healthier ways of coping with problems. For more information on this topic visit: Adolescent Substance Abuse Knowledge Base; National Institute on Drug Abuse; NIDA for Teens
Self-Harm – Cutting and other means of self harm have become quite prevalent among teens. The following sites provide more insight and detail on this topic: Understanding Teen Cutting and Self-Injury and Teens Who Self-Harm (Psych Central). If your teen is harming herself in any way or you suspect that she may be having suicidal thoughts, you should seek professional help immediately.
The Adolescent Brain — Click here to watch a Lincoln Cable TV special discussing The Adolescent Brain.
Counseling and Referral for Parents
Including treatment program options, hotlines and other resources.
Suggested Reading for Parents
The Anatomy of Peace: Resolving the Heart of Conflict, The Arbinger Institute
Leadership and Self Deception, The Arbinger Institute
I Don’t Have to Make Everything All Better, Gary and Joy Lundberg
Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child, Gottman, 1997
The Lost Art of Listening, Nichols, 1995
The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living, The Dalai-Lama & Howard Cutler, 2002
The Teen Whisperer, by Mike Linderman
Unhappy Teenagers: A Way for Parents and Teachers to Reach Them, by William Glasser
The Price of Privilege, by Madeline Levine, PhD
Parent Further, a Search Institute resource for parents
The Angry Child – Regaining Control When Your Child Is Out of Control, Tim Murphy, PH.D
The Explosive Child, Ross W. Greene, Ph. D
Treating Explosive Kids – The Collaborative Problem-Solving Approach, Ross W. Greene and J. Stuart Ablon
Driven to Distraction: Recognizing and Coping with Attention Deficit Disorder, Edward M. Hallowell, MD
Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew, Eldridge, 1999 DTP
A Mind at a Time, Mel Levine, M.D.
Building Resiliency and Protective Factors
What are Developmental Assets and why do they matter? by ParentFurther
Developmental Assets: Preparing Young People for Success, Search Institute
Substance Use and Abuse
Community of Concern – Our mission is to educate parents and build partnerships so that we may coordinate our efforts to keep our children alcohol, tobacco and other drug free.
notMYkid – Inspiring Positive Life Choices
The Partnership at drugfree.org
National Institute on Drug Abuse – The Science of Drug Abuse and Addiction