Do you have a gut-feeling your teenager is changing – and not for the better? Is your parental antenna picking-up subtle nuances that your adolescent is uptight about something? Are you concerned at the amount of alone time your teen son or daughter requires when he/she has always been outgoing socially?
When things start adding up to indicate your teen is wrestling with serious problems, it is your responsibility to find the bottom line. You can take it to the bank, if you're sensing trouble, trouble is brewing.
The question is: precisely what identifies a trouble teen? As parents, how can we spot a troubled teen? There are classic warning signs to be on the lookout for that help you discern whether or not your teen is headed down a path of self-destruction.
Chances are, he/she is not going to 'outgrow' at-risk behaviors. The following is not all-inclusive, but it will help categorize your findings as you take an objective look at your teen's negative behaviors.
Be mindful: Resist the notion to compare your teen's behavior with that of their friends or even their siblings. Your teen is a unique individual.
A good comparison is found in the putting-together of a jigsaw puzzle. You can't see the big picture just by assembling the border. You must tackle the problem at hand by constructing the big picture, one piece at a time .
Communication is the First to Go
You have not failed as a parent when your teenager separates from you to begin finding his/her identity. They will not share all the details of their life like they did as a child. But, if you have reasonable expectations, you're still entitled to respect from your teen.
Watch for: evasiveness to your questions, sullenness at the dinner table, keeping secrets, telling lies, ignoring consequences of his/her actions, refusal to speak when spoken to, blatant disobedience for family boundaries.
Discards Old Friends for New Fishy Ones
You are entitled to know who your teens are hanging with. For instance, your kid has had the same circle of friends since kindergarten, gone to the same birthday parties, went to movies together and talked on the phone incessantly. Then almost overnight, she/he discards her old friends and starts hanging with new friends, whom he/she doesn't bring home to meet you. Something seems fishy, but you can't seem to wrap your brain about what it is.
Watch for: ignoring curfews, skipping school, sneaking out at night, altered appearance, such as tattoos, piercings, heavy make-up, wardrobe changes, negative attitude, such as defiance, anger, hostility.
Abrupt Change in Accomplishments at School
This is more than a struggle to master one subject, such as algebra or chemistry. If your teen has consistently made good grades when suddenly overall performance drops, get concerned. If he/she has been a champion swimmer and quits the team out of the blue, something is going mighty wrong.
Watch for: If your kid has always had exemplary conduct...