Adolescents (Ages 11-17)
Your teenager is going through a roller-coaster of emotions. In one moment, they appear happy and content and just before you know it, they are sad, withdrawing, and second-guessing themselves. You have been preparing yourself for this very moment since you were a parent. Your child's teenage years. Maybe this has brought you to think about your own behaviors as a teenager in an effort to empathize with your child or to use yourself as a thermometer and try to understand your child's behaviors. Regardless, raising a teenager is not easy. It is a balance of giving them independence, establishing an appropriate amount of parental control, and managing your own expectations for your child. It is a period of substantial growth and your teenager needs all the help they can get. But be careful not to push them away. This happens quite often!
As a parent, you probably want to dive right in to support your child through emotional, physical, hormonal, and social changes, intervene as they experience their first heartbreak and betrayal from friends, and shelter them from spending time with seemingly "bad influences." Whatever their experiences are, you are probably willing to do what it takes to stop the pain and frustration. It is wonderful that your love and care lead to these feelings but sometimes it creates a barrier. Teenagers are very good at reacting to pressure - either going completely toward it or away from it. What your teenager probably needs is a stable and safe environment/support system along with coping strategies.
Building and maintaining a trusting relationship between you and your teenager will be extremely helpful through this period of instability. The balance may be tricky to find; however, once established, your teenager may have a better moral compass to navigate through peer pressure and risky decisions Having a strong foundation of support and coping strategies for teens is critical to regulating mood, behaviors, and thoughts especially before they transition to young adulthood.
Adolescents are quite good at hiding symptoms compared to younger children. Pay close attention to:
who they have been in contact with recently,
behavioral changes (e.g., not spending time with a certain group of friends "out of the blue"),
mood changes (e.g., emotional outbursts and/or withdrawal),
talking about harming themselves or others,
changes in sleep and eating habits,
physical issues (e.g., headaches, stomachaches),
changes in academic performance
sources of stress and response to stress (e.g., guilt, shame, embarrassment)
self-talk - how are they viewing themselves and others?
interactions at home - siblings? parents?
What Should I Do If I Suspect That My Teen Has A Mental Health Condition?
Talk to teachers, close friends, relatives, or other caregivers (i.e., their friend's parents) to see if they noticed any changes in your child's behavior. You can also ask them to see what is going on - sometimes, they are responsive or they may shy away from the conversation. Either way, you will get information from your child which should guide your next course of action.