Raising a teenager can be very challenging. Teenagers are in a state of limbo where they are trying to seek their own independence but are still under the authority of their parents. They are more inclined to seek relationships outside of their family and yearn to be away from the home. Moodiness and arguments are generally normal during the teenage stage however when teens begin to engage in reckless behavior and exhibit signs of violence and depression then it is important to recognize that these are not normal behaviors. Troubled teens will portray behavioral, emotional, or learning problems beyond typical teenage issues. They may repeatedly practice at-risk behaviors such as violence, skipping school, drinking, substance abuse, sexual behavior, cutting, shoplifting, or other criminal acts. Alternatively, they may exhibit signs and symptoms of mental health problems like depression, anxiety, or eating disorders. While any negative behavior repeated over and over can be a sign of underlying trouble, it’s important for parents to understand which behaviors are normal during adolescent development, and which can point to more serious problems.
Signs and symptoms of troubled teen’s behavior
- Drastic changes in weight
- Constant escalation of arguments
- Illegal behavior
- Rapid changes in personality
- Decline in academic performance
- Consistent alcohol and drug use
- Feelings of sadness, despair and loneliness
- Sudden change in friends and peer group
Establish boundaries, rules, and consequences: Sit down with your teen when both of you are calm and explain the difference between feeling anger and expressing it. It is okay to be angry but expressing it in an unacceptable way will lead to consequences such as loss of certain privileges or even police involvement. Teenagers need boundaries and rules, now more than ever.
Try to understand what’s behind the anger. Is your child sad or depressed? Does your child feel left out? Are they being bullied at school? Is there something going on in their lives that is resulting in feelings of anger? Try to uncover the underlying triggers associated with their behavior.
Be aware of anger warning signs and triggers. Does your troubled teen get headaches or start to pace before exploding with rage? Or does a certain class at school always trigger anger? When teens can identify the warning signs that their temper is starting to boil, it allows them to take steps to cool down before their anger becomes out of control.
Help your teen find healthy ways to relieve anger. Turning negative thoughts and emotions into positive coping skills can help your son or daughter channel their anger into something productive. Exercise is known to release endorphins and can help eliminate negative emotions. Drawing, painting, listening to music or journaling are also coping strategies used to relieve anger.
Give your teen space to retreat. When your troubled teen is angry, allow him or her to retreat to a place where it’s safe to cool off. Don’t follow your teen and demand apologies or explanations while he or she is still raging; this will only prolong or escalate the anger, or even provoke a physical response.
Take steps to manage your own anger. You can’t help your troubled teen if you lose your temper as well. As difficult as it sounds, you have to remain calm and balanced no matter how much your child provokes you. If you or other members of your family scream, hit each other, or throw things, your teen will naturally assume that these are appropriate ways to express his or her anger as well.
Seek professional therapy for both you and your teenager. A professional mental health expert can help you and your teen work through the underlying issues causing this unhealthy behavior. They can also diagnose any mental illness, if present, and teach you and your child positive coping strategies to overcome negative thought patterns. You family doctor or pediatrician should be able to provide you with a referral to a therapist in your area.