Most of us probably remember the years 13-19 as a very confusing time in our lives. Maybe we had our first relationships, gained and lost friends, figured out our favorite (and least favorite) subjects in school, and started thinking about what we wanted to do as adults.
But who remembers the confusing emotions and desire to connect with our parents while simultaneously pushing them away because we’re “too old” to give our mom a hug before school?
The truth is that the teenage years are likely going to be just as confusing to you when you are the parent and it can be hard to know when to help out and when to let your kid figure it out on their own. But, there are times when stepping in and getting help for your child is the right thing to do and it is important to be able to recognize those times.
Is Therapy Needed?
Teens are oftentimes fickle and they can be difficult to deal with at times, but there is a difference between a kid rebelling slightly and becoming more independent and a kid who needs help addressing issues they are having.
To figure out if your teen is simply asserting their own individuality or if they need help it can be useful to think about their daily interactions with you and the other areas of their life.
Ask yourself how they are doing in school, if they have friends that they spend time with, and if they are talking to you about what is happening in their life.
It is not abnormal for teens to talk about their lives less with their parents because they may feel uncomfortable talking about the changes they are going through, but if you are noticing changes that concern you or you notice that they are no longer seeing their friends or performing poorly in school, it may be a good idea to seek the help of a licensed counselor or therapist.
Signs Your Teen Is Ready for Therapy
Not all behaviors are just normal teen rebellion or reactions to the changes in their hormones. There are some distinctive warning signs that you can keep your eye out for that may suggest introducing a therapist into the equation is the right thing to do.
Many of these signs can be an indication of immediate danger and because of this, if you are unsure, erring on the cautious side and contacting a therapist or your teen’s doctor promptly is likely going to be the best idea — especially if you notice your teen showing more than one of these signs at once.
Dramatic Changes in Mood or Behavior
Your teen is going to behave differently than they did when they were younger. They will likely push for more independence and share less of their daily lives with you. These changes should not cause concern.
What you want to watch out for are more sudden and dramatic changes that seem to come out of left field. For example, if your child has always been relatively calm and relaxed but you have been noticing frequent bursts of anger or sadness.
Sudden Drop in Performance at School
We all have good subjects and bad subjects and sometimes we don’t do as well in a class as we wanted to, but if you notice that your teen has suddenly experienced a drop in grades or you have received negative reviews about their behavior in school, it may be a good idea to seek professional help.
If grades are their only problem, it may be best to consider a tutor. However, if this drop in performance is accompanied by other problems, a therapist or counselor may be the best choice.
Changes to Eating or Sleeping Habits
Teens often face a lot of pressure from their peers to do or not do certain things. This pressure can result in dangerous habits — such as eating disorders or not getting enough sleep — that prevent our teens from helping their minds and bodies to get the nutrients that they need.
To address these issues, it can be a good idea to have your teen speak with a therapist who can help them understand how to take care of their mind and body and value self-care over whatever their peers are telling them to value.
Withdrawing from Friends and Family
Having a solid support system is incredibly important for teens — especially as they are coping with changes to their bodies and emotions that they may not understand.
If you notice your teen isolating themselves from you or their friends, it may be time to bring in a professional who can help them determine what is going on and how to re-engage with their support system.
Engaging in Drug Use or Illegal Activities
We all want what is best for our children and we want to believe that they would never engage in activities that could put them in danger. Unfortunately, though, sometimes they end up interacting with people who do unsafe activities or they think that engaging in risky behavior will make them more popular in school or get your attention.
These behaviors can be incredibly dangerous and to figure out how to address these behaviors you oftentimes need to address the cause first. A therapist can help with this by providing a safe and neutral environment where your teen can talk about what is going through their mind.
Exhibiting Signs of Depression
If you notice that your teen seems sad, hopeless, anxious, angry, fatigued, or disinterested all of the time, it may be a good idea to get them in contact with a therapist or counselor.
These can be signs of depression and talking with a therapist can help your teen to discover practices and techniques that they can use to manage that depression effectively.
Sudden Changes in Friends or Hobbies
It is normal for our children to maybe not have the same friends or hobbies that they had when they were in preschool or elementary school. That being said, if you are noticing a sudden change in the people your teen is hanging out with and a sudden disinterest in hobbies or activities that they used to love, there may be something going on with your teen that they need help with.
Constant or Inappropriate Anger
We all get angry at times and an occasional burst of anger is nothing to be concerned about. However, if you notice that your teen seems angry all the time and takes their anger out on you or other family members or friends, this can be a cause for concern.
Especially if their lashing out becomes violent, you will want to contact a therapist to help them establish an appropriate outlet for their anger. If this goes unchecked it can cause problems for them in their relationships, at school, and in their jobs later on in life as well.
Now, we don’t mean a day or two of undone chores or the occasional candy wrapper found in your kid’s bedroom — these are normal and rather innocent acts of defiance that kids do when they are growing up.
What you want to watch out for is if your teen is constantly challenging you and directly disobeying your rules or decisions. This type of constant power struggle can show a deeper issue that a licensed professional can help to address.
What to Do Next
If you feel that your teen may be in need of therapy, the first thing you will want to do is talk about it with them. Figuring out how to talk to your teen about therapy can be hard, but the last thing that you want is for them to feel that you are forcing them into something that they don’t want to do.
Have a conversation with your teen about your concerns and discuss finding a therapist together. This can help your teen to feel like they are a part of the decision as well and help them to be more willing to seek out help for any issues they may be having.
Please do not hesitate to reach out to us at Love Heal Grow if your teen is ready to begin therapy or if you have any questions or concerns that we can address.